Dance Clothing & Shoes
by Catherine L. Tully
The staff over at BDancewear asked if I would like to check out some of their merchandise and write something up for our readers.* When I agreed, they shipped me a nice box of goodies to try out, and I’d like to share some of my favorites with you. But first, I wanted to mention a little bit about the company itself, as I think some background is always nice…
One thing I found fascinating about this business is that they offer items in 200+ different colors. The ability to get a piece you like in a shade you love it pretty impressive. And the pieces are all made in the USA, which to me is another selling point. Add to that the fact that you are supporting a small business when purchasing from them, and it stacks up to be a pretty good deal overall. Especially since the items I sampled were very well made.
By far my favorite item in the package was the pair of high-waisted pants. I got the cotton ones, and they are excellent quality, lasting a very long time. I washed and dried them repeatedly, and since they are a bit on the long side (which I love, because I have long legs and my pants always shrink too much), they stood up to it just fine.
I’ve had many types of pants like this – all name brands – and these held up better than any other one to the wear/tear and wash cycle of a dancer. No splitting seams, no see-through spots, no loose elastic. I’m still wearing them, many months later. The only caveat is they are long, so shorter people may have an issue with the fit. They also make a high-waisted brief that is very comfortable.
I love shrugs, and the ones offered by BDancewear are no exception. Besides keeping my arms warm in a tank top or sleeveless leotard, they look pretty. I find these are one of those “optional” pieces, like a dance skirt, that makes you feel more like a dancer. Decorative/fun pieces. And again, the ability to dial in the fabric and color is a nice touch.
The company sells a full compliment of skirts as well, which can be a good choice for dance school students, or possibly instructor attire. I find the high-low skirts appealing, but there are a variety of choices, including angle skirts, circle skirts and longer skirts. To me these were better suited for the casual student, not as much geared toward the pre-professional or professional dancer. Studios with a color-coded system will find they can get any shade they need here.
In addition to the different colors available, BDancewear also offers a number of fabric choices, including lycra, velvet, cotton, mesh and more. They also stock sports bras, gloves, tank tops, briefs, leotards and other items.
To learn more about the company and take a look at their full range of offerings, visit them on the web at BDancewear.
For additional information on the company and more clothing reviews, visit our friends at Dance Advantage for their take on BDancewear.
*BDancewear has purchased ad space with 4dancers in the past. Review items were sent at no charge. This is not an advertorial.
How many years have you been doing ballet?
I began training when I was two and half, so I’ve been dancing almost nineteen years.
What are some roles you’ve danced with Alabama Ballet?
My favorite was the Cowgirl in Agnes de Mille’s Rodeo. I also loved performing Lead Marzipan in George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker and as a Blue Girl in Sir Frederick Ashton’s Les Patineurs.
What’s your favorite thing about ballet?
My favorite part about dancing is working hard and seeing the results. It’s so gratifying and there’s always something to work on and perfect even further. And there will always be another goal ahead of me to tackle. I also love the feeling when I’m onstage. We spend so much time in the studio for maybe three minutes on the stage, but when I’m up there I feel so alive.
What’s in your dance bag?
Bloch Heritage pointe shoes, jumper, cover-ups, leg warmers, Tiger Balm – a dancer’s best friend for achy muscles, sewing materials and new pointe shoes – to sew on breaks, Abigail Mentzer and Bulletpointe skirts, bobby pins, hair elastics, hairbrush, supportive athletic tape, and Kenesio Tape – I had a Deltiod sprain last season, so it supports my arches on long days, and, for snacks, I usually keep an apple and some seasoned almonds in my bag for sustainable energy, and, of course, H2O to keep hydrated!
Tricia Bianco began dancing when she was two and a half years old at Alabama Dance Academy under the direction of Pamela Merkel, Michael Vernon, Jamie Hinton, and Tammi Carr. She has received and accepted scholarships to summer programs with Boston Ballet, Dance Theatre of Harlem, and Alabama Ballet. In 2011, Tricia competed in Youth American Grand Prix and was Top Twelve in the Southeast region. Tricia was offered an apprenticeship when she was seventeen with the Alabama Ballet in 2012, and is excited to be returning for her fourth season and first year as a Company Member.
