T-shirt from the show that you're seeing = fool-proof choice? Not so much.
This is a question I'm not used to asking myself—at least, not when it comes to a live dance or theater performance. Years of constant drilling from my mother had trained me to reject denim, shorts and anything resembling athletic wear, which were completely inappropriate attire for the ballet or theater. I have distinct memories from several years back of scoffing at fellow standing room-ers in jeans and sneakers. OK, so maybe they’d arrived at The Phantom of the Opera straight from a long day spent walking all over NYC, and just didn’t have time in their packed vacation schedule to change clothes. But this is Art with a capital A, people! Show a little respect!
You guys, I have a confession to make. Yesterday, for the very first time, I became one of those people. I went to buy my ticket in the morning wearing a Mom-approved blouse, skirt and ballet flats, but blisters that were loudly announcing their presence by lunchtime forced a change of plans. Yes, it’s true: I actually wore sneakers to a Broadway show. But luckily for my ego, it seems that I’m not the only one who’s been breaking with the traditional dress code recently. So what are the new rules of dressing for a live performance? I hit the Internet for some answers (thank you, Theatre Development Fund and Pacific Northwest Ballet!). Read on for the basic principles of choosing “show clothes” in the twenty-first century:
Dress for the weather and the theater’s temperature. This can make all the difference