Right now, "inclusive" seems to be the word on every dancewear manufacturer's lips. Aurora Tights, by contrast, has been talking about—and, more importantly, doing something about—inclusivity for several years now. Aurora was founded by two competitive figure skaters and a former competition kid (all women of color) when the trio were in a sorority together at the University of Maryland, College Park.
True Colors<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzkwMjY3MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0Njc5MTUyN30.BA6FxDg0i2TnliV68KKgp30Ezw8W-1XITsvJeGP_8RE/img.jpg?width=980" id="1bd13" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="0762ba0dbd9370db2bf755df356f9924" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
The Royalette Dance Team from Bishop O'Connell High School, Parker's alma mater, will be partnering with Aurora tights for their 2020-21 season (Courtesy Chrissy Salvador)<p>Just like any other dancer, young Sydney Parker spent a lot of time looking critically at herself in the mirror. Eventually, it wasn't just alignment issues that stuck out to her. "I started to notice how often the makeup and clothes—especially the tights—that were picked for competitions didn't suit my skin," she recalls. Told by coaches and teachers that uniformity was more important than anything else, she tried to shrug off her discomfort and self-consciousness.</p><p>That is, until she was a college student, sharing her experiences with eventual fellow co-founders Jasmine Snead and Imani Rickerby. Having all felt excluded in strikingly similar ways because of their deeper skin color, the three women decided then and there that, in Parker's words, "this has got to stop." They began by dyeing premanufactured tights themselves and gathering focus groups to find out how to best meet dancers' needs. In January 2018, <a href="https://www.auroratights.com/" target="_blank">Aurora Tights</a> was officially born, and their reach has only expanded ever since.</p>
Made in the Shade<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzk4ODg1NS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMjI4MDI5M30.wVthKdgmVMlJSorBdaCe0GdoyXjnXhZUWKs0PjkVEPw/img.jpg?width=980" id="38f01" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="e9e497846b63876df0179ff290989a1b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Aurora tights come in both child and adult sizes and 5 carefully crafted shades
(TAYO Jr., Courtesy Aurora Tights)<p>What makes Aurora's tights stand out (in a good way) is the sheer amount of work that went into perfecting <a href="https://www.auroratights.com/pages/our-shades" target="_blank">the five shades: Diamond, Candice, Amber, True, and Lily.</a> "While a lot of brands might offer variety, most have a greenish or gray undertone," says Parker. In order to create a truly flattering product for every dancer from children to adults, Parker and her co-founders tried out literally thousands of samples on their friends, family, and fellow artist-athletes. They eventually developed an innovative waistband that doesn't cut off a dancer's curves, and a shimmering finish that enhances the natural beauty of the dancer's complexion. </p><p><a href="https://www.auroratights.com/pages/our-shades" target="_blank">Each of the five shades</a> is named after a different woman who's inspired the founders over the years. Candess Correll, the namesake of the "Candice" shade, was the trio's classmate at U of M and is now a veteran member and captain of the Washington Football Team's cheer squad. It's safe to say that as much as Candess inspired <a href="https://www.auroratights.com/" target="_blank">Aurora Tights,</a> the tights now inspire her in return: "I love all their athleticwear too, but I'm especially passionate about the tights, because I felt a difference in my confidence when I started wearing them. When I put them on, I feel that I really do fit in this industry as a dancer."</p>
Tights Can Change the Game<iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/hXQlNNynRDY" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe><p>Increased confidence is just the beginning. <a href="https://www.auroratights.com/" target="_blank">Aurora Tights</a> is already making the dance world a better place, especially for dancers of color. "We're on a mission to increase access pipelines and raise retention rates for Black and Brown dancers," Parker says. With that in mind, the company sponsored and hosted the inaugural Perform in Color Showcase last month. The virtual event raised $13,000 in scholarships for artist-athletes of color, while also providing a high-profile performance opportunity for young dancers of color.</p><p>More than anything, Parker's hope is that feeling beautiful and strong will make it easier for dancers of color to stick with their passion, despite the systemic racism and implicit bias that force far too many young artists offstage. "I think sometimes in the competition world, we're more likely to think about everybody as the same, and to <em>want</em> everybody to be the same," Parker says. "I hope that <a href="https://www.auroratights.com/" target="_blank">Aurora Tights</a> is part of dance starting to embrace the diversity that ultimately makes for stronger teams."</p>
In our "Dear Katie" series, Miami City Ballet soloist Kathryn Morgan answers your pressing dance questions. Have something you want to ask Katie? Email email@example.com for a chance to be featured!
