Supply Closet

Like athletes, dancers demand durable and comfortable high-performance practicewear. Luckily, today’s dancewear companies stay on top of the latest technological advances in materials and seek input from professional dancers (see sidebar). The result is a range of apparel that brings stylish comfort. For a list of dance apparel companies that offer the latest innovations in fabric, check out the buy guide that follows. 

Innovative Materials

“I can’t think of any sport that has not benefited by the introduction of new materials,” says Eliza Gaynor Minden, president and head designer of Gaynor Minden. “Dancers deserve the same benefits that athletes who do sports get, so why shouldn’t dancers enjoy the benefits of modern technology?”

New materials that are more durable and comfortable account for many of the remarkable improvements that have been made in dancewear over the past 30 years, particularly in leotards and tights. These days manufacturers are finding innovative ways to match form with function in materials that include cotton, spandex, nylon, microfiber, polyester, wool, acrylic—and even silk. “Now, it’s more about the fabric and how it fits to the body,” says Nina Vance, vice president of marketing for Discount Dance Supply and Natalie Dance Wear.

Many dancewear companies now use Tactel, a kind of nylon that was first introduced in 1983 for sportswear such as ski clothing. It has found its way into leotards and other types of bodywear for its softness, breathability, lightness and durability. It dries quickly, doesn’t pill and holds its color after many washings. When combined with spandex fibers, Tactel can have a second-skin feeling.

Susan Wexler, vice president of design for Danskin, says Tactel also features high compression, meaning it fits extremely close to the body, moving with the wearer without stretching out or losing its shape—another problem with leotards of yesteryear. “It holds everything in, but it doesn’t feel tight on you,” she says.

Other fabrics take into account the sweat factor. In January, Capezio introduced DanceDry, a treatment applied to the fabrics of several groups of garments to make them less absorbent. When the body perspires, the moisture is pulled away from the body and pushed toward the surface of the fabric, where it can evaporate, says Sylvie Mesnier, Capezio brands design manager. This way, clothing stays drier longer. “Dancers sweat, and when they are wet, they are cold. We needed to increase comfort, because if you feel good, you dance better,” says Mesnier, a former dancer herself. 

Eurotard also released a new microfiber-based lining in all its leotards and bras this year that is both anti-bacterial and aids in moisture management. And, in 2007 Body Wrappers introduced the ProTech fabric in its Premiere collection of leotards. The fabric and a polyester lining work together to draw away moisture from the body. In addition, ProTech shares a range of benefits with Tactel and protects the skin from ultraviolet rays. It also possesses permanent bacteriostatic properties, which inhibit bacteria growth.

Tights have undergone innovative changes in materials and construction, as well. Mondor introduced its Wellness tights two years ago. During the dyeing process, Mondor applies Skintex solution to the tights. This solution has micro-capsules filled with vitamins and oils, a combination of ingredients that are said to relax and prevent premature aging of the skin, balance skin moisture and help regenerate skin cells, making it suppler. Friction created by the tights rubbing against dancers’ legs causes the microcapsules to open, releasing their contents onto the skin. 

In 2007, Gaynor Minden introduced a microfiber wool tight that combines the warmth of wool and the lightweight, quick-drying comfort of micro-fiber. These footless tights are designed as an alternative to baggy and heavier legwarmers. 

New materials can also be used to add arch support to tights, as in Danskin’s microfiber footed tights, available since 2007. A stronger type of ribbed Lycra spandex circles the instep. “It’s almost like a little mini-massage because the compression around the arch of the foot is so much greater than the rest of it,” says Wexler.

Silk is hardly a new material—the Chinese have been weaving it into fabric since 3,000 BC—and now manufacturers are using it in today’s warm-ups. One of the strongest natural fibers, silk is good for activities throughout the year. “When it’s cold out, the material will keep you warm. And if it’s warm out, it will keep you cool,” says Ashley Earle, director of marketing for Grishko, which has been offering Silktex knitwear since 2003. Gaynor Minden also offers sweaters, pants and shorts in silk.

The Power Of Celebrity

Dancers have been designing and making their own leotards for years. Patricia Barker and many others have even created companies around their designs, using their knowledge to fashion garments that will fit dancers right. Now the big companies are getting in on the action.

