It's a much-repeated part of Francesca Hayward's origin story that she discovered ballet at age 3, when her grandparents bought a video of The Nutcracker to keep her occupied and she immediately started dancing around the room. What's less well-known is that there was another video lined up next to The Nutcracker that Hayward liked to dance along to: Cats. "I really just did the White Cat bit and fast-forwarded the rest," she remembers. "I'd make my friends who came around be the other cats."
Twenty-four years later, she's not only become a Royal Ballet principal, but has been cast as Victoria the White Cat in Tom Hooper's new movie adaptation of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, out in theaters on December 20. "I remember the director telling me I'd got the part: 'Just to let you know you're the lead in a Hollywood film,' he said." Hayward laughs. "This is crazy!"
With Halloween behind us, it's officially that time of year. No, we don't mean the holidays. People who say the holidays are the busiest season don't know what it's like to be a ballet dancer. Because nothing beats the craziness of Nutcracker time.
Fortunately, Dance Magazine has gathered all kinds of tips over the years from pros who tackle ballet's Everest year in and year out. We gathered six to keep in mind as rehearsals begin to seriously ramp up.
As a dancer working with your toes to the marley day in and day out, it is easy to feel like no one but your immediate colleagues understands your challenges.
Yet there are countless medical professionals working to improve the lives of dancers. Last week the International Association of Dance Medicine and Science gathered more than 500 professionals, all of whom have dedicated their careers to supporting dancers, at its 29th annual conference in Montreal.
Most dance performances used to begin predictably: The lights dimmed, the curtain rose and the music started. But in recent years, some audiences have started experiencing a new kind of preshow ritual: Someone walks onstage—perhaps the director or an usher—and names the indigenous tribes that have lived on the land where the venue is situated, maybe offering some information about those people or taking a moment of silence to honor them.
Land acknowledgments like these have become a bona fide trend in institutions of all kinds—from business conferences to major universities to art museums—across the country. (And in Canada, New Zealand and Australia, where they are even more common.) But they've particularly caught on in socially conscious dance venues.
It's possible that this bandwagon effect stems from the embodied nature of our form—as dancers we physically feel our connection to the land and the space we occupy. Or perhaps it's just a matter of people wanting to jump on a trend. Either way, their rising popularity in dance raises questions about who these acknowledgments are really for.
It's Nutcracker time again: the season of sweet delights and a sparkling good time—if we're able to ignore the sour taste left behind by the outdated racial stereotypes so often portrayed in the second act.
In 2017, as a result of a growing list of letters from audience members, to New York City Ballet's ballet master in chief Peter Martins reached out to us asking for assistance on how to modify the elements of Chinese caricature in George Balanchine's The Nutcracker. Following that conversation, we founded the Final Bow for Yellowface pledge that states, "I love ballet as an art form, and acknowledge that to achieve a diversity amongst our artists, audiences, donors, students, volunteers, and staff, I am committed to eliminating outdated and offensive stereotypes of Asians (Yellowface) on our stages."
Jennifer Kahn knew the theater industry could do better. As a professional stage manager for 17 years she worked on regional, off-Broadway and Broadway shows. Nearly each time a show closed, something unsettling happened: "I would watch them throw away our shows. All of the beautiful artwork by my friends in the paint shop would go in the trash." The elaborate backdrops? Gone.
But she had an idea: What if the material used in the backdrops and legs could be upcycled into something new? And what if theater lovers could literally keep a piece of a beloved show?
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We're all for Thanksgiving, or really any holiday that let's us spend the whole day eating. But we're also here for the Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping that follows it. And while a flat screen TV or designer sneakers might be tempting, they're not quite as practical as stocking up on tights so you can finally throw out all those pairs with holes.
Thankfully, many of our favorite dance brands have jumped on board with Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. And bonus: You don't even have to leave your house to shop them!
Classwear has come a long way in terms of pairing style with practicality. But while designs like mesh inserts and bold prints can work all year round, other elements lend themselves to particular seasons. Case in point: velvet. The fuzzy fabric has made its way from the runway to real life, and now, even dance rehearsal. Thicker than your average cotton or lycra leotards, velvet's extra cozy material and luxe look makes it perfect for the cooler months ahead. Shop our top picks, and get ready for a barrage of leotard compliments at the barre.
With cooler weather finally here, it's time to talk warm-ups. And while your dancewear drawer is probably overflowing with oversized sweaters, leggings and enough leg warmers to outfit the whole class, warm-up boots are often forgotten. To keep your feet and ankles cozy in between rehearsals, we rounded up dance warm-up boots that suit every style.