After so many months trying to train at home in quarantine, I'm sad and frustrated. I'm just not motivated to dance anymore. I've even been thinking about quitting. How can I push through this slump?
National Dance Showcase Judges Discuss Diversity in the Competition World—and How NDS is Pushing For a More Inclusive Future
As conversations about racial justice have continued across the country, members of the dance world have focused inwards and reflected on how we can all do better. The close-knit competition and convention community is no different. Dance Spirit had the chance to talk to five judges from National Dance Showcase, as well as one of its founders, Sonia Pennington, about issues they've seen in the comp world—and hear all about how NDS is leading the way to a more inclusive future.
Dance Spirit: What problems relating to issues of diversity and inclusion have you seen in the competition world?<iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/U2JRxV2lF8M" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe><p><strong>Elizabeth Troxler, NDS judge: </strong>There's this idea that dancers must be "technically perfect" to win awards. But when you watch people dancing professionally, you look at the dancer as a whole. We need to do that in the competition world too. We need to be able to say, "I can appreciate you, even if your foot doesn't stretch all the way, because you're bringing such a presence to the movement." The idea that being able to do a triple pirouette is the only thing that makes a good dancer is a lie. It's kind of important, but not really.</p><p><strong></strong><strong>Jay Staten, NDS judge: </strong>I think that the competition world is built in a way that doesn't necessarily reflect what the dance world really is. You thrive in the competition world by spending more money, so if you don't spend as much, you lose out. </p><p>Many competitions judge with similar point criteria, where technique has the heaviest weight in your score. But to have technique, you have to spend money. Musicality, on the other hand, can be natural to a dancer. But someone who doesn't have technique, even if they have musicality, won't win against a super technical performer. I think that's an issue.</p><p><strong>Vanessa Baker, NDS judge:</strong> It may sound superficial, but it's important to me—costuming. For the longest time, I had to spray-paint costumes, or have dancers dance bare-legged and barefoot. It can be very obvious when there are costumes that have illusions or cutouts and there's a "flesh color" fabric, but that "flesh color" isn't right for all dancers. It can make dancers feel very isolated. </p><p><strong>JS:</strong> In the same vein of costuming, I will often feel offended by how studios choose to depict dances from different genres. Like, it's a hip-hop dance, and suddenly all the white dancers are wearing cornrows. Or, it's ballet, and they're doing the Chinese dance from <em>The Nutcracker</em>, and suddenly all of the dancers have chopsticks in their hair. Sometimes I will have to say, "I can't judge this, because this is offensive."</p>
DS : How do you think National Dance Showcase has cultivated a more inclusive culture?<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDMwMzc5Ny9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2MTAwMzI1OX0.2Qh6Vueqq3o1nPs0VymBP7Ffo5_4z8iTSMRpRas9PRg/img.jpg?width=980" id="80762" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="72925bb977c74a223b73bf9efb93528b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
(Brian Bailey, Courtesy National Dance Showcase)<p><strong>Sonia Pennington, NDS co-founder: </strong>It's just who we are; how <a href="https://www.nationaldanceshowcase.com/" target="_blank">NDS</a> was formed. I think because of my Blackness, inclusivity became an inherent part of the organization. We are a tapestry of "difference," and incorporating a multitude of perspectives leads to inclusion. It also gives voice and sight to those that aren't always seen or heard.</p><p><strong>JS:</strong> <a href="https://www.nationaldanceshowcase.com/" target="_blank">NDS </a>makes their programs accessible. And if you want to include everyone, it needs to be accessible. If you're promoting the culture of dancers flying from state to state, from entry to entry, it clearly is not accessible. So, it depends on what you're here for. If you're here to make money, that's one thing. If you're here to create an inclusive community, that's another thing.