Friday, January 27, 2012

The Leotard, the Witch & the Wardrobe

Sorry, boys, but this one is for the ladies. When venturing into the world of ballet, one of the inevitable questions beginners will have is, "What do I wear?" Assuming your ballet school does not have a dress code, the simple answer is: anything. Well.....almost. Let's discuss.

  1. You need to be able to move. And stretch. And bend over without displaying your nether regions to the person behind you. Find something that allows for movement but also doesn't have you tugging it up or down every 10 seconds. For this reason, a loose shirt may seem uber comfy, but is rather impractical with all the movement in ballet.
  2. Your teacher needs to be able to see the general placement of your joints. Now, some may disagree with me, but for a beginner I absolutely think it is imperative for the teacher to be able to make see both your ankles and knees to be sure you're in correct alignment in all positions. This is a safety measure as much as it is a learning tool. While yoga pants may meet requirement # 1, if they are so loose your teacher can't find your knees or see your ankles then we have a problem. Try more fitted capri pants or shorts that hit just over the knee. 
  3. You need to feel confident and comfortable. I'm sure at this very moment many of you are saying to yourselves, "But Black Sheep, I will never feel comfortable in a leotard and tights, at least not without a few cocktails and a Xanax chaser!" Believe me, I know the feeling. Start out slow - maybe you wear tights, loose shorts, and a leo with a tank top over it. After a few classes, you will realize that not only are all those layers rather warm, but it is easier for you to dance when you can see your body in the mirror. That's not to say we don't all have fat days - I have to believe even the pros have days when they had a little too much "fun" at the bar after opening night. And on those days, you reach for that trusty cami, pull on a t-shirt, or wear that ballet skirt you've had lying around. Speaking of ballet skirts, Natalie makes a fantastic skirt for those of us with less waspish waists.
  4. Finally, you need to wear appropriate footwear. Socks work just fine in a pinch, but a pair of well-fitting ballet slippers will help you feel the floor, execute turns and jumps, and do a snazzy tendu without picking up all that nasty junk on the floor. (Have you seen the bottom of most ballet shoes? Gross!) Leather versus canvas is a personal choice, but whatever you get, make sure they fit. I recommend going to your local dance supply store for an initial fitting, and once you find a pair you like, you can always pick up extra pairs online.
So there you have it. You don't have to dress like a ballerina, but I guarantee you that "feeling" the part will help you to "dance" the part. The most graceful dancers are the most confident dancers. Find what works for you and WORK IT GIRLFRIEND! For me, what "works" is a black or navy leo (slimming!), black or grey capri-length tights, and black dance shorts (think boy shorts). I start class with a shrug and leg warmers, but those normally come off pretty soon after tendus from first. One day, I hope to feel comfortable enough to rock the pink tights on days other than my "skinny days," but I'm not there yet. For me, black is still the new black.

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