Picture this incredibly common scene: dancers stroll through the doors of the studio with their next several hours of class and rehearsal packed in bags draped over their shoulders. Moments later, they descend upon the rehearsal space prepared to work, and their tool kits—seen just recently—are stowed neatly away for the duration of their training that day. Every now and then they will return to the dressing room to rifle through shoes and Band-Aids before returning again to their practice, where teachers and choreographers will remind them that it is what happens in between the movements that makes the dance. In many ways, personal moments spent packing, searching through, and organizing the tools for success in a training bag adds to the story of an individual’s time as a dancer. In Part 1 of our Summer Intensive SUCCESS Guide, we mentioned creating a comfortable and organized environment as an important element of preparing for a fulfilling summer ahead. The advice remains true through the year-round season, especially when performances roll around and rehearsal days get longer and longer. So what is in those bags pictured earlier? Tools and tricks meant to provide health, comfort, and motivation. We talked to several dancers and a faculty member to find out what they carry around for an effective dance experience:
Preparation and Prevention
Allai Regen, Level 5 dancer, takes preventative measures to keep her mind and body at ease during a long day. You’ll find a stash of toe tape and Band-Aids in her bag, as well as a collection of first aid materials for the treatment of blisters, bruises, and any of the other battle wounds that come from pushing the boundaries of the body. When packing up a bag for any and all situations, consider Allai’s words: “you never know what’s going to happen to your toes.”
Level 3 dancer, Alina Slotwinski, makes it a point to carry a bag that reminds her to stay organized. Cultivating an art has been shown to inspire the flow of creativity and deeper thinking—leading dancers, for example, to constantly find new ways to approach the technical skills and roles they learn. To keep those invaluable ideas and important notes orderly and easily accessible, she always carries a notebook. That same method applies to her apparel. Alina keeps her dance wear and street wear separate by using a simple household item: “when I bring an extra pair of street shoes in my bag, I put them into a plastic shower cap.”
Expecting the Unexpected
Level 4 dancer Bridget Quinn’s bag holds all the things you never thought you needed. She takes some time to think about the less obvious items while packing her bag. For example, what would you reach for if you had stitch up some point shoes in a cinch and didn’t have pre-cut ribbons? “People always look for scissors, I have scissors.” In this case, everything but the kitchen sink comes in handy. Remember, however, to go through your bag every few days or so and reconsider what you truly need and don’t need. Staying on top of your inventory will ensure that when you find yourself frantically looking for those scissors, the ‘pointe shoe dye you needed for that photo-shoot that one time’ wont get in the way of your search.
Kate Heulitt, Level 5 dancer, holds her health at top priority, and knows that proper hydration is key to peak performance. Her bag would simply be incomplete without her favorite water bottle stored neatly inside of it. Pairing routine tasks like getting enough water with your favorite color, pattern, or style can help remind you to stay healthy and energized during classes and rehearsals. The trick of association can work with practically anything. Pack your lunches in fun, reusable containers to make snacking that much more fun and to help you stay positive and motivated throughout your day. Kate also keeps a few peanut butter Clif bars in her bag at all times: “It’s the number one snack that I can’t go without.”
Tanner Hutchinson, Level 3 dancer, fills her bag with items that hold sentimental value and make her feel great on a daily basis. Her mother’s leg warmers from when she was a dancer have a special place in her wardrobe. Classically pink and worn through generations, they remind her of her personal attachment to the work she does in the studio every day. Newer items have made it into the mix as well, like her spikey green ball for rolling out her foot muscles. Tanner bought this item on her own because she thought it would soothe her tired feet and “it does!”
Training Body and Mind
Peter Brandenhoff, Ballet faculty member at NJDTE, believes that well-rounded artists should not only work on their physical forms but also their brains. At any given moment, there are always two or three books in his bag. Breaks in between classes, as well as travel time to and from rehearsal, can serve as great moments to break up your day with a bit of reading. Consider putting down your phone every once and indulging in a fascinating news article or the newest addition to your bookshelf.
Function and Form
Isabel Sottile, Level 5 dancer, chooses her footwear for class before even stepping into the studio. When packing her bag for a training day, she considers the needs of the movement she will be doing. Her blue socks always find their way into the collection, as they are “slippery enough to slide and move comfortably in, but also have enough traction to reduce the worry of falling.” And if those are no longer usable one day, not to worry! She always has extras. An extra pair of ballet shoes, pointe shoes, tights, and of course socks, keep her mind on her dancing and not on the things she is wearing.
Finally, remember that while it might be exciting to fill your bag with all the aforementioned goodies, these items should never hinder your training and take the place of the essentials. Make sure to check that your shoes are wearable and appropriate for each situation, that the clothes you pack are comfortable and do not inhibit your mobility, and that your things are sorted for easy access when you only have a few minutes in-between classes. At the end of the day, know that your bag doesn’t follow you into the studio space or onto the stage—as long as everything you need to dance at your best is stowed away in there, you’re on the right track.
Also, keep an eye out for additional adventures behind the scenes at NJDTE as part of the “Pulling Back the Curtain” series.