</p><p><strong>Christopher Jackson, NDS judge:</strong> Accommodation is the other part of it. <a href="https://www.nationaldanceshowcase.com/" target="_blank">NDS </a>is accessible <em>and</em> accommodating. A lot of competitions are set in their ways—your piece is three minutes long, you stop at three minutes, and if you go over, you get deducted.<a href="https://www.nationaldanceshowcase.com/" target="_blank"> NDS</a> realizes that at the end of the day, we're not taking out livers and kidneys. It's a dance competition. We're trying to have a good time.</p><p><strong>Sue McCarrol, NDS judge:</strong> I think <a href="https://www.nationaldanceshowcase.com/" target="_blank">NDS</a> does a really good job of keeping perspective. By keeping that perspective, they put a lot of effort into making sure everyone feels recognized. Not in a way where it feels like, "Oh, we tossed this award out to you so everyone feels recognized." But in a real way, a carefully thought about way. </p><p><strong>CJ: </strong>One of the things I love most that <a href="https://www.nationaldanceshowcase.com/" target="_blank">NDS</a> does is the "Backstage Award," which celebrates those dancers who are respectful to other students in dressing rooms, who are respectful to the staff. To me, that award is a big deal, because it's important for students to know that it's not just about how you act onstage, but it's how you act backstage—that's what keeps the job, in the real world. </p><p><strong>SP: </strong>One of the biggest things we are interested in investing in is representation. Especially when you're trying to be inclusive and diverse, representation is key, so that as a dancer of color, you're going into a competition and seeing judges that look like you.</p>
DS : What do you think it means to dancers of color, to see themselves represented on a judging panel?<p><strong></strong><strong>JS:</strong> It changes their dancing from being something that they like to something that they can spend their life doing. It's completely life changing. I'm from Washington, DC, so all my teachers were Black. But if I hadn't had Black teachers, I probably wouldn't be on this Zoom call right now, because I wouldn't have seen myself in dance. It's the difference between thinking you can walk on water, and knowing you can walk on water, because you saw someone else do it.</p><p><strong>ET:</strong> On the panel, we honor each other. We learn from each other. I love that we have the opportunity to represent that to younger generations. Because if we, the judges, are having a great time together and honoring each other's work, they see that they can do that within their own communities. I'm honored to be a part of that. </p>
DS : What advice would you give dancers who don’t feel well represented or who feel isolated in the competition and convention world?<iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/SULu71Wf6hk" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe><p><strong></strong><strong>VB:</strong> Keep going. You have to keep going. You may be the only one, but you can be a trailblazer. And you won't be the only one for very long.</p><p><strong>JS: </strong>You have to do the research. Just like you're going to look for the company that makes gluten-free cookies, you have to look for the competition that has judges of color. Dance is cultural. And I know at <a href="https://www.nationaldanceshowcase.com/" target="_blank">NDS,</a> there will be at least one person who understands what I'm trying to do. I don't think judges are really thinking "You're Black; no points for you." I just think that some things don't translate well if you're from different cultural backgrounds. </p><p>Be selective. Dance so strongly affects your psyche, because you have people commenting on what you look like. And you don't want to give everybody that power.</p><p><strong>CJ</strong>: You have to use the space for what it is. Competitions are performance spaces, really. In your studio, you probably get to perform twice a year—once at the Christmas show and once at the recital in June. But competitions are performance opportunities. If you look at it like that and not just as a trophy, you're getting the best out of it. </p><strong>SM</strong>: Remember that it's just one person's opinion in one moment in time in one place in the world. Look inside yourself and see how you feel about what you put onstage.
