Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Why wear leotards and tights in class? Because...

...I said so - ha!

Whenever a new student contacts me about my classes, one of the usual questions concerns attire. While most people are familiar with the traditional ballet look (black leotard, pink tights and pink slippers for women; white shirts and black tights/leggings and black slippers for men), they often associate it with pre-professional schools for children and teens, rather than recreational adult classes.

My answer is most likely: wear what is comfortable for you. That could mean a t-shirt and yoga pants, leo and tights, socks instead of slippers. I want new students who are unfamiliar with being in a ballet class to be as unconcerned about their appearance as possible. That inhibits learning.

However, once a student has gotten comfortable with being in a room filled with mirrors - and strangers! - they often want to wear more classical attire. I encourage this, of course, but not for the reason you think.

Most teachers prefer their students wear leotards and tights so they can see their lines. They also want the students to see their alignment, which is harder to do when spines and pelvises are covered in baggy shirts and shorts.

That's true and very necessary, especially with younger students, who don't yet have body awareness and can't feel where their bones and muscles are.

But the reason I want you to wear a leotard is so you can feel how your body moves in the space, a/k/a dancing. Ballet is not just about alignment and poses. Ballet is movement in space; it is 3-dimensional, not 2-dimensional. When you wear a baggy shirt, you can't feel how your torso moves up and forward as you cambre or do a grand circular port de bras. When you're wearing loose shorts, you can't feel how your leg moves through space as you do a developpe ecarte derriere.

Yes, it is tremendously helpful to be able to look in the mirror and see where your leg is, whether your hips are tilted, if your shoulder is lifted. But you need to feel that. You need to feel movement. Baggy clothes or an extra shirt create a barrier between your body and the space around you. Now, no one is suggesting you dance naked (!) but a leotard and tights are the next best thing.

Happy dancing, everyone~


Charles Marshall said...
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Anonymous said...

Amen! I love wearing classical ballet attire. I notice that I take it more seriously, so I focus on my movement more. I love this blog! Such a great discussion about ballet attire and its true purpose!!

Leigh Purtill said...

@Anonymous at 11:39PM

Thanks so much for your kind words! And thanks for reading~