You never really think about how important your leotard is until you realise what a difference it makes when you stop wearing the correct uniform.
You wouldn’t step onto a building site without a securely fitting hardhat, you wouldn’t dream of jumping out of a plane without a parachute, so why are we not wearing the best leotards for our bodies in the dance studio? If we want to minimalise injury and ensure we have the best technique, we need to be wearing the best clothing.
Every year, every show was another opportunity for another leotard, or five. Each routine came with its own outfit, its own leotard. If you are a serious dancer, you more than likely have an entire collection of leotards. You will have your favourites and you will have your least favourites, for me, it was the long sleeved. I loathed it!
I still remember putting on my first pink ballet leotard. Just putting on the leotard made me feel like a ballet star. Paired with my ballet shoes and my pink ballet tights, I never wanted to take them off.
Wearing a leotard is the best thing you can ever do to improve your performance. Hearing the words “stomach in” or “align your hips” bellowed at me. That constant reminder made me the dancer I am. Don’t ever forget those words. Let them echo inside your mind.
But, as I got older, the standards began to slip at our dance academy. Suddenly, T-shirts became the craze. Foolishly, I began to wear a T-shirt over my leotard, I slipped into the peer pressure and my insecurities got the better of me. What if people could see my lumps and bumps? What if I had missed shaving day? The T-shirt was the perfect option. Or, so I thought.
In the midst of puberty, it seemed the best way to hide everything I wanted to hide. I was in the midst of teen angst and the last thing I wanted was my ballet teacher shouting at me to keep my stomach in. Can’t she see I’m trying!? With t-shirt and shorts, she couldn’t see my turn out, she couldn’t see my posture. The bagginess gave me a security net. It gave me a way to mingle in to a crowd. I was slipping into oblivion and so was my technique.
It’s sad to see your own performance deteriorate. You don’t notice at the time. Day by day, you’re still at dance class, you’re slipping into bad habits, but nobody is there to pick them up. Your teacher can’t help you, how can they help something they can’t see? You fall into a trap. A quiet life. You fade into the backlight. Is that really what us dancers want? To be cast a shadow upon and find ourselves slowly falling behind?
I was dropped from solos. Distinctions turned into passes. I wasn’t chosen for scholarships anymore. I’d worked so hard just to let it all slip. My confidence dropped. Why can’t I do this anymore? So, I dropped out. Dancing became a drag for me. I wasn’t good at it anymore. I had failed myself. How? I wasn’t sure back then.
It took two years for me to realise how badly I missed dancing. How badly I missed the shows. The exams. The fitness. Things I had loathed about dancing became the thing I craved the most. So, I sought out a different dance school. A stricter one. I needed the push. If I was going to do this, I needed to do it right.
The most important thing to me was a school with a uniform. I needed that sense of discipline.
I searched for the perfect leotard to wear for my first day back. I needed to get this right. I tried on so many leotards. I wanted one that accentuated my features. One that would make me feel confident and make me want to stand in the spotlight. I couldn’t fade into the back row, not again.
I chose a microfibre leotard, the quick drying feature makes them exceptionally more pleasant to dance in. There are so many different styles, halter neck, camisole, tank, short sleeved, long sleeved. That’s before you’ve ever begun to take a look at colours! I decided on a spaghetti strap halter leotard with an elegant back design. I decided on a high leg leotard to accentuate my legs. I wanted to make a show-stopping debut!
The bellows of “turn out your legs!”, “hold your stomach in!” “POSTURE!” were greatly received. I never knew how much I had missed the familiar ballet shouting that we all know so well. Investing in a flattering leotard and ditching the T-shirt was the best decision I ever made.
It took time. It took hard work, tears and countless shouting from my teacher, but my technique returned. I became the dancer that I craved to be. I have my leotard to thank for that and a very good teacher!
Now, whenever I’m teaching dance and I see a young student waltz in with their t-shirt on, I sympathise. But, it’s uniform. Take it off or leave the class. Never will I let a child waste important practice time. They can’t wear them during exams, they can’t wear them during shows. Invest in a good leotard, it’s worth it.
My general rule is, after six months of ballet class, it’s time to invest in a new leotard. When you try on a leotard, keep this in the mid. It should fit you perfectly. It should not be too tight where you can’t breathe, yet not too loose that there is sagging.
If you’re unsure whether you have the right size, give it a test drive. Do a quick plié or a Grand battement and see how you feel!
There are so many styles to choose from so it’s essential to find one that you feel comfortable in.
There are different choices of material so it’s vital that you choose one that you feel comfortable and confident in.