DS: Do you have any advice for other competitions working to become more inclusive?<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDMwNDA1MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MDUxMjE4Nn0.l_15nwgyypj64wtI8pRNKXc-Otg1xRqJ_ZSKVk4rNJM/img.jpg?width=980" id="131b3" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="f6295578d82f2042483685ff76719943" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" /><p><strong></strong><strong>SP:</strong> You said it—make changes. In this day and age, to have a staff that looks exactly the same is unacceptable. You cannot say that you are open to inclusion and diversity if you have no representation. And I don't mean you get the token hip-hop judge, or the token tap judge. You find professional ballerinas of color. You find professional modern dancers of color. You show the gamut of what is out there.</p><p>Underrepresentation is a problem because you're not giving young dancers the ability to look out and see themselves in 10 years, or 15 years, or 20 years. As a leader of a competition, I think it's so important for the dancers to know that the world is so much bigger than what they look like. You are able to conquer any dream, aspiration, or goal no matter what, especially if you know that you are embraced, supported, accepted and "seen"! As a community of professional artists investing in the next generation that is so beautifully diverse, we must be committed to setting the example for the world to follow.</p>
Well, we've officially made it to week two of "Dancing with the Stars," pandemic edition! And with no bedazzled face masks in sight, we can only assume that the "DWTS" team's #SocialDisDancing protocol is holding up. Pause for (pre-recorded, because there isn't a live audience) applause.
But even a pandemic isn't going to stop the "DWTS" judges from sending someone home, because well, this is a competition, after all, and Carrie Ann Inaba doesn't have time for tears. In case you missed last night's episode (or in case you were too busy trying to figure out exactly who Dixie D'Amelio is dating now), we rounded up some of the highlights—and who was this season's first cut.
Nev Schulman and Jenna Johnson: Cha Cha<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="92012e8e2874be5fc4ca5998a2c76b47"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/vTZdE98-rrI?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>We have to be honest—our hopes weren't too high for "Catfish" king Nev Schulman when we heard he'd be joining this season of "DWTS." But whew, were we wrong. Schulman's cha cha with partner Jenna Johnson was absolutely "Dynamite" (hello, BTS Army!), with all the hip action we ever could have dreamed of. The judges gave Schulman and Johnson three 7s, for a total 21.</p>
Jeannie Mai and Brandon Armstrong: Cha Cha<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9245f2bf78901d2d6b8f929526dcd1a1"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/8dpHS5xSQmc?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Hello, Jeannie Mai, bringing us <em>all </em>of the energy we need in 2020. TBH, watching this performance is better than drinking a triple shot of espresso. Miss Mai was out there mugging with the best of them, and we couldn't get enough. The judges gave Jeannie and her partner, Brandon Armstrong, three 6s for a total score of 18, advising Jeannie to reign her dancing in a bit—but honestly, we only want *more* from this couple. </p>
Kaitlyn Bristowe and Artem Chigvintsev: Foxtrot<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="92edd93ce16efe9a6676a12437fde2a9"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/ojHFqAMLGgw?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>We're just gonna say it: <a href="https://www.dancespirit.com/dwts-finale-recap-2641457190.html" target="_blank">Former Bachelorettes</a> make the best "DWTS" contestants, send tweet. Following in former champ Hannah Brown's footsteps, Kaitlyn Bristowe absolutely dazzled last night with the dreamiest of foxtrots. Bristowe managed to overcome an ankle injury (and uncertainty as to whether or not she'd even be able to perform) and received the highest score of the night: two 7s and an 8, for a total 22. </p>
We all know the feeling: You wake up the day after class or rehearsal just to find that you literally. cannot. move. To answer all your burning (pun intended!) questions about the way-too-relatable topic of soreness, Dance Spirit enlisted the experts: board-certified sports medicine specialist Dr. Selina Shah, and Michelle Rodriguez, MPT and physical therapist to Broadway shows like Carousel and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
