I guess you must have heard the saying “dance like nobody's watching” before. Literally, when you are dancing at home, no one is watching, maybe, except your dog. In that case, why bother to get changed? Wouldn’t it be nice to throw a ‘ballet-in-pajama’ party and go wild in our own world? As exciting as it sounds, I came up with 10 reasons to dance in a proper ballet outfit even at home. Are you ready for that?
What is the biggest barrier to doing ballet at home? It is the lack of motivation. When the studios are closed, everything falls apart. Unless you join online ballet class regularly, there are no classmates to dance with you, there are no teachers yelling at you, there is no space to jump around. Dancing alone at home simply takes most of the fun away. My secret to stay motivated is to dress like you are attending an in-person ballet class with a full set: a leotard, a skirt/ pair of shorts or sauna pants depending on the weather, tights and of course, soft shoes/ pointe shoes. Right when I arrived home from work, I immediately picked the outfit for today, got changed and got everything set up before I ruminate about all the reasons not to do it today, be it tiredness or laziness, we definitely have countless reasons, yet in the process of getting changed, we are telling ourselves that WE ARE GOING TO DO IT, NOW. Relaxing on the couch and swiping through social media is not an option when we are in a full ballet outfit.
2. Getting into the ‘dancing’ mode
Dancing is not like other workouts, it just feels out of place to me when I wore a yoga outfit for ballet like how I was doing an outdoor ballet class with my friends when the studios are closed due to skyrocketing local Omicron cases. Wearing attire designated for ballet makes me feel like I am really dancing instead of simply doing exercises, the difference lies in engaging in an art form or in a sport activity, in which we are using our body to express ourselves, even though it may be just a technique class. The way we move to music, the way we try our best to perfect a simple plié or tendu, the way we solely focus on ourselves, our body and our muscles, are the creative process itself. It doesn’t matter whether you nail that attitude balance or développé, what matters is, you are all in, you are dedicating your whole self into the moment, and that moment, becomes a moment of pure bliss.
3. Posture and alignment
Leotards and tights are the dress code for ballet class for a valid reason. No matter if you are video recording yourself or attending an online ballet class, wearing proper ballet attire helps the teacher or yourself to see your posture and alignment clearly, and to make corrections whenever needed, which is extremely important to learn about yourself and your habits. You may feel awful looking at the videos noticing all the faults and imperfection, but it is the only pathway to improve and develop into a stronger dancer. Learn to laugh at yourself and never give up trying, as Misty Copeland reminds us, “I may not be there yet, but I am closer than I was yesterday”.
4. Freedom of movements
Dancewear is especially designed for movements, which is why the fit, stretchability and moisture-wicking ability are so important. A quality piece of dancewear allows us to move as we desire, to feel supported without feeling restrictive. If you wish to move freely in the studio, you will also wish to move freely at home despite limited space, so that you can stretch to your limits and reach your full potential. Ultimately, the freedom to move is an embodiment of the freedom to do what we want, to express what we want, more often than not, we are our own barriers, we create barriers for ourselves about how we are ‘supposed to’ be, what we are ‘supposed to’ do and ‘supposed to’ say when we are in different positions and roles. It is time to let go of the ‘supposed to’ and to embrace and go for what you want instead.
5. Feel good about yourself
No, you don’t need to have a perfect ballerina physique to feel good about yourself. Adult ballet dancers have a wide spectrum of body shapes and sizes, the deviation from the ‘norm’ is, indeed, a celebration of diversity. We have had enough self-limiting thoughts from what society tells us to look like as a woman and as a dancer. Ballet is for everyone, not only those who are tall, skinny and have high arches. We stand up for ourselves when we choose to show up and commit to what we love despite any physical limitations. Being comfortable dancing in body-hugging dancewear takes time, it may be tempting to unnecessarily throw on a baggy t-shirt or sweatpants to hide our ‘not-so-perfect’ body, yet you also miss out the joy of being comfortable in your own skin and loving your true self.
6. Appreciate the beauty of dancewear
Dancewear deserves your love, indeed, every piece of dancewear is a piece of artwork itself which takes lots of time and effort to design and create. By wearing it, not only will the dancewear get a chance to be out of the closet, you will get to appreciate the beautiful creation by the designer and the craftsmanship it takes to produce it. The value of each piece of dancewear is manifested when it is on your body, becomes a part of you and contributes to your creative process with movements. The dancewear actually plays a part in the expression of yourself and I’m sure it will be thankful to you in return because it is what dancewear is created for. You are the one who makes your dancewear valuable regardless of your skills, techniques or artistry, just because you are intrinsically valuable.
7. Discovering dancewear that sparks joy
Sometimes we may get lost in the dancewear wardrobe thinking that we have nothing to wear and constantly trying to fill the wardrobe with even more dancewear. Yet owning more pieces of dancewear (or other possessions) does not necessarily mean that we are more content with our life, but instead may create stress with more decisions to make and less physical or mental space for what is truly important. I found the KonMari Method™ developed by the famous Japanese tidying expert Marie Kondo, really useful in dealing with an expanding dancewear wardrobe throughout the years into ballet. It is a tidying method that chooses and keeps things that ‘sparks joy’ instead of choosing what to discard. This process helps us to really look into which piece of dancewear that truly speaks to you. What ‘sparks joy’ is deeply personal and subjective and there is no right or wrong, but only what you love and treasure. May I now proudly present to you my Yumiko Alicia collection, which is what sparks joy in me even though it may seem boring to others.
8. Reduce average cost per wear
In a practical sense, the more you wear a piece of dancewear, the less it costs in the long run. Therefore, it is particularly important to choose dancewear of premium quality that can stand the test of time and wear. The cost upfront may look huge, but investing in a quality piece not only saves money, but it also saves you time looking for another one and frustration in dealing with wear and tear, especially for dancewear with delicate fabrics such as mesh and lace. Want to learn more about different factors to consider when choosing your next leotard? Check out this blog post on ‘how to find the perfect ballet leotard’.
9. Sharing on social media
Posting a video of ourselves dancing is not just about the number of likes from friends, instead it is a record of the ballet journey, which is unique to every dancer. It is a reminder to ourselves about how far we have come and what we have achieved. Even if you fall prey to the inner critic or even ridicule from bystanders, remember that you are good enough, you are beautiful enough, you are fit enough. What really counts is that you are putting in the effort and you persevere despite challenges and frustration. In the endless process of learning and growing, dancewear adds fun to this process by discovering what makes you shine even brighter!
10. Simply because you want to
There can be no concrete reasons to wear dancewear when you are dancing at home. Just do it simply because you want to and there is no justification needed. The same goes for devoting your time and energy to dance, especially as an adult ballet dancer, we are not looking to become a professional, nor are we dancing for exams or performances, we are dancing just simply because we want to. When we are dancing for ourselves instead of for our parents, friends, kids or anyone, it becomes a truly liberating experience to reclaim our passion.
I used to be hesitant to tell others that I love ballet. This may sound really silly but that was me in the past struggling with who I am and my self-worth. When everyone else was doing hip hop and pop during my undergraduate years, it seems to me that ballet is misaligned with popular culture. It was until the moment when I decided to nurture self-love and to pursue what I have always been fascinated about, I started taking ballet classes and found my true passion. No one says ballet is going to be easy, instead it is extremely demanding both physically and psychologically. COVID-19 makes it even more difficult with constraints at home, persistence is key to grow stronger, and dressing nicely for ballet makes the whole process much more enjoyable and helps me to keep going with grace.