Love Leotards? You’re Not Alone!

One of the main pieces of dancewear required by all dancers is the leotard. When we look at the different qualities it possesses, it’s easy to see why this is. Firstly, it’s more flexible than any other item of clothing, it’s formfitting so it shows off your beautiful physique and intricate movements, and last but certainly not least it’s incredibly comfortable which allows you to give your best possible performance. If you love your leotard, you’re certainly not on your own!

The popularity of the leotard doesn’t just stop at dancewear as it is worn and loved by a whole array of different performers. Circus performers such as strong men, clowns and acrobats are all familiar with the garment, and even actors are required to wear them for some roles. Yet it’s not just those in show business who wear and love the garment as it’s also used by many sports men and women. Unitards worn by athletes such as 100m sprinters are modelled on the leotard, as are the all in one suits that are worn by rowers in sporting events such as the coxless fours. So, without the leotard, sporting events would look altogether different and it’s possible that world records would be much less impressive without the freedom of movement offered by this remarkable garment.

So where does the leotard come from and how did it come to be? The man behind the leotard was himself a legend and his name, Jules Léotard. The son of a gymnastics instructor he was born in France and set out to study Law. However, when he was 18 he began to experiment with trapeze bars, ropes and rings, and it wasn’t long afterwards when he left behind his prospects of joining the legal profession to become a full time trapeze performer with the Cirque Napoleon. In 1859 he made his first public performance as a trapeze artist and whenever he performed, he would wear a close-fitting all-in-one garment which he called his Maillot.  Later in his career, he became the first ever trapeze artist to execute a full mid air somersault and appeared at the Alhambra Theatre in London’s Leicester Square where his entire performance was carried out over the heads of diners. His performances throughout which he wore his leotard were a major success and as a result, several years after his death, Léotard maillot came to bear his name.

So, next time you're putting on your leotard for dance class, be thankful to Jules Léotard and remember, you're not on your own!

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