How This Dancer Turned Her Problem Into a Business
The groundwork for Erin Carpenter's company, Nude Barre, began when she was a teenager. At 16, she earned a spot in the residency program at The Kennedy Center in partnership with Dance Theatre of Harlem. "We were required to wear nude—as in, our actual skin tone—tights and shoes," she remembers. Carpenter brought her "sun tan" tights and a pair of pink ballet shoes with her, because that was all she could find. But she wasn't allowed in class because her dancewear didn't match her skin. "I was so embarrassed," she says. "I looked unprepared. I just didn't have the right nudes." Her teacher explained that the dancers dyed their tights and pancaked their shoes.
Every week for the rest of Carpenter's dance career, she spent hours dyeing her tights and pancaking her shoes with foundation makeup. "I was getting really tired of it," she says. "There were a lot of moments where I was either embarrassed or uncomfortable. Your undergarments are your foundation, and as a performer you want to feel confident in them." So, she decided to found Nude Barre, a company offering tights in an expanded range of nude shades.
Erin Carpenter as a Knicks City Dancer (photo by David Saffran, courtesy Erin Carpenter)
Carpenter always knew she wanted to be a performer. She attended several schools before enrolling at performing arts school Suitland High School, in Maryland. After graduating, she attended Marymount Manhattan College in NYC, where she majored in ballet and minored in business management. "I knew I wanted to own a company one day," she says. "I've always had an entrepreneurial spirit. I just didn't yet know what that company was." She graduated with several offers from companies outside of NYC, but wanted to stay in the city, so she signed with an agent instead. Shortly after, she became a Knicks City Dancer for the NBA and enjoyed a successful career in commercial dance, including features in national ads for companies like American Airlines.
Carpenter, the founder of Nude Barre (photo by K. Kess, courtesy of Erin Carpenter)
A New Hue
By 2009, Carpenter had grown sick and tired of wasting her time pancaking and dyeing her dancewear, and decided she was going to try to create nude tights in shades that actually represent the skin tones of all dancers. She got pointers from a friend in the sock business about manufacturers, and produced the first samples for Nude Barre that same year. "I think I cried over those first samples," she says. "They were so bad. I wasn't sure I could do it." Each batch of samples got better, though, and by 2010 Carpenter had something she could work with.
For Nude Barre's prospective shades, Carpenter looked to the diversity in the ranks of the Knicks City Dancers. "I started by looking at what shades of foundation the dancers were wearing," she says. She also surveyed tons of women. Ultimately, she settled on 12 colors, ranging from the light Lycheetini and Peach Melody to the deeper Bohemian Princess and Mocha. Carpenter currently wears Tapioca Cream as her main shade, and Cocoa when she's tan.
A Cult Following
The first shipment of Nude Barre went out in early 2011. After talk-show host Wendy Williams became a fan, other celebrities, including Tyra Banks, Laverne Cox and the members of pop group Fifth Harmony quickly followed. These days Nude Barre tights are worn by ballet dancers (Erin Chong of BalletNext and Tracy Jones of Colorado Ballet love them, and Nude Barre is an official sponsor of The Black Iris Project), Broadway performers, dancers for Beyoncé and the Knicks City Dancers. The company has also expanded to offer fishnets, sports bras, bralettes and underwear, as well as plus sizes and children's sizes.
For Carpenter, Nude Barre is all about empowering women and young girls to love the color of their skin. "When nude is viewed as one color, and you're not that color, you wonder if your skin tone isn't attractive," she says. "We want women and girls to know they're beautiful, and that their skin color is important and represented on the market."
A version of this story appeared in the July/August 2017 issue of Dance Spirit with the title "Perfect Match."
Get in, losers. We're going to Broadway.
OK, not losers, actually—more like the bajillion die-hard fans of Tina Fey's 2004 cult hit Mean Girls, who've been wearing pink every Wednesday since a musical adaptation of the film was first teased back in 2013.
Now their world is like a cake filled with rainbows and smiles, because Mean Girls the musical, which had a trial run in Washington, DC, last fall, is set to open at Broadway's August Wilson Theatre April 8. And in a very grool twist, it turns out the show—with direction and choreography by Casey Nicholaw and a book by Fey herself—is delightfully dancey.
Today in Ballet Dancers Are Actual Superheroes news:
You've no doubt heard that the fabulous Alicia Vikander is playing Lara Croft in the newest iteration of Tomb Raider, which hits movie theaters this Friday. But while her training for the high-octane action role was crazy tough, she says, studying at the Royal Swedish Ballet School was far tougher.
What do you get when a hoard of dancers collaborate to the catchy tune of "Love Somebody," by the band Frenship? The most epic dance party ever, of course! Said dance party was produced by the talented Michael Riccio, who's performed in feature films, including "Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen" and "Shrek Forever After."
They say there's no "I" in "team"—and nowhere is that truer than the world of college dance teams, where precision reigns, uniformity is key, and a single misstep from any given "I" can cost a group a championship trophy. So it's unsurprising that securing a spot on one of the best dance teams in the country is no easy feat.
Members of these highly athletic teams rehearse for hours every week—on top of academic classes and commitments—and perform at football and basketball games, annual concerts, and nationally televised competitions (hi, ESPN). And "no I" rule notwithstanding, each of these top teams is made up of highly trained, highly technical, highly hard-core individuals, who come together to create a ready-for-victory pack.
These six teams aren't one-off success stories—they're consistently strong, and earn the top spots at major competitions like UDA and NDA nearly every year. Up for the challenge? Here's what to know before you go to auditions.
Are you a high school senior who's been accepted to a four-year accredited college or university program? Congrats! Within the 2017-2018 season, have you competed in events run by at least two of the organizations in the above graphic? Double congrats, because the Association of Dance Conventions and Competitions, or ADCC for short, wants to give you $1,000 (!!) towards college tuition.
From dancing in music videos (including Katy Perry's "Swish Swish") to performing on reality TV shows (including "Dancing with the Stars" and "The Voice"), 17-year-old Amanda LaCount is already conquering the commercial scene. If you've ever seen her dance, you understand why: She's a hard-hitting phenom with major stage presence. But in an industry where not having the "right" look can jeopardize your career, Amanda's also blazed her own path by accepting her beautiful curvy body the way it is.
Amanda's never let body-shamers discourage her from going after her dreams. She hopes that by breaking the "dancers are skinny" stereotype, she'll give others the courage to highlight their own unique features rather than hiding them or changing them to fit repressive industry standards. She's even started a campaign, #breakingthestereotype, to inspire artists of all shapes, colors, and sizes to dance for themselves.
We caught up with this dancing maverick to get her advice on cultivating body confidence in a world that's obsessed with the "perfect" body.
In our "Dear Katie" series, former NYCB soloist Kathryn Morgan answers your pressing dance questions. Have something you want to ask Katie? Email firstname.lastname@example.org for a chance to be featured!
All the dancers in my level auditioned for a prestigious summer intensive—but I'm the only one who got in. Now everything is incredibly awkward at the studio. I'm really excited about the program, but I don't want to make my friends feel bad. What can I do?
Can't get enough of the dance party T. Swift throws herself in her "Delicate" music video? Take a look at the two making-of clips Taylor just shared on her Instagram, showing her practicing the vid's charmingly awkward choreography.