Bloch’s new Irina and Max Line debuted in June. American Ballet Theatre principals Irina Dvorovenko and Maxim Beloserkovsky worked with Bloch designers to address dancers’ unique needs. “With their years of professional experience, Irina and Max have put their own stamp on this warm-up wear, ensuring that it is both functional and stylish,” says Bloch designer Jozette Hazzouri, who also has her own line with Mirella called Jozette for Mirella. Vladimir Malakhov, Staatsballett Berlin artistic director and ABT principal, has a line of knitwear that is available through Chacott. And Natalie Dancewear regularly enlists dancers from major U.S. companies to provide input as part of its Corps de Natalie.

Allison Duke graduated from the University of Utah and is a member of Ballet New England in New Hampshire, where she teaches ballet.

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After 25 Years, Victoria Morgan to Step Down as Cincinnati Ballet's Artistic Director

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Prior to coming to Cincinnati Ballet in 1997, the Salt Lake City native was a principal dancer with San Francisco Ballet and Ballet West, as well as resident choreographer for the San Francisco Opera. She graduated magna cum laude from University of Utah, where she also earned her MFA, and has judged several international ballet competitions.

Entering her 25th and final season as director, Morgan has accomplished a lot at Cincinnati Ballet, not the least erasing the $800,000 in company debt she inherited at the outset of her tenure. To right the organization's financial ship she had to make tough choices early on—the first task the company's executive committee gave her was to release a third of the company's dancers. In her continuing effort to overhaul how the organization did business, in 2008 she became both the artistic director and CEO and set about building the company's now $14.5 million endowment. For the 2016–17 season, with the arrival of new company president and CEO Scott Altman, Morgan returned to being full-time artistic director and helped lead the realization of the organization's new $31 million home, the Margaret and Michael Valentine Center for Dance.

A champion of female choreographers, Morgan has also choreographed numerous ballets for the company, including world premieres of King Arthur's Camelot and The Nutcracker. She has also helped orchestrate several company collaborations, including 2013's Frampton and Cincinnati Ballet Live and joint productions with BalletMet.

Pointe caught up with Morgan to talk about her recent announcement.

Victoria Morgan is shown from the side standing on stage right, turning to smile at a line of costumed dancers to her left during bows. She wears a patterned green dress with chunky green high heels and holds a red rose in her hand.

Peter Mueller, Courtesy Cincinnati Ballet

Why leave Cincinnati Ballet now?

It's been an amazing run and I have seen it all. I am not sure where I would go from here. I also feel there is a required stimulus and infusion of new ideas and energy that always needs to be a part of a growing, evolving and exciting arts organization.

What made you happiest at Cincinnati Ballet?

The people, from the devotion of patrons and donors to learning from and feeling the pride in work from the staff. It has also been so satisfying for me to choreograph on and watch so many dancers evolve in their dance careers and lives.

Were there things you wanted to do for the company that you weren't able to?

There were other collaborations I wanted us to explore and choreographers I wanted us to work with. It takes quite an investment to make those happen.

Your legacy includes actively creating opportunities for female choreographers. What motivated that?

I started realizing, in a profound way, the gender inequities in our art form. Because I was in a leadership position, I thought I could do something about this and try to get to a 50-50 balance of male and female choreographers. It took a little time to find women to step forward, but it happened. Now there are many more prominent female choreographers, including our resident choreographer Jennifer Archibald, and I am proud of that.

If you could handpick your successor, what qualities would you look for?

Somebody creative, charged up, and who can be visionary. Someone who has had a high-level experience in our art form. A leader who is demanding but also kind and supportive, and who opens doors to find new ideas while still embracing Cincinnati Ballet's philosophies.

What do you feel will be one of the biggest challenges for the new artistic director?

The important cause of DEIA (diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility). Whoever steps into that position has to have awareness of the culture of today's conversation.

Do you plan to keep choreographing?

I am not being proactive about it, but if the opportunity presents itself, it would be fun.

What's next?

I feel my next calling is bringing movement to the biggest segment of our population, baby boomers. I want to be part of an initiative that makes moving and wellness enjoyable and enlivens people.

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