What even is soreness?<p>If you're working extra hard—taking more classes than usual, or dancing a super-"puffy" piece—your body's normal aerobic metabolism (how it uses oxygen to produce energy) can get overwhelmed. That's when anaerobic metabolism kicks in—producing lactic acid and metabolic toxins. "This buildup of lactic acid and other toxins isn't harmful or abnormal," says Rodriguez. "But once it reaches a certain level, you'll experience soreness."</p>
How can you prevent it?<p><span style="background-color: initial;">Because it's chemical buildup in your muscles that makes you feel sore, the key to minimizing the ouch is to flush these chemicals out sooner rather than later. "For some dancers, getting on a stationary bike for five minutes with no resistance can make a difference," says Rodriguez. You might also try self-massage, icing, or </span><span style="background-color: initial;">baths (see sidebar). Otherwise, Shah says to make sure you're taking time to warm up properly: "Doing a little bit of light cardio</span> <span style="background-color: initial;">and literally warming up the muscle should </span><span style="background-color: initial;">ease your discomfort."</span></p><p>If you've ever been so sore that you couldn't walk on the second or third day of a summer intensive, you've experienced firsthand the importance of what dance-medicine professionals call "ramping up." While taking breaks should be part of any year-round training regimen, you don't want to go straight from not dancing at all to dancing eight hours a day. "Soreness occurs when muscles have gotten weaker and aren't used to working that hard that fast," says Shah. A week or two before your intensive, start to gradually increase the amount of physical activity you're getting each day.</p>
What if it's not just soreness?<p>Don't freak out, but it's important to keep in mind that some overuse injuries can feel like soreness that just doesn't. go. away. Pay attention to how long you've been feeling sore, says Rodriguez: "Delayed-onset muscle soreness, or DOMS, can happen within six to eight hours, and last for 48 to 72 hours. After that, if you're still pretty sore, you should get seen by a medical professional."</p><p>Also pay attention to where you're feeling sore. "Usually it's muscles that make you feel sore, but tendons also can," says Shah. Ligaments and bones can't get sore—so if you feel like that's where the pain is coming from, get it checked out.</p>
Is soreness inevitable?<p>In short, yes. "Soreness isn't necessarily a sign that something's wrong," says Rodriguez. Nor is it a badge of honor: "Soreness is just a marker of how strong or fit that particular muscle is in that particular dancer at that particular moment in time," says Shah. "You may get sore in some areas where your friends don't, and vice versa." If you take good care of your body, though, you'll be able to minimize the pain enough to dance full-out—even on the sore days.</p>
The Dancer's Soreness Toolkit<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQzMDUxNS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1Njg2MDUxNn0.rChDAejOPUap8xuS1xcVcCG8IONj4YPbcxzLJAEoxTQ/img.jpg?width=980" id="9b0d2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="3dd563f5e167df9f9ede1d2d4ec7b0f9" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Getty Images<p><strong></strong><strong>Massage!</strong> Foam rolling can feel a <span style="background-color: initial;">little too intense to muscles that are already sore, says Dr. Selina Shah, so don't roll out until a day or two after you first feel sore. Michelle Rodriguez, MPT, recommends gently kneading your own muscle tissue after a soreness-inducing day.</span></p><p><strong>Stretching!</strong> Stretching is most beneficial at the end of class or rehearsal, when muscles are warm, says Shah.</p><p><strong>Strategic breaktime!</strong> "If you don't need to run to the bathroom during your five-minute break, lie on the floor with your butt up against the wall, and put your legs straight up on the wall," suggests Rodriguez. "You can then do little ankle pumps to flush out your legs."</p><p><strong>#Bathleisure!</strong> "Try alternating between hot baths and ice baths," suggests Shah. The circulation boost caused by the change in temperature will help ease soreness.</p><p><strong>Hydration! Sleep! Electrolytes!</strong> Enough said.</p>