Since joining Alabama Ballet, her favorite roles have included Showgirl in Roger Van Fleteren’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Juliet’s Friend in Van Fleteren’s Romeo and Juliet, the title role in Agnes de Mille’s Rodeo as Cowgirl, Lead Marzipan in George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker, and Blue Girl in Sir Frederick Ashton’s Les Patineurs. She also teaches at Alabama Ballet, and is a teacher for the Ballet’s outreach program, City Dance. Tricia also teaches at Westwood Ballet. Tricia feels very blessed to be a member with the Alabama Ballet, and is looking forward to her first season as a company member.
How many years have you been doing ballet?
I began ballet at the age of five, so twenty years now.
What are some roles you’ve danced with Miami City Ballet?
I joined Miami City Ballet in 2014. Since then, I have performed roles such as the Sugar Plum Fairy in Balanchine’s The Nutcracker and as the Harp Soloist in Balanchine’s Raymonda Variations.
What’s your favorite thing about ballet?
Being completely swallowed by light on stage.
What’s inside your dance bag?
I usually have about 6-7 pairs of Capezio Arias to rotate, gel toe pads, second skin, toe spacers, Sansha ballet slippers, two rollers, stretching stick, headphones, iPad, grey theraband, shoe scraper, fashionable duct tape, band-aids, Oragel, scissors, towel, hand cream, alcohol wipes to clean my feet at the end of the day, alcohol spray for pointe shoes, extra rosin, perfume, garbage bag pants, purity face wash, wine holder for my pointe shoes, Salonpas deep relief roll on, pliers, sewing kit, red stretch strap, and, for snacks, I always have Gu Brew and Quest bars to get me through my day if needed, plus tic tacs or mints.
Samantha Hope Galler, a Bedford, Massachusetts native, spent 13 years training with The Ballet Academy, Inc., under the direction of Frances Kotelly in the Cecchetti Method. She performed six seasons with The Northeast Youth Ballet under the direction of Denise Cecere. She continued training, on scholarship, with Boston Ballet School and received the PAO Merit Trainee Scholarship. She received the NFAA Honorable Mention Award in Ballet. Galler spent summers training at Boston Ballet, Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet and Boston Conservatory. She danced with Cincinnati Ballet in their 2008-2009 season under the direction of Victoria Morgan.
Samantha spent five seasons with Alabama Ballet under the direction of Tracey Alvey and Roger Van Fleteren. During her tenure there, she was promoted to principal dancer. She had the honor of performing some of her dream roles including Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, Odette/Odile in Swan Lake, The Lilac Fairy in The Sleeping Beauty, The Sylph and Effie in La Sylphide, Myrtha and Moyna in Giselle, Dryad Queen and Mercedes in Don Quixote, and the Rancher’s Daughter in Agnes De Mille’s Rodeo. Her Balanchine roles included Dark Angel in Serenade; The Sugarplum Fairy, Arabian and Lead Marzipan in George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker™; and the principal roles in Allegro Brillante and Tarantella. She has also performed in Jiří Kylian’s Sechs Tanze, and Van Fleteren’s Shostakovich and Romancing Rachmaninov, both world premieres. Samantha joined Miami City Ballet as a member of the corps de ballet in 2014.0
I can’t recall the exact year I first came across Hogan McLaughlin, but I can tell you that he made quite an impression on me. I was photographing a dress rehearsal for the high school dance company that he was a part of–and whenever I looked through the lens–I kept coming back to him. He exuded energy and charisma, and he was a true pleasure to watch.
Last I had heard he was in New York, but I didn’t know that he switched careers and had become a fashion designer. And I certainly wasn’t aware of the fact that he had produced pieces for Lady Gaga. But then…I can’t really say I was that surprised either.
