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.
Dancers are pretty awesome—especially when they go above and beyond to make this world a better place. Remember Katarina, from Texas, who started a pointe shoe recycling program to keep old shoes out of landfills? How about Georgia, who helped establish a series of dance classes for kids in Florida? Now, there's a new name to add to our Young Dancers Who Rock list: Sidney Fitzgerald.
Sidney, who's 13 and trains at the Los Angeles Ballet School, started Dancewear Drive, a program that takes gently worn (or new!) dancewear and donates it to students in need. I caught up with Sidney to find out more.
Dance Spirit: What inspired you to start your project?
Sidney Fitzgerald: Last fall, my mom and I were joking about how quickly I was growing out of my dancewear—and how often we needed to shop. Most of my too-small leotards are still in great shape. I felt bad throwing them away—and I knew that my friends all had the same problem.
Around the same time, I started volunteering at the Hope Street Family Center in downtown L.A., assisting my teacher and former L.A. Ballet principal Allynne Noelle, who was teaching class there. I realized that the kids at Hope Street could really use the gently-worn dancewear. Allynne and I talked to the manager of Hope Street and arranged for the center to be the first beneficiary of Dancewear Drive.
Sidney donating a new outfit to a baby ballerina at Hope Street Family Center (via danceweardrive.org)
DS: What happened next?
SF: I put out bins at three collection sites: my ballet studio, my school and a dance store in L.A. Then we got really lucky: Discount Dance heard about my project and sent a bunch of boxes of dancewear they couldn't sell. That's when I had the idea to launch a delegate program, allowing dancers from all over the country to start collecting for beneficiaries in their neighborhoods.
Sidney hard at work (via danceweardrive.org)
DS: How can others get involved?
SF: If you're 13 or older, you can be a delegate. Go to Dancewear Drive's website, click the "Programs" tab and apply to be a delegate. Then, Dancewear Drive will help you find a beneficiary for the collected dancewear—or you can suggest your own. If you can't get a collection bin yourself, I can ship them to you—along with the logo for the bins. Of course, getting all the materials (and shipping them!) does cost money, so Dancewear Drive also accepts donations.