This was the question running through my head as I combed through my entire closet a few months ago. As the curtains closed on the wonderful twelve years I spent dancing with Shen Yun Performing Arts—a career that allowed me to perform in many countries and theaters like Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, and Toronto’s Four Seasons—I was about to embark on a new chapter of my life. And only the best pieces of dancewear were going with me.
So how do you choose good-looking dancewear that performs as much as you do?
Here are 5 things dancers should look for in clothing.
1. Freedom of Movement
Make sure the activewear is suited to your activity. Does the fabric stretch? Is the garment built for a wide range of movement? Or does it get stuck once your arms or legs reach a certain point?
Classical Chinese dance often tests the limits of a dancer’s flexibility, so our clothing needs to be able to move with us.
2. Focus on Dance
A serious commitment to dance requires focus and this means it’s better not to wear revealing or tight clothing. Avoid a garment that is too tight, or rides up.
When shopping for dancewear, I often test out the clothing by doing a few large movements. You can see any potential problems this way.
3. How It Makes You Look
Every dancer wants to look their longest and slimmest. Our clothing needs to show the lines of our body, without being too tight, so we prefer slim pants over leggings and tailored shirts over tight tops.
Clothing has the unique power of changing how our body naturally looks. Pants with a straighter cut make our legs look longer. Crewnecks can make us look taller, while V-necks make our necks look longer.
Dancers are picky about these things because we want to show the best to whoever is watching us.
How does the clothing handle sweat and heat? Does it wick sweat away or hold it inside? Does it trap heat inside, or does it release heat? How heavy does the garment feel once it is soaked? Nobody wants to wear a cold and heavy shirt when they are working out.
Another major factor is how the clothing smells after you sweat. Though we always change after class and rehearsal, the amount that dancers sweat is unbelievable. A big problem is some dancewear—even when advertised as “stink-free”—starts to smell after a few months of wear, regardless of washing.
Another thing dancers look for in activewear is color. Generally, we wear the same color for class. It’s easier for the instructor to see where your body is. But for rehearsal, we like to be a bit freer and wear different colors.
Color can also be used to elongate and flatter the body. Or it can just be a fun way to express yourself!
Now you know what professional dancers look for in their clothing. I hope these tips prove helpful next time you shop for activewear.
In the meantime, check out these picks from our line of dancewear: