Looking After Your Dance Shoes

Dance ShoesEven if dancers aren’t pointe novices, often there are still things to learn about caring for dance shoes, pointe shoes in particular. If you are new to pointe work for the new year, start as you mean to go on and ensure your shoes are cared for in the best possible way.

When you buy new dance shoes it is very tempting to put them away in the small plastic bag they were purchased in, to eke out the time that they are still ‘new’. This, however, means the shoes cannot dry out sufficiently after use and may begin to prematurely decompose. Plus, you may come to put them on for your next class and they may still be damp and clammy, which means your feet aren’t receiving the best treatment either. Keep your shoes cool and dry, after having aired them after use.

As one of dancers’ main essentials, dance shoes require proper care to provide maximum support and protection for your feet, as well as meaning you can perform to the best of your ability. Make sure you are wearing your shoes correctly too: pointe shoes should be worn with tights and possibly toe pads, rather than socks, and socks should be worn with tap and jazz shoes to help prevent the growth of bacteria. Be careful too when you’re putting on your shoes, as for more delicate shoes in particular, their life span is affected by how you put them on and take them off. Don’t dance in broken shoes, as this can have serious consequences in the form of injuries.

If you need to clean your shoes, make sure you do so depending on the shoe that needs the care. Canvas shoes can be washed in the washing machine, but not tumble dried as they may shrink. A shoe brush on suede-bottom shoes will keep them clean and help maintain their texture, but don’t wear your dance shoes outside. Not only will they get dirty, but it can damage the soles too.

Tutu Creations

TutuMaking a ballet tutu can be a very rewarding experience. To see your costumes on stage after a long process of creating them creates feelings of pride and accomplishment, following carefully sewing on hooks and eyes, and creating layers and layers for the finished product.

For large scale companies and individual commissions the process is the same. For individual commissions, with perhaps one seamstress, it is a lot of hard work and long hours so they may only take on a few each season. For larger companies the work load is much heavier because of the all the programme demands and the dancers’ needs. The techniques to create tutus have mostly been in use since the 1800s; for many companies the bodices are made of cotton coutil, the same fabric used for corsets. This is extremely strong, but it is comfortable too and absorbs sweat.

A tutu is a pancake style skirt that sticks out from the dancer’s body, originally designed to show off the dancer’s legs and intricate footwork. Generally there are ten rows of ruffles forming a tutu, some of which use multiple layers of net and tulle, and often the cost of individual commissions can rise to hundreds or thousands of pounds. These one-of-a-kind costumes are completely special to the customer but part of everyday life for designers and creators.

Each tutu begins by making the knicker part, and from there the tutu itself is built and the bodice is constructed. For both aspiring and company dancers, the costume must be a perfect fit: the dancers often want them as tight as possible in order for them to feel more secure when performing. The tutus are designed to last a long time, enduring many performances, possibly many dancers and other wear and tear factors too. Performing on different stages also takes its toll however the costumes prevail.

New To Pointe

Bloch Axis Pointe ShoesDance students new to pointe are always excited to get going, inspired by what they have seen through their dance training so far. Watching older students or favourite ballerinas dancing en pointe is often an enamouring experience, and now it is the turn of the younger students to get their first pair of pointe shoes.

Dancers who are not training at vocational dance schools usually are allowed to begin pointe in their early teens, due to the development of their bones and ultimately, their classical technique. Other factors which must also be considered are the regularity of attendance to ballet classes and a teacher’s approval, and it is paramount that each dancer is professionally fitted for pointe shoes.

Often being en pointe doesn’t feel as dainty as young dancers may have thought. Stepping onto pointe for the first time is uncomfortable, but is not a reason to be discouraged. Even minor discomfort is normal as dancers get used to the sensation of pointe, and they get stronger by practising their technique and not rushing the process. Extreme pain is a good indicator that a shoe has not been properly recommended or fitted for the student’s individual needs, and if manually breaking in the shoes has not happened.

To make the time en pointe more comfortable (and more enjoyable!) there are a few things that dancers can do. Strong abdominals are vital for pointe work, as it is a strong core that will help dancers lift their weight out of their shoes. Also important is correct body placement and flexibility in the ankle and foot, which must be built up before and during pointe training. This is primarily done through learning to roll up onto pointe and down through the shoes.

Ultimately, dancers must take good care of their feet, as well as their shoes by airing them between lessons to prevent fungus and bacteria growth. Don’t give up, and approach a teacher or studio director if something feels wrong.

