There’s nothing about ballet that isn’t personal. Everyone has a favorite way to warm up, a favorite teacher, a favorite time to take class, etc. After talking to a friend of mine before class last night, though, I really think that nothing is more personal than what we wear to class.
Think about it: If you’re not wearing something you feel perfectly comfortable in, it almost always affects your dancing because you’re too distracted by your clothing and how you look in it. For example, my friend Jenny says that a leotard (to help her feel “placed”—shoulders down, chest relaxed) and a skirt (to flatter her figure), are a must for her. Margaret is “always freezing” and needs a shrug to stay warm. I personally can’t stand black tights that are not very opaque—If I see that icky lighter shading where they are stretched over my thighs, I feel like they look huge (the thighs, not the tights), and I can’t take my eyes off them. And like many dancers, I am not very comfortable with anything light-colored on my legs in general.
Like “pedestrian” fashion, though, ballet has its trends too, that race through the studios here in NYC like wildfire. I’ve noticed lots of very bright nylon/spandex leotards in creative cuts, and lots of brave souls wearing only a leotard and pink mesh seamed tights rolled down over their hips. Another trend piece that seems to be making a comeback from the 80’s is the black rubber “sweat-off” short, either pulled up to just under the chest or rolled down.
While I love the way other people look in more creative getups than the one I usually sport (leo, leggings/pants/tights/, legwarmers, shirt), I find that when I try to deviate from this look and go for something more adventurous that might not work for me, I usually end up regretting it. I’m so used to seeing myself a certain way that any change is too much of a shock. I end up scrutinizing myself in the mirror for my look rather than my technique, and I keep picking at my clothes to the point where I miss combinations and corrections. I’ve found out the hard way that it’s much better to just stick with what you’re used to. You’re in class to work for yourself and forget about the rest of the world, not to bring it into the studio with you by trying to impress the other students. So if you’re comfortable in the black leotard-pink tights-ballerina bun uniform you’ve worn since you were 10, rock it!