2008 Tights Guide

All tights are not created equal, so Pointe has listed 26 manufacturers to give you an idea of the broad selection available. Tights come in a variety of styles, such as footed, footless or convertible; mesh or non-mesh; and seamed or non-seamed. And colors can range from traditional pink to black, white, tan and nude. We have also listed new styles and innovative technologies. For further information, contact the companies directly.

Allen Bodywear
Details: men’s sizes only, two styles in black and white
New in the last year: convertible tights with suspenders

Bal Togs
Details: men’s footed in an assortment of colors

Baum’s Dancewear
Details: women’s sizes only in a variety of styles and colors

Details: women’s sizes only in a variety of styles and colors

Body Wrappers
Details: women’s sizes in a variety of styles and colors
New in the last year: men’s footed tights in black and white featuring non-knit construction and a seamed instep; ankle-height “footie” in a variety of colors, designed to protect feet inside shoes when not wearing tights

Capezio/Ballet Makers, Inc.
Details: men’s and women’s sizes in a wide variety of styles and colors
New in the last year: women’s microfiber tights in a variety of colors, knit with run-proof microfiber yarn at the convertible opening

Dance Department
Details: women’s sizes only in a variety styles and colors

Details: women’s sizes and plus sizes, in a variety of styles and colors
New in the last year: ultra-soft micofiber arch-support footed tights; ultra-soft microfiber plus-size convertible tights; three new colors to match dance shoes: caramel, café, sun bronzed

Details: women’s sizes in a variety of styles and colors; men’s footed in black and white; convertible body tights in unisex sizes
New in the last year: men’s sizes in footed, ankle-length and capri-length with wide waistband; several styles of tights and body tights in plus sizes

Freed of London
866-MY-FREED x 232
Details: women’s sizes only in a variety of styles and colors

Gaynor Minden
Details: women’s sizes only; two styles of microfiber; one style of wool/microfiber blend

Details: women’s sizes only, two styles of convertible available in pink and black

Details: men’s footless in black, white, burgundy and marine; women’s sizes in one style of pink convertible

Leo’s Dancewear

Details: women’s sizes only in a variety of styles and colors

Main Street Dancewear
Details: women’s sizes only, four styles in a variety of colors

Details: women’s sizes only in one style of microfiber and one style of Lycra, several colors available
New in the last year: beige color available in the Lycra style

Details: men’s sizes of seamed footed in black, grey and stage white

M Stevens

See your local retailer
Details: unisex sizes in two styles: footless cotton/poly/Lycra blend in a wide variety of colors and footed Milliskin nylon/Lycra blend in a wide variety of colors

Mondor, Ltd.
Details: women’s sizes only in a variety of styles and colors
New in the last year: Wellness tights with vitamin E, in footed or convertible and a variety of colors; footed durable performance tights; performance tights with microfiber/Lycra blend to provide leg support in footed or convertible; lightweight performance tights in footed or convertible; knee-highs with microfiber/Lycra blend to provide leg and foot support

Details: women’s sizes in a long-sleeve stirrup body stocking available in nude
New in the last year: adult sizes in a body-smoothing undergarment capri tight available in nude or black

Prima Soft
Details: men’s and women’s sizes in a wide variety of styles and colors
New in the last year: men’s sizes in heavy-weight, footed style, available in black and white

Radetsky Dancewear
Available at Sansha NYC
Details: men’s and women’s sizes in a variety of footless styles; available in many colors; some styles have prints

Details: women’s sizes only in a variety of styles and colors

Details: men’s and women’s sizes in a wide variety of styles and colors
New in the last year: adult microfiber footless fashion tights available in new colors: purple, forest green, white and turquoise

Só Dança
Details: men’s sizes in black footless; women’s sizes in footed and convertible styles in a variety of colors

Wear Moi
Details: men’s sizes in black footed; women’s sizes in footed, footless and convertible in several colors

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From left: Anthony Crickmay, Courtesy Dance Theatre of Harlem Archives; Courtesy Ballethnic

Lydia Abarca Mitchell, Arthur Mitchell's First Ballerina, Builds On Her Mentor's Legacy in Atlanta

It is the urgency of going in a week or two before opening night that Lydia Abarca Mitchell loves most about coaching. But in her role as Ballethnic Dance Company's rehearsal director, she's not just getting the troupe ready for the stage. Abarca Mitchell—no relation to Arthur Mitchell—was Mitchell's first prima ballerina when he founded Dance Theatre of Harlem with Karel Shook; through her coaching, Abarca Mitchell works to pass her mentor's legacy to the next generation.

"She has the same sensibility" as Arthur Mitchell, says Ballethnic co-artistic director Nena Gilreath. "She's very direct, all about the mission and the excellence, but very caring."

Ballethnic is based in East Point, a suburban city bordering Atlanta. In a metropolitan area with a history of racism and where funding is hard-won, it is crucial for the Black-led ballet company to present polished, professional productions. "Ms. Lydia" provides the "hard last eye" before the curtain opens in front of an audience.

For more than 25 years, coaching at Ballethnic has been a lifeline back to Abarca Mitchell's days with DTH. She had a stellar career, both with the company and beyond, but left the stage at age 30 after an injury sustained performing in Dancin' on Broadway. Her husband's job transferred them to Atlanta, where she transitioned to a full-time job as a medical transcriptionist while raising a family. Now retired from her second career, Abarca Mitchell continues to forward Arthur Mitchell's legacy, not only through coaching but also by building community among DTH alumni and writing her memoirs—a fairy-tale story of a child who came from the Harlem public-housing projects and became a trailblazing Black ballerina.

