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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.

The Conversation
James Whiteside (Jayme Thornton for Dance Magazine)

Say you're perpetually impeccable designer Thom Browne. Say you're planning your Spring 2020 Paris menswear show along a "Versailles country club" theme. Say you want a world-class danseur to open the show with some kind of appropriately fabulous choreography.

Who do you call? James Whiteside, of course. On Saturday, the American Ballet Theatre principal—wearing pointe shoes and a glorious pinstriped tutu—kicked off Browne's presentation at the École des Beaux-Arts with a 15-minute, show-stealing solo. Whiteside choreographed the piece himself, with the help of detailed notes from the designer.

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I'd been a professional dancer for five years when I realized the pain I'd been feeling in my hip and down my sciatic nerve was not going away. I had been treating it for two years as we dancers do—with regular visits to my masseuse, physical therapy, baths, ice and lots of Aleve—but I never stopped dancing. It finally dawned on me that if I kept going at the speed I was going (which was, well, speedy), the pain would only get more severe and unrelenting, and I might never dance again.

I told myself I'd take two months off, and all would be better.

That first morning when I woke up at 10 am, I had no idea what to do with myself. My life until that moment had been dictated by class and rehearsal, every hour accounted for. How should I fill the huge swath of time ahead of me?

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