Dancers are famously resourceful and particular when it comes to the products that they keep around to get them through the day. And we all know where those items live: the dance bag. While most dance bags are filled with basics like leotards, pointe shoes, Therabands and granola bars, we rounded up some of the quirkier items that dancers carry with them to provide comfort, inspiration and organization.
These snippets come from longer stories on the contents of each ballerina's dance bag—click on each dancer's name for more.
Howard with Christopher Gerty in Balanchine's "The Four Temperaments," Photo by Edwin Luk, Courtesy National Ballet of Canada
This National Ballet of Canada first soloist keeps a hand-carved wooden ballerina with her that her husband made in his high school woodworking class. After they married, Howard added her own little touch—a little rhinestone stuck onto the figurine's finger to mimic a ring. "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."
Long in Balanchine's "A Midsummer Night's Dream," Photo by Gene Schiavone, Courtesy of The George Balanchine Trust
Miami City Ballet soloist Jordan-Elizabeth Long spent years dancing in Europe before settling in Florida. One of her holdovers from her time abroad is a red and white polka-dot wine bottle holder with multiple compartments that she uses to organize her pointe shoes. Now that's inventive!
Rowser in the "Swan Lake" pas de trois, Photo by Heather Thorne
When Nashville Ballet dancer Kayla Rowser danced the Sugarplum Fairy in The Nutcracker for the first time, her mentor, former Houston Ballet principal Lauren Anderson, sent her a letter to wish her good luck. Rowser keeps a copy of that letter in her bag at all times as an inspirational reminder.
Webb and Ian Casady in "Swan Lake," Photo by Amitava Sarkar, Courtesy of Houston Ballet
Sentimental totems can help many dancers put aside their fears when things get tough. For Houston Ballet principal Sara Webb, that's a colorful wooden block made by artist Kelly Rae Roberts. Given to her by a friend, it reads "Kindness Changes Everything." "The dance world can be kind of tough," says Webb. "Sometimes we get a little selfish in our profession, so it's a reminder to be humble."
Núñez in "Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux," Photo by Dee Conway
Royal Ballet principal Marianela Núñez keeps it classy: She's never without a bottle of Coco Chanel perfume. "You always have to have perfume with you!" she says. Not only does a bottle live in her dance bag, she keeps one in her handbag as well.
Hulland with Ricardo Rhodes and Ricardo Graziano in Ashton's "Monotones II," Photo by Gene Shiavone
Sarasota Ballet artistic director Iain Webb brings principal dancer Victoria Hulland her favorite candy, Percy Pig gummies, back from his trips home to the UK. After enjoying the sweets, Hulland repurposed the pig-shaped tin as a hairpin holder, now a smiling staple in her dance bag.