Abarca Mitchell grew up during the 1950s and '60s, the oldest of seven in a tight-knit family. She always danced, taking cues from Hollywood figures until a fourth-grade teacher saw her talent and encouraged her to seek formal training. The family couldn't afford ballet lessons, but Abarca Mitchell earned a scholarship to attend The Juilliard School's Saturday youth program, and later the Harkness Ballet's professional training program. But for all of those ballet classes, Abarca Mitchell never had the opportunity to see or perform in a ballet production. She didn't understand the purpose behind ballet's tedious class exercises.

When the fast-growing Harkness Ballet moved its scholarship students to the June Taylor Studio on Broadway, Abarca Mitchell remembers hearing live drumming, clapping and laughter coming from the studio across the hall. It was a jazz class taught by Jaime Rogers, who'd played Loco in the West Side Story movie. Abarca Mitchell started sneaking into Rogers' classes.

When Harkness informed her that her scholarship was exclusively for ballet, Abarca Mitchell left the program. She saw no future for herself in the white-dominated ballet world, and focused on academics during her last two years of high school.

At 17, Abarca Mitchell met Arthur Mitchell. He had made history as the first Black principal dancer with New York City Ballet, which he had joined in 1955, and had just begun to shape what would become Dance Theatre of Harlem when he hired Abarca Mitchell in 1968. Within a month, she was back on pointe. Within two months, she was performing in Arthur Mitchell's Tones. "I didn't even know what ballet was until I was onstage," Abarca Mitchell says. "All of a sudden, it was my heart and soul."

Arthur Mitchell made sure his dancers saw NYCB perform, and subsequently brought Balanchine's Agon, Concerto Barocco and other NYCB works into the DTH repertoire. "Physically and emotionally, I felt the connection of jazz in Balanchine's choreography," Abarca Mitchell says. "His neoclassical style was just funky to me. I could totally relate."

For the first time, Abarca Mitchell danced with people who looked like her and shared the same aspirations, she says, with a leader who "saw us through his eyes of love and achievement."

In Abarca Mitchell's 30s, after a performing career that took her from DTH to the film version of The Wiz to Bob Fosse's Dancin' and beyond, her husband's job took their family to Atlanta. She soon connected with Gilreath and Waverly Lucas. The couple, also DTH alumni, were influenced by Arthur Mitchell's model when they founded Ballethnic, seeking to create access for dancers of all backgrounds to develop as classical dancers and perform a repertoire that represents the company's culturally diverse home city. Over time, Abarca Mitchell became a trusted advisor.

Abarca Mitchell goes in at least twice a year to coach Ballethnic's productions—such as Urban Nutcracker, set in Atlanta's historically Black Sweet Auburn neighborhood, and The Leopard Tale, which features the company's signature blend of classical pointe work with polyrhythmic dance forms of the African diaspora. These final rehearsals give Abarca Mitchell a way to fast-track the transfer of her mentor's values.

Two dancers in blue and black practice clothes and face masks, the woman in pointe shoes, pose together in a first arabesque tendu. Abarca Mitchell steps out of a mirrored pose as she adjusts the fingertips of the male dancer.

Lydia Abarca Mitchell works with Ballethnic's Calvin Gentry and Karla Tyson.

Courtesy Ballethnic Dance Company

She recalls that Arthur Mitchell taught his dancers to present themselves at their finest—to enter a room with their heads held high and shoulders back—and to dress, speak and walk with dignity and self-respect. He reminded them that they were pioneers and ambassadors for Blacks in ballet. As the company gained international stature—Abarca Mitchell was the first Black female ballerina to appear on the cover of Dance Magazine, in 1975—he insisted the dancers remain humble and in service to the greater mission. But he was also a taskmaster. "No nonsense, no excuses," Abarca Mitchell says. "There was no slack. If he was rehearsing something that you're not in, you'd better be on the side learning it."

"He didn't throw compliments around at all. You had to really kill yourself to get a smile from him." After a run-through, she says, "you didn't want to be singled out."

Abarca Mitchell takes a slightly different approach, though she doesn't compromise on the values her mentor instilled. When coaching large casts of all ages and different levels for Ballethnic, she has found ways to inspire people without tearing them down. She calls it a "tough love" approach.

"I've got to make them want to do it. I don't want to beat them into doing it," Abarca Mitchell says. "I tell them, 'You're here because you want to be, and because you auditioned and were accepted. Now, show me why I should keep you here.'"

"I tell them, 'I'm here to make sure you'll look good—you know: 'That looks fake. Let's make it look real. Think about what you're doing, so that it's not just a gesture.'"

Arthur Mitchell instilled this level of emotional honesty in his dancers, and it was key to the company's quick success. "We were bringing a thought forward," says Abarca Mitchell. "We were bringing a feeling forward, so that the audience could connect with us."

In addition to her position as rehearsal director for Ballethnic, Abarca Mitchell is today part of 152nd Street Black Ballet Legacy, a group of DTH alumni who seek to give voice to people responsible for the company's success in its early years. "It's incredible," she says, "how many people took something from DTH and applied it to their lives."

As Ballethnic prepares to co-host the International Association of Blacks in Dance Conference and Festival in January 2022, Abarca Mitchell hopes to help strengthen the network of dance companies associated with Ballethnic, such as Memphis' Collage Dance Collective. "The dream is for all of us to collaborate with each other," she says, "so that it becomes more normal to see a Black ballerina, so it's not just a token appearance."

Today's young dancers face different challenges from what Abarca Mitchell faced. She finds that they're more easily distracted, and sometimes act entitled, because they don't know or appreciate how hard earlier Black ballerinas like herself worked to clear a path for them. But what she's passing on will benefit them, whether they choose to pursue dance careers or become doctors, lawyers, professors or something else entirely. "The principles are the same," she says. "Work for what you want, and you will achieve it."

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