Dancer to Dancer

How This Dancer Turned Her Problem Into a Business

Erin Carpenter as a Knicks City Dancer (David Saffran, courtesy Erin Carpenter)

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)

Budding Ballerina

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."

Angela Sterling, courtesy PNB

Mark your calendars, bunheads! On Monday, January 29th, at 2:45 PM (EST)/11:45 AM (PST), Pacific Northwest Ballet will be streaming a live rehearsal of Act II of Kent Stowell's Swan Lake.

Keep reading... Show less

Leap! National Dance Competition offers dancers of all skill levels an opportunity to showcase their talents in an event where the focus is on fun and competing is just a bonus!

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer to Dancer

Getting corrections from our dance instructors is how we grow, and as students, it's important that we do our best to apply every correction right away. But sometimes—whether it's because we're in physical pain, or have a lot on our minds, or are just not paying attention—those corrections don't sink in. And from a teacher's standpoint, giving the same corrections time and time again gets old very fast. Here are 10 important corrections dance teachers are tired of giving. Take them to heart!

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer to Dancer
The School at Jacob's Pillow's contemporary program auditions (photo by Karli Cadel, courtesy Jacob's Pillow)

Summer intensive auditions can be nerve-racking. A panel of directors is watching your every move, and you're not even sure if you can be seen among the hundreds of other dancers in the room. We asked five summer intensive directors for their input on how dancers can make a positive impression—and even be remembered next year.

Keep reading... Show less
Tavaris Jones dancing with the Cleveland Cavaliers' Scream Team hip-hop crew

We always love a good halftime performance. And we LIVE for halftime performances involving talented kids. (Fingers and toes crossed that Justin Timberlake follows Missy Elliott's lead and invites some fabulous littles to share his Super Bowl stage.)

So obviously, our hearts completely melted for 5-year-old Tavaris Jones. Tavaris may have just started kindergarten, but during Monday night's game between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors, the Detroit native danced with the panache of a veteran pro at halftime.

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer to Dancer
Photo by Joe Toreno

The coolest place she's ever performed:

I'd have to say the Super Bowl. The field was so cool, and Katy Perry was right there. And there were so many eyes—definitely the most eyes I've ever performed for!


Something she's constantly working on:

My feet. I'm flat-footed, so I'm always hearing, 'Point your toes!' And I'm like, 'I am!'


Signature look:

My hair! That, and a pair of leggings with a T-shirt or tank top.


Keep reading... Show less
Dancer to Dancer
Photo by Travis Kelley, courtesy Kathryn Morgan

In our "Dear Katie" series, former NYCB soloist Kathryn Morgan answers your pressing dance questions. Have something you want to ask Katie? Email dearkatie@dancespirit.com for a chance to be featured!

Dear Katie,

For a long time, I was the strongest dancer at my studio. But this year there's a new girl in my class who's very talented, and my teacher's attention has definitely shifted to her. I'm trying not to feel jealous or discouraged, but it seems like my whole dance world has changed. Help!

Serafina

Keep reading... Show less
Trending-posts
Screenshot via YouTube

*suddenly feels the overpowering urge to purchase a million bottles of Pocari Sweat*

Keep reading... Show less
Dance News
Mandy Moore (photo by Lee Cherry, courtesy Bloc Agency)

In the dance world, Mandy Moore has long been a go-to name, but in 2017, the success of her choreography for La La Land made the rest of the world stop and take notice. After whirlwind seasons as choreographer and producer on both "Dancing with the Stars" and "So You Think You Can Dance," she capped off the year with two Emmy Award nominations—and her first win. Dance Magazine caught up with her to find out how she's balancing all of her dance projects.

Read more at dancemagzine.com!

Dancer to Dancer
Martha Graham Dance Company member, Marzia Memoli (photo by Sean Martin, courtesy Martin)

Marzia Memoli may be the Martha Graham Dance Company's newest dancer, but her classical lines and easy grace are already turning heads. Originally from Palermo, Italy, Memoli started studying at age 16 at the Academy of Teatro Carcano in Milan. Later, she attended the Rudra Béjart School in Lausanne, Switzerland, before heading to NYC in 2016 to join MGDC. This month, she'll perform The Rite of Spring in the Martha Graham Studio Series in NYC, and tour with the company in Florida. Read on for the dirt.

Keep reading... Show less

Sponsored

Want to Be on Our Cover?

covermodelsearch-image

Video

Sponsored

mailbox

Get Dance Spirit in your inbox

Sponsored