This story originally appeared in the April/May 2015 issue of Pointe.
Tanya Howard's dance bag is full of sentiments from home. The National Ballet of Canada first soloist's tote, for one thing, is actually a reusable grocery bag from her native South Africa. "I got it when I went home for the 2010 FIFA World Cup," she says. "They made these for the event."
Then there's the shrug that her mother knitted for her years ago. "I always, always have it in my bag just before a show," she says. "It doesn't interfere with my costume." And it doesn't take long to realize that Howard is a mother herself. Her small carry-all holds a photo of her two young children (Lia, 6, and Benjamin, almost 3), while her water bottle is covered in sparkly stickers and rhinestones. "My daughter is learning how to label things at school," says Howard. "She said, 'Mom, how are people going to know it's your bottle if you lose it?' So she made mine pretty unique."
But perhaps the most sentimental item in her bag is a hand-carved ballerina that her husband made in his high school woodshop class. "They had to pick characters out of a book, and he chose the ballerina," she says. "It was so serendipitous! When I see this, I think about how that was years before we even met. After we got married I stuck a little rhinestone on her hand."
Aleksander Antonijevic for Pointe
Clockwise from upper left: Wooden ballerina sculpture; 2010 FIFA World Cup bag; carry-all, which holds a photo of her children and kombucha tickets ("One of the dancers makes kombucha. She brings it in every Monday or Friday and we buy it from her"); shrug; legwarmers; skirts ("I have a variety of lengths, just in case one is more appropriate for what we're rehearsing"); Thera-Band; pointe shoes; de-shanked pointe shoes ("I love these—they give me more support than slippers"); foot roller; Sansha ballet slippers; tennis ball; zip-up bag (for hairpins and pointe shoe accessories); water bottle; snacks; phone.