Some people are lucky enough to have many talents. Hogan is one of them.
On October 10th I’ll attend Hubbard Street’s opening night and get to see his work in person. He has designed the costumes for a new piece by choreographer Robyn Mineko Williams titled Fluence.
Here’s a little peek behind the scenes to see how this project came about. It’s so fun to watch an artist evolve…
How did you wind up designing costumes for this particular piece?
I met Robyn almost 10 years ago, a few years before I joined Hubbard Street 2. After dance, I tried for a career in visual art, but sort of unconsciously fell into a career in fashion instead. I think we’ve always had similar aesthetics, stylistically, so it sort of seemed like a no-brainer for me when she asked if I would be interested in designing her costumes. We had collaborated before on her piece for this past summer’s danc(e)volve: New Works Festival, so I think that was the jumping off point.
What was the design process like in terms of working with the choreographer Robyn Mineko Williams?
I’m an idiot when it comes to computers and technology so I prefer to sketch things out. I start with just drawing a body, and then let things come naturally from there. It helps that I know most of the dancers in the cast pretty well, so I tried to highlight each individual in a subtle way.
What about color selection? How do you decide on that?
For my line, and my personal wardrobe, I tend to go straight to black or grey tones. It’s a tough habit to break but luckily the darker metallic tones fit the mood of Robyn’s work nicely.
How did the dancers feel about the costumes?
I hope they like them–ha ha. It was definitely a long process with multiple fittings, especially for the women.
What is next for you?
I’m not sure! These past few months have been especially busy, so I haven’t even begun to think about it- hopefully another cool project!
Hogan McLaughlin is an American fashion designer, artist, dancer, and musician. McLaughlin grew up outside of Chicago, where he spent his childhood drawing and training in ballet. He joined Hubbard Street 2 in 2006, and was promoted to an apprentice position with the main company in 2008. In 2010, he moved to New York City and garnered acclaim in fashion after meeting and collaborating with brewery heiress Daphne Guinness, who became a champion for his work. He later went on to produce a number of pieces for Lady Gaga, sparking interest and recognition within the fashion community. He released his first full collection in 2011 and has since been profiled by media outlets including Vogue, Women’s Wear Daily and The New York Times.
Today we have Cameron Dieck with us from échauffe – a company started by dancers, for dancers. Specifically–legwarmers…something they realized there was a real need for in terms of quality product. Read more about how they wound up business owners…
How did the idea for échauffe get started?
Caitlin and I have always heard complaints about legwarmers during our collective years spent training and dancing in the ballet world. After hearing a colleague at New York City Ballet complain about their legwarmers about two years ago, I just said to myself, “I can do this better”. It just occurred to me, if I don’t do this, someone else will.
In creating our line, we drew inspiration from our surroundings in New York City. NYC is a fashion Mecca and the place where many fashion houses’ creative departments are located. We really drew on this for the creation of our line. It was also extremely important to us that along with producing in the USA (to support the American economy) that we created products that were sustainable as possible. Aside from choosing raw materials that are Eco friendly, our yarn and factory are towns apart in NJ. The close proximity of our factory and yarn distributor cuts down on emissions and wasted fossil fuels in production. Another sustainable aspect of our garments is that they are all produced in whole garment manufacturing. Each garment is one piece of yarn from top to bottom, there are no seems, which cuts down on waste in the manufacturing process. This is something that both échauffe and our customers can be really proud of!
Was it difficult to get all the pieces in place to have the legwarmers made once you had the idea?
It wasn’t easy, I will say that much! It took about six months to find people that I was comfortable working with and to sort out our production supply streams. The hardest part in finding suppliers is finding people who value quality and that are agreeable to working with you.
Legwarmers have notoriously been considered by professionals and students alike to be poorly manufactured, leaving the ballet dancer with an often bulky and cumbersome product that just doesn’t cut it. We wanted to create a solid product that achieved the following…
– A new unibody seamless design. Through our research, we found that legwarmers fall apart along their seems. By constructing a garment that has no seems, a stronger more stable product has been achieved.
