No matter where you're training this summer, you want to make an impression with your artistry— not your B.O. You'll be dancing (and sweating) more than usual, so follow these basic rules to help you stay healthy and keep embarrassing hygiene faux pas at bay.
✔ Change your dancewear daily.
Photo by Jayme Thornton
To ward off odors and the chance of infection, "you must wear a clean leotard and tights every day," says Deborah Hess, senior faculty at Canada's National Ballet School. For men, that means a fresh pair of socks and tights, plus a clean shirt and dance belt. Since you'll have multiple classes, you may need to change midday to avoid skin irritation and odor.
✔ Learn how to do laundry and hand-wash.
Hess recommends that men bring more than one dance belt, which you can wash in the sink and air dry. "They're thick and sometimes take more than a day to dry," she says. Women can do the same with their tights, rotating two to three pairs throughout the week. Toe pads can also get stinky when they absorb sweat, so hand-wash as needed and consider alternating multiple pairs. When using a washing machine and dryer, skip fabric softener and dryer sheets, says Pacific Northwest Ballet School's managing director, Denise Bolstad. These products can create dangerous slick spots on marley floors.
✔ Shower at least once a day, at the end of every day.
As soon as you've finished dancing, discard your sweaty clothes, bathe and change into dry ones. If the dorm showers tend to be busy, see if the dance facilities have extra showers—intensives at company-affiliated schools likely will—and pack a towel in your bag, says Bolstad.
✔ Wear deodorant and reapply as needed.
Before your intensive, find a fragrance-free deodorant that doesn't irritate your skin. "You don't want a roomful of 30 kids and they all have a different smell on," says Bolstad. "Find something that blocks the odor, but doesn't add fragrance to the room."
✔ Let your dance shoes dry.
Bacteria breeds in warm, damp places, so don't stow sweaty slippers, pointe shoes or toe pads in your bag overnight.
✔ Avoid toenail polish.
"If you get bruised toenails from pointework, you'll be able to see what's going on," says Hess.
✔ Keep blisters clean.
Hess advises her students to keep a foot-care kit in their dance bag with items like 2nd Skin, Polysporin antibiotic ointment, toe tape and manicure scissors or clippers. Watch out for infected blisters, marked by redness and swelling. "If you see a red line running up your leg, then you need to seek medical attention immediately," Hess warns.
✔ Use shower shoes.
You could develop conditions like athlete's foot or plantar warts from going barefoot in shared bathrooms.
✔ Wear secure dancewear for partnering class.
Students in a PNB School Summer Course. Photo by Angela Sterling, Courtesy PNB.
Strappy leos with high-cut legs may be trendy, but Bolstad recommends ladies opt for something sturdier with strong elastic. "When the boys are doing turns or lifts, your leotard shouldn't be moving all over the place," she says. At PNB School intensives, girls can wear black tights over their leotards for pas de deux class, which can make them feel more comfortable if they're having their period.
✔ Brush your teeth.
No one wants a partner with bad breath. Keep a toothbrush and toothpaste or a travel-size mouthwash in your dance bag, says Hess, and use them before partnering class, especially if you've just eaten.
✔ Wash your hands.
"Before class, after class, and if you can't, use hand sanitizer," says Bolstad.
✔ Wipe down the barres.
Some studios may have disinfecting wipes available to clean the barres before class. If not, consider stowing a pack of wet wipes in your dance bag for this purpose, says Hess.
✔ If you're sick, skip class.
As hard as it is, Bolstad says, it's not worth spreading your germs to other students. "Think about the studios and the barres and the classes that rotate in and out. It's like shaking hands with a hundred people a day."