Below are the items I think you’ll need as you make your way back to the barre. While there are few other mental and physical tips I’ve shared that provide a holistic approach to getting back to the barre, but for now, let’s stick to these basics as you make your way back to the dance class.
Yes! Another reason to shop 🙂 You may need new attire, especially if you are taking public classes. Check with your studio first, but generally they give adults flexibility on class attire, as long as you wear something form fitting(ish). I remember my first public class– I agonized over what to wear. When in doubt black yoga pants and a black t-shirt are a good bet.
Yoga pants.These are my bread and butter of my ballet classes. They are slimming, they feel good, and they wick away sweat. I bought old navy yoga pants years ago, and they still are hanging in there quite well.
T-shirts-I usually wear a t-shirt for class. My black athlete+artist=dancer t-shirt is my favorite
- Joggers– Most times of the year, I wear joggers over my yoga pants. As I get older, I understand that I need my muscles to be warm (very warm) to feel good while I dance. I need them in the winter because it’s cold and for the summer since the air conditioning makes it cold.
- Camisoles Sometimes I find myself fussing about the decline in quality of clothes. It’s not true for everything, but you know what I mean. One item of clothing that held its shape and newer versions are still as durable as the first time I wore them over 15 years ago are NY and Company’s camisoles. They are a leotard-type material and it has a bra-like shelf liner. I wore them years ago and still have them all! I purchased a few recently—admittedly, I was afraid the quality would have declined since my purchase 15 or so years ago, but they are still amazing! They all hold up well and are the perfect replacement of leotards. #WeAreGrown
Leotards .Admittedly, in my excitement of getting back to the barre, I bought a bunch of black leotards after I signed up for classes– but I never wear them. (I truly believe they cause me to have to go to the bathroom as soon as I put it on.) Tights. Nothing like yanking up tights over a leotard praying you don’t need to use the bathroom. Double that enjoyment when trying to peel tights off a sweaty body after class! I have tights, yes they hold stuff in and smooth stuff out, but honestly, I rarely wear them outside of a performance.
A few years ago, my mom sent all of my 20+ year old dance shoes.
While they provided wonderful memories of my dance life pre-mortgage, family, and science projects (grrr!), they would do me no good now. For fun I did try on my jazz shoes and after a pirouette they fell apart. (picture) I also tried on my pointe shoes- ouch, but it was still an amazing feeling.
Flat ballet shoes. There are an overwhelming number of ballet flats. Good news is that you can snag a decent pair for around $20-30 bucks, so the trial and error isn’t entirely devastating to your bank account. Here’s a review I did of the two pair (Capezio Hanami and Bloch Pro Eslastic) I recently purchased. **Note. For your a home practice, socks can work quite well so that you can take your time and feel the floor.
In my experience that staying at the barre, especially as an adult dancer, requires some effort outside of class. Here’s what I recommend in order of importance.
- Ice pack (or frozen vegetables)Ice remains the most accepted therapy for acute injuries and recovery from intense performance (ballet!), because it decreases pain and swelling associated with injuries. Only after my meniscus tear did I really learn about and fully respect value of icing muscles. It is boring and not fun, but I do it. After class. After a long walk. After improvising at home, just try to ice what hurts or it achy. Here’s the one I have. I haven’t moved into the ice bath realm yet—I cringe thinking about it. Maybe one day. See this article for more on icing and heating and dealing with arthritis. https://www.everydayhealth.com/arthritis/heat-and-cold-therapy.aspx
- Epsom salt.Another game changer for me. Using Epsom salt, or magnesium sulfate, during my baths was highly recommended by my physical therapist as a way to improve symptoms of arthritis/achy joints and sore muscles. Many people with arthritis or arthritis like symptoms are deficient in magnesium, so is it believed this is why Epsom salt helps. (Fun fact, Epsom salt gets its name from the town of Epsom in Surrey, England, where it was originally discovered.) I stock up and get really upset when I have one pack left.
- Foam roller.When I was growing up foam rolling wasn’t a thing in the dance world. I would say as adult ballet dancers, grab a cheap foam roller and try to use it a few times a week. It allows you to get many of the benefits of a therapist or masseuse from the comfort of your own home with an inexpensive piece of workout equipment. It is a way to self massage. Here’s a foam rolling follow along video for you. General benefits:
- muscles and joints become sore because of the build-up of waste products such as lactic acid. When performed post-workout, a self-massage acts to wash the acid away by recruiting fresh blood and nutrients to the fatigued muscle groups.
- tennis ball/ small rubber ball Good for massaging hips and IT bands. Balls can help work out tight spots more precisely than foam rollers, especially on smaller muscle groups such as feet, glutes and calves. Ideally, you should have a collection of two or three balls in various sizes and densities. Smaller balls, such as a bouncy ball or golf ball (which is very firm), work well on small areas like the feet. And spiky balls, which aren’t necessarily effective for working out knots, can help relieve tight fascia.
- Resistance Bands. More for strength training, especially if you sit most of the day. See gaiam’s article on 10 benefits of using resistance bands: https://www.gaiam.com/blogs/discover/10-benefits-of-using-resistance-bands-during-exercise
- Work out mat- good for joint cushioning for jumping.
Last but not least: A BARRE!
If you are on a tight budget (we’ve all been there) you can use a chair as your barre. But if you want to splurge, here’s a wooden, easy to put together ballet barre that I recommend.
Ordering your new stuff:
- Discount Dance is a fantastic place to purchase attire and shoes. Check them out! When I get getting back into dance, I forgot about this website, but it came in handy!
- Local dance stores can work, but they may not be close and also can be intimidating- it just depends on your personality. Only after a few years back at dance did I feel comfortable going into a small dance boutique, and that was mostly for shoes—which the reason I would recommend making the effort to go. The shoes there are generally more expensive than an online discount store, but the fitting and information you can receive from a well-trained consultant is worth it.
I cheap out on dance bags, usually grabbing what I can find around the house. I fell in love with this cute sparkly one.
I haven’t used this in public yet, so I let my daughter use it for now (I am a sucker for sparkly stuff). I now use a simple black bag for my shoes and leg warmers and other goodies.
I hope this helps the person on the fence, thinking about getting back to dance, but doesn’t know quite where to start. I want to encourage you to gt back to the barre!
If you are back to dance, let me know what else you would add to this list.