MOVE IT 2014: The UK’s Biggest Dance Event

MOVE IT 2014MOVE IT, the UK’s biggest dance event is back for 2014. From 7-9 March, Olympia London will be the home to over 100 live performances, inspirational dance classes spanning all genres and live interviews with renowned dancers and celebrities from the dance world. Tickets for this fantastic dance event are now on sale, in addition to MOVE IT 2014 merchandise, is available to pre-order online at http://www.moveitdance.co.uk/Content/MOVE-IT-2014-merchandise/5_50/

Join over 20,000 dancers at the UK’s biggest festival dedicated to dance of all styles and levels and enjoy an array of spectator and participatory activities. MOVE IT 2014 includes…

The interview sofa: discover useful expert knowledge from dance stars with interviews on the latest dance topics with guests including Darcey Bussell CBE, Strictly Come Dancing judge and Prima Ballerina. Darcey will answer questions, pass on invaluable tips and talk about her work as President of the Royal Academy of Dance.

The main stage: this central performance area is THE destination for live dance, with performances from the UK’s biggest dance stars and fresh new talents from all over the UK including Lukas McFarlane (presented by Beautiful Movements), Boy Blue, the English National Ballet Youth Company, the cast of West End show STOMP, BalletBoyz, and the Royal Academy of Dance.

Tasters and masterclasses: over 220 dance classes in a huge range of styles are available to try, open to budding dancers, enthusiasts and professionals. Masterclasses are taught by some of the UK’s leading choreographers and dance experts from the worlds of hip hop, ballet and contemporary, and will host a series of intensive dance lessons for those wishing to progress and take their skills to the next level.

MOVE IT still has much more to offer! Catch the latest spins, freezes, flips, shimmies and dance moves live on the Freestyle Stage in a showcase of raw talent. Bag the latest trends in dancewear at the range of retail stands and top up on your careers advice at MOVE IT to find out everything about the dance industry and community from experts, workshops and every major performing arts university/colleges under one roof.

Uniform Standards

Dance UniformWhilst the stereotypical uniform for dance is much the same, different uniform is required for different dance schools, different exam boards and even different dance grades. For a non-dancer, the assumption of pink ballet tights and a leotard for ballet is not so far from the truth, the stereotypes also formed for tap and modern jazz. Contemporary and lyrical classes tend to be a little more free and liberal in terms of what the dancer dons, and can range from anything to short shorts and tights tops to tracksuit bottoms and baggy pyjama-style tops, known on the whole as ‘baggies’, often used in any dance class for warming up.

Despite the stereotypes, dance teachers all employ certain uniform and dance wear standards for their students. Some prefer their dancers to be comfortable with what they are wearing, whereas others maintain that a dancewear uniform enforces discipline and technique as the teachers are able to see the dancers’ bodies easily. For those who like to see their dance school uniform worn, or neat dance wear purchased, their dancers are more likely to adhere to the standards required during dance exams too. Some dance examination boards define each grade through different coloured leotards, waist elastics or style of ballet shoe.

Aside from ballet, jazz dance and modern jazz is also sometimes subject to requirements such as these. Some exam classes, or even individual teaches, will ask that no split sole jazz shoes be worn, for example, or alternatively that split sole jazz shoes are preferable. Some argue that split sole shoes – be it jazz, ballet, jazz trainers or even tap shoes – offer no support and a full sole provides more for the technique. However, dance shoes, like the rest of the catalogues and wardrobes full of dance wear, are usually dictated by teachers and dancers grow up with these views instilled.

The Summer Intensive Checklist

Dance Direct Summer Sale 2013It is that time of year again, when summer school places are booked up and participants are eagerly waving their practice shoes and leg warmers, impatient for the summer holidays when they can either continue or intensify their training over the sunny weeks ahead. Whilst there are a great many summer courses, school workshops, classes and more on offer to the dedicated dance student, all require one thing: a checklist of dance shoes and practice clothes.

As the largest and arguably leading dancewear retailer in the UK and Europe, Dance Direct knows its stuff when it to comes to affordable dancewear, stocking brands such as Bloch, Capezio, Pineapple, Plume, Dans-Ez and Sansha, amongst many more. This is why the latest Dance Direct promotions are perfect for all your summery dancewear needs!

New in are limited edition leotards, with some eye-catching pastel colours to get you through the sometimes eye-wateringly early ballet classes, and also some stylish black leotards – in particular a slinky one-shouldered design from Plume – to add a touch of class to jazz routines, or paired with tights and legwarmers for the old-school ’80s feel. If instead you are a dance teacher, rather than a student gearing up for the summer intensive programmes, Dance Direct are also offering dance teachers a discount programme of 40% off all costumes and up to 10% off branded dancewear ready for the end-of-programme summer shows, kitting out all the students.

If your dance wardrobe is up to date, how about browsing the latest selection of bags, holdalls and accessories, all with applicable discounts? There are a variety of kits bags on offer, such as those from Pineapple and Capezio to suit all your dancing needs, and store those new purchases ready for your dancing holiday!

Dance Direct at MOVE IT! 2013

Dance Direct at Move IT! 2013

MOVE IT, the ultimate dance experience, is the UK’s biggest dance event, and since its inception has welcomed 20,000 dance fans to share their passion for dance in one huge celebration.

2013 saw MOVE IT take place from 8-10 March, and the event presented fantastic performances by dance schools and colleges, great opportunities for dancewear shopping, an array of over 200 classes to take part in, and even some very special guests on the stage and on the Interview Sofa. These included Twist and Pulse, the winner of the first series of So You Think You Can Dance Charlie Bruce, Got to Dance judge and former Pussycat Doll Kimberley Wyatt, Principal of English National Ballet Daria Klimentova, a special performance by Wayne McGregor | Random Dance and even former prima ballerina and newly appointed Royal Academy of Dance President Darcey Bussell. Dance and ballet enthusiasts had the chance to hear her talk about her work with the RAD and what the year ahead has in store.

The Dance Direct stand was busy throughout the weekend, with dance fans, students and teachers eager to snap up the latest dancewear and dance shoe fashions. From leotards, to new tights, to ballet shoes, jazz pants, hoodies and t-shirts, Dance Direct look sure to be clothing most of the dance population for the year ahead! The Dance Direct team also had lots of new Dance Direct catalogues to give out to the dance-hungry crowd, and gave out vouchers of different values to winners who texted in their email addresses and free water bottles to keen tweeters. Teachers had the opportunity to join the team to learn about Dance Direct’s new costume ranges, with lots of sparkling tutus and costumes on display around the area!

MOVE IT will next take place from 7-9 March 2014.

The Making of Pointe Shoes

Bloch Axis Pointe Shoes

There is, without a doubt, no better feeling than watching a ballerina glide across stage, carried by her pointe shoes. This illusion is just one that captivates audiences and brings them back for more. However, finding out how pointe shoes are made explains just how they work and how they provide that ‘effortless’ look.

For example, Freed, a supplier of ballet and dance shoes since 1928, produces over 150,000 pairs each year, with much work going into each. Freed uses the “turnshoe” method which means that shoes are made from the inside and then turned out the right way around. There are approximately 250 workers across three locations, with 23 makers in total.

Each maker has their own symbol which is stamped under the shoe, with the shoe’s shape affected by the shoe-maker. Some Freed shoes are custom made according to the client’s specifications, and some experienced shoe-makers take just 10 minutes to create a pair of pointe shoes, with around 400 shoes created overall each day. Aside from pointe shoes, other shoes which are made include ballroom, Latin, stage and screen, tap, jazz, character and soft shoes, the method hardly changing since 1930.

Many dancers opt to customise their shoes themselves, such as by cutting the vamp into a V shape to make the shoe appear longer, and then sewn again to hold the shoe together. Elastics can also be sewn inside the shoe in order to add security, for the peace of mind of the dancer that their shoe is not going to slip from their heel. Dancers also work to remove the noise from their shoes, for example by shutting them in doors, hitting them against the floor, and so on, in order to achieve silence as they move around the stage.

The Evolution of Dancewear

Evolution of Dancewear

Whilst there is much negative stigma about the dance experiences in Physical Education, dance within P.E. lessons has proven itself to be successful, not only encouraging students to take part, but also contributing to today’s dancewear scene. Many teenage girls who were perhaps unwilling to participate in sports have been seen to thoroughly engage in dance and consequently excel, in parallel to, for example, disruptive boys who have found their forte in the strength and skill of break dance during P.E. Many lessons also, for example, consist of street dance, appealing to students as they are able to express themselves through the up-to-date movement and their urban dance sneakers, tracksuit bottoms and the occasional sweatband, meaning dancewear has received more attention and popularity. The days of gym knickers are far behind us!

Dancewear has evolved significantly, however early influences can be identified. Early ballet, dating as far back as the 1800s, saw courtly influences of much longer skirts than are seen today and satin ballet slippers for females. Similarities here as well as that of male tights and long-sleeved shirts demonstrate the loyalty dance has to its originators, and how practical the first instances of dance were. The mid-1800s saw choreographer of La Sylphide August Bournonville designing the ballet slippers for males that are still worn today with a V-shaped vamp to give the illusion of a long and pointed foot. The Romantic tutu also made an appearance, but under another name originally. Today, the traditional ballet style has been adopted and also brought into the fashion world, with ballet pumps and tutu style skirts echoing ballet’s origins.

The 1890s saw the emergence of Jazz dance, and it became increasingly popular, taught in numerous dance studios. Costumes were experimented with, open to more adventurous design work and became more practical, highlighting the dancers’ lines in addition to looking effective and eye-catching, also mirrored in practice wear. In addition, Modern dance, now known as contemporary dance, developed as a result of Isadora Duncan’s rejection of the tight bodices of the tutus of classical ballet in favour of Greek-style tunics. She believed tight clothing was a restriction to the body’s natural movement and to this day we see this trend, especially clothes of the hip hop world and on television programmes such as So You Think You Can Dance.