When it comes to in-studio dancewear, the pros know that the right style, piece or material can mean the difference between a confident and comfortable day and a day that feels just plain out of sorts. With so much time spent honing their craft in dance clothes, choosing those items takes equal parts strategy, creativity and a healthy dose of fun. Here, Houston Ballet soloist Harper Watters shares what goes into his fashion choices that enable him to look good, feel great and dance his best each day.
On his style evolution:
When I joined the company, I was determined to ditch the all-black academy uniform and get down with the most vibrant custom Yumiko unitard creation. Now, funnily enough, I've adopted the all-black neutral look for my warm-ups, which is usually my IVY PARK sweatshirt and Reebok track pants, paired with white socks for barre. Then for center, those reveal a solid-color Yumiko booty short with a graphic T-shirt.
On his fashion for rehearsals:
The booty shorts are a constant no matter if I'm rehearsing Kylián, Balanchine or Forsythe, but the color palette and warm-ups definitely change depending on what I'm rehearsing. For works like Wings of Wax or a new Alejandro Cerrudo for Jacob's Pillow, I'll wear darker colors—angsty, emotional contemporary vibes. When I danced Camille in The Merry Widow, I almost always tried to wear a long-sleeve shirt to replicate a jacket with all the pas work. There is usually always a thought of what the costume for the work is.
On special pieces:
My T-shirts are like little memories that hold special moments for me, so I'll try and wear them depending on what mood I want or need for dance that day. Every opening night I wear The Nutcracker shirt from the year I made my debut as the Nutcracker Prince. I have T-shirts all the way back from my days in Walnut Hill that I wear when I want to remind myself to keep working and training. I have shirts from dancers I admire that I'll wear if I want to focus on what I loved about them that day in class.
Favorite brands, colors and styles:
I am a big fan of Keto Dancewear, KeithLink and Yumiko. I love to incorporate Reebok, Adidas and other sportswear brands into the mix, as well. Elevé holds a special place in my heart, because over quarantine they created "The Harper" style and proceeds went to It Gets Better and Leap of Dance Academy. No matter the brand, though, I'm a booty-short dancer through and through. I have the occasional biketard moment, but these hips don't lie and there's just something about being able to see my muscles work that helps me.
What he looks for:
The cut is really important to me. As a BIPOC dancer, there are certain areas that have more curves, so I look for pieces that accentuate and elevate the areas that I want to look stunning. Sometimes where tights sit on the leg or hip can make you look like the technique is lagging, which is not cute!
On his style inspiration:
Gender-bending personalities like the queens of "RuPaul's Drag Race," Billy Porter, the show "Legendary" and Christopher John Rogers inspire my fashion confidence off the clock. I've learned that for me to be the best dancer when I'm on the clock, I have to take that energy and translate it into my dancing while letting my attire be more simple and muted, like a blank canvas.