Bloch Inc. Printed Warm-up Bootie
Created by Irina Dvorovenko and Max Beloserkovsky, this collection comes in a variety of tie dye, floral and even butterfly prints.
There's a change in the air these past few weeks—is it fall? Not quite yet. More importantly, it's PUMPKIN SPICE SEASON. And now, the quintessentially autumnal flavor isn't just for lattes anymore. Dancewear companies are picking up on the trend, offering more and more pieces in rich, sweet orange shades. Behold, eight of our favorite pumpkin spice-inspired pieces for your dancing enjoyment.
Longer ballet skirts are having a major moment. We've seen them popping up in the Instagram studio clips of dance fashionistas around the world—from American Ballet Theatre's Isabella Boylston to The Royal Ballet's Beatriz Stix-Brunell to Berlin State Ballet's Iana Salenko. And with cooler weather on the way, we have a feeling we'll be seeing even more calf-length skirts.
Beyond being trendy, long ballet skirts give any studio ensemble a sophisticated prima ballerina vibe (hi, Natalia Makarova). Try out one of these long skirt options.
"Ballet pink" tights and palest-pink slippers. "Nude" fabrics that match only the lightest of skin tones. Unfortunately, many dancewear staples have historically been available only in a single "flesh tone" that tended to exclude non-Caucasian dancers.
Thankfully, in recent years dancewear companies have begun to respond to this issue, offering more varied shades of tights, pointe shoes, body tights, etc. (One former Knicks City Dancer even made inclusiveness the foundation of her business model.) Now, you can also get foundation garments that suit your unique skin tone with the new Mariia True Bare Collection.
Back to school is just around the corner, and that means back to your regular dance routine, too. Whether you're looking for a new bag that's strictly for the studio or an option that will work for whatever the day throws your way, we've got you covered. Scroll through for our top five picks.
Augusta Glitter Backpack
We're of the belief that you can never have too much sparkle (unless we're talking loose glitter, which we all have a love-hate relationship with). But when glitter comes in backpack form, there's no danger of being covered in it for weeks to come, which is exactly why we're putting this bag on our wish list. Also available in silver and pink, the drawstring backpack features a magnetic top flap and a zip-up pocket in the front designed to keep your smelly dance shoes separate from the rest of your belongings.
When you spend more time at the studio than your actual house, making sure you have everything you need throughout the day can be tough. Obviously, shoes and endless amounts of toe tape get first priority, but what else should you be sure to keep in your bag? From dance emergency must-haves to on-the-go beauty essentials, these are the items we're adding to our dance bag, stat.
Body Wrappers Pointe Shoe Ribbon Kit
Whether you need to make a quick adjustment to your ribbons during class or you find yourself with downtime between rehearsals to catch up on sewing shoes, this kit has everything you need: 2 1/2 yards of stretch ribbon, 20 inches of elastic, 2 needles, a spool of extra strong thread, safety pins and a stitch ripper in one small tin.
Summertime...and the dressing is eeeeeeeeeeasy. When you're heading straight from the dance studio to the pool or beach, you don't want to be messing around with complicated cover-ups. That's where these 5 MVPs of the romper room come in, bringing their breezy style to your pre-class, post-rehearsal, and everything-in-between looks. Oh, and three out of the five are on sale right now. So what are you waiting for? Go ahead and romper-ound! (Sorry, couldn't resist.)
Planning to spend the majority of your summer sweating it out in the studio? Don't worry, you're not alone. And while you're definitely going to want to save the warmups for the winter, you can still accessorize your studio look without adding bulk, thanks to the always-in-style ballet skirt. From bright florals to washed out pastels and wild prints, we rounded up our favorite short (and a few long!) ballet skirts for summer.
AinslieWear Limoncello Wrap Skirt
If you can't spend your summer in the Mediterranean under actual lemon trees, this skirt is a solid backup. Plus, it gives us serious Beyonce "Lemonade" vibes, which will help you feel more fierce and less sweaty-mess in class (hopefully).
Dancers know there's no time like summer for sun, sand...and sweat! Gross but true: Whether your summer intensive has air conditioning or not (just because some people like to yell about how AC is bad for dancers), there's no denying that summertime dancing brings with it all kinds of sweatiness—and resultant smelliness.
Consider this quintet of products your Anti-Odor Justice League. They're sworn to protect you—not to mention your fellow dancers!—from the sweaty, stinky, just-plain-nasty worst of all that higher temps threaten.