Fashion from the Vault

On days when putting on a leotard and tights seems too inhibiting, or even slightly torturous, take a moment to think about how far innovations in textiles and dancewear fashion have come. Yes, this may sound a lot like a grandparent recalling barefoot treks to school in the snow. But consider this paragraph from Dance Magazine's March 1954 issue, which provided instructions to make your own leotard:

 

Before taking your measurements, as shown in illustration A, put on the underclothes you will be wearing with the leotard, including pants, girdle, dance belt, and a well-fitting bra. Use pads if necessary to attain an effective bust line.

 


Illustration A.

 

While the article doesn't specify which fabric to use, it's safe to say the author wasn't thinking of a soft cotton microfiber or Spandex—which wasn't even invented for another five years. In all likelihood, the fabric felt closer to a thick nylon parachute—which was then layered on top of other undergarments. The instructions also don't explicitly tell you how to translate all of your measurements to the patterns (picture at top). I could see my poorly-crafted leotard looking a lot like Charlie Brown's ghost costume.

 

So let's give thanks to the leotard designers and manufacturers that have carried us through the dark ages of dancewear to today, full of light, pliable and colorful styles we can easily purchase. And that we can keep those girdles locked securely in the vault.

Health & Body
Getty Images

Dancers are understandably obsessed with food. In both an aesthetic and athletic profession, you know you're judged on your body shape, but you need proper fuel to perform your best. Meanwhile, you're inundated with questionable diet advice.

"My 'favorite' was the ABC diet," says registered dietitian nutritionist Kristin Koskinen, who trained in dance seriously but was convinced her body type wouldn't allow her to pursue it professionally. "On the first day you eat only foods starting with the letter A, on the second day only B, and so on."

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Sponsored by NYCDA
Ailey II artistic director Troy Powell teaching an Ailey Workshop at NYCDA. Courtesy NYCDA

Back in 2011 when Joe Lanteri first approached Katie Langan, chair of Marymount Manhattan College's dance department, about getting involved with New York City Dance Alliance, she was skeptical about the convention/competition world.

"But I was pleasantly surprised by the enormity of talent that was there," she says. "His goal was to start scholarship opportunities, and I said okay, I'm in."

Today, it's fair to say that Lanteri has far surpassed his goal of creating scholarship opportunities. But NYCDA has done so much more, bridging the gap between the convention world and the professional world by forging a wealth of partnerships with dance institutions from Marymount to The Ailey School to Complexions Contemporary Ballet and many more. There's a reason these companies and schools—some of whom otherwise may not see themselves as aligned with the convention/competition world—keep deepening their relationships with NYCDA.

Now, college scholarships are just one of many ways NYCDA has gone beyond the typical weekend-long convention experience and created life-changing opportunities for students. We rounded up some of the most notable ones:

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The Creative Process
Rehearsal of Yvonne Rainer's Parts of Some Sextets. Photo by Paula Court, Courtesy Performa.

Yvonne Rainer's Parts of Some Sextets (AKA "the mattress dance") hasn't been revived since it premiered in 1965. Nor has Rainer had any wish to do it again, to ask performers to heave 10 mattresses around while carrying out 31 tasks that changed every 30 seconds. It was an unwieldy, difficult dance. (Even the title is unwieldy.) But Emily Coates, who has danced in Rainer's work for 20 years, became curious about this piece and was determined to see it again—and to dance in it. She will get her wish November 15–17, when the mattress dance will be performed as part of the Performa 19 Biennial.

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Sponsored by Harlequin Floors
Left: Hurricane Harvey damage in Houston Ballet's Dance Lab; Courtesy Harlequin. Right: The Dance Lab pre-Harvey; Nic Lehoux, Courtesy Houston Ballet.

"The show must go on" may be a platitude we use to get through everything from costume malfunctions to stormy moods. But when it came to overcoming a literal hurricane, Houston Ballet was buoyed by this mantra to go from devastated to dancing in a matter of weeks—with the help of Harlequin Floors, Houston Ballet's longstanding partner who sprang into action to build new floors in record time.

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