What Dancers Want: Pre-Professional Style

Sophia Mellsop adds sparkle to her Colorado Ballet dress-code look with small earrings and hair clips.

Many programs have specific leotards, tights, shoes and skirts that dancers are required to wear in classes. This challenges the dancers to show off personality and style in creative ways—from funky warm-ups and dance bags to cute earrings and hair clips. We spoke with three pre-professionals about what’s trending in their programs.

Sophia Mellsop

Colorado Ballet Pre-Professional Division

DRN: How are you able to add style to your dancewear while staying within your school’s dress code?

SM: While we’re required to wear black leotards four days a week, they can be any style. I like to have some color trim on my black leos, or a highly feminine style with black lace or nude mesh details. The one day a week we can wear color, I have a watercolor, dragonfly print leotard that I love.

DRN: Are you allowed to wear warm-ups or skirts in class?

SM: Skirts are allowed for pointe or variation classes—they’re supposed to be black, although we can usually get away with solid colors. Bullet Pointe skirts are the big trend, and my friends and I have coordinated so we all own different colors that we trade with one another. For partnering, we have to wear wrap skirts so they don’t slip on your leotard. Warm-ups are only allowed if you have an injury.

DRN: What styles or accessories do you look for in dance stores?

SM: Since our dress code is so strict, dancers try to get around the rules in any way possible. Cutouts, color trims, mesh, lace—those are huge, but sometimes hard to find. Pointe shoe and foot-care products, such as Second Skin for blisters, are great. Stylish bags are another way to show off my personality. I love a leather bag for my lunch and a large cotton duffel with pockets for my shoes and other items. The bag I have now has a separate mesh pocket so shoes can air out.

Maya Belcove

Joffrey Ballet Pre-Professional Division

DRN: What apparel do you look for to add more style to your training outfits?

MB: We’re all required to wear the same leotard and tights in ballet classes, so modern and contemporary outfits are where I add style. I prefer to wear dark booty shorts or full-length leggings with mesh cutouts, along with a lightweight dance T-shirt with a fun design or logo on it. For summer intensives, which have a different dress code, I’m looking for black leotards with mesh cutouts in the back, lace accents or even a low back.

DRN: What warm-ups do you need for classes and performances?

MB: When it’s really cold in the studio, we can wear a pair of dance pants for pliés. I basically live in my garbage bag pants, and I also have a couple of knit pullover sweaters with a wide neck. For performances, I add more warm-up layers, such as a tight-fitted, soft vest that I can wear over a T-shirt to get my core really warm. Full-length, bamboo legwarmers are fantastic for their warmth and comfort.

DRN: What other accessories could dance stores provide?

MB: A large variety of leotard brands and skirts is great when you’re shopping for summer intensive leotards. Some girls wear flower wraps around their buns in class, which look really pretty. I would also like a larger choice of toe-care brands. I used to have to shop several stores to find toe pads I liked—now, I use the PerfectFit Pointe Shoe Insert, which I love. Being able to go to one store to buy all my pointe shoe needs, like Jet glue, shellac, lambswool, toe tape and small, spiky rolling balls, would be really helpful.

Kyleigh Sudlow

Boston Ballet Pre-Professional Program

DRN: Which of your dress-code basics can be your own style or color?

KS: For character class, we can have our own character skirts and shoes. The skirts must be black, but the brand and length are up to us. I have black, T-strap character shoes an inch in height—the T-strap has a fun ballroom look to it that I prefer. Once a month, we’re allowed to wear our director’s favorite color—green—for leotards, and we can also dress up for holidays. I prefer velvet-paneled leotards and like to wear halters or high necks with low backs.

DRN: What style trends are you noticing among your peers?

KS: V-neck leotards are very popular—when we’re required to wear a scoop neck, many girls pinch the leotards in the middle with a safety pin for a more flattering look. Yumiko leotards are also trending, since you can personalize them, but those can take six weeks to get in from when you order them. Dance stores could preorder some for on the rack. Bullet Pointe skirts are mostly just online, so having more in stores would be great, too.

DRN: Are there any other small accessories you like to wear?

KS: Small dangly earrings, like gold hoops, are great. Before class, I always wear RubiaWear legwarmers for my calves and shins, a big, comfy sweater and a fleece back-warmer.

Amy Smith is a dance teacher and writer in Greensboro, NC.

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