– A lightweight wear, which allows the wearer to see muscle definition. One of the largest complaints we have heard over the years is that legwarmers are bulky and thick, they get in the way of getting into fifth position. Our legwarmers are thin, yet warm!
– A 3/4 inch elastic band that eliminates slippage. You won’t have to pull up échauffe legwarmers up every two minutes.
– A moisture wicking design to keep the wearer dry.
All of this has been achieved while creating a beautiful design that is superior to other legwarmers made in the United States. Our mission is to design products that delight the spirit and enhance the dance performance of our clients.
How many different designs do you have?
We currently carry two designs, the Bambu™ Legwarmer and the Puma Stretch Calfwarmer. The Bambu™ Legwarmer is a full length legwarmer that incorporates our new unibody seamless design with a lightweight wear, which allows for wearer to see muscle definition. The Bambu™ Legwarmer comes in two styles, a striped and a solid, both boasts natural moisture wicking qualities due the use of 100% Bamboo yarn in its construction. Our Puma Stretch Calfwarmers helps to compress and warm the gastrocnemius muscle; like our Bambu™ Legwarmers, the Puma Stretch Calfwarmers are lightweight, allows their wearer to see muscle definition, and employs our new unibody seamless design.
What has been the most difficult part of running this business?
The most difficult part of running this business so far has been keeping up with the demand from our customers and finding the time to run a business while dancing with New York City Ballet and attending Fordham University. There have been many late nights in the process of founding and running échauffe Inc but I love the challenge. I find when one is passionate about what they are doing, they find the time to do whatever it is. Échauffe is a passion, so I make time!
What is next for the company?
Our ultimate goal for échauffe is to continue developing products that enhance the dancer’s experience and performance. In the near future, we will remain focused on warm-ups, more specifically knitwear. We are committed to making the best knitwear on the market for dancers!
We are also extremely excited to begin offering wholesale contracts in the near future. We have received an overwhelming number of requests from retail stores who are interested in carrying échauffe products and we will be rolling out that side of our business in the months to come!
Connect with échauffe:0
If you are the outdoor activity type, you may have already heard of this company’s shoes–they make hiking boots, trail runners and other performance footwear. Starting out in the San Francisco Bay area in 2007, three founders got together and created a shoe line that reflected the name that they chose for it: Ahnu.
Ahnu is the Celtic goddess that embodies the balance between well-being and prosperity. To that end, not only has the company succeeded in doing well in the industry, but they have also donated over $250,000 to charitable causes–something they plan to continue doing.
The “Zen” and “Karma” shoes are among Ahnu’s latest efforts, and they were inspired by dance. Here’s a closer look at both:
The Zen ($80) is a luxe leather slide with a sculpted EVA footbed. I recently wore a pair of these around town for a week, and I’m here to tell you that they are quite comfortable. Although they are casual, they are dressier than flip-flops, but just as easy on the feet, with a little added protection for tender toes. (Note–for the record, they have a toe-seperator like flip-flops do, so those who just don’t like that feeling may want to think twice before purchasing a pair.)
I found these shoes to be incredibly light–kind of like Crocs, but ever so much more stylish. And they are available in black, garden green, plum and smokey brown, so there is plenty of variety.
The other shoe they have is the Karma ($90). Made from soft, supple, full-grain leathers, these flats are good for all day wear. The stretchy back heel provides a secure fit and they don’t take up much room in a travel bag. The sculpted EVA footbed is wrapped in micro-fiber suede to offer a soft feel with every step. These shoes are available in black, mood indigo, plum and garden green.
I liked the Zen shoes…they felt more like slippers. The only thing I own that is as comfortable is my (well broken in) pair of cowboy boots. But wearing those in the summer isn’t exactly practical…
What do you wear when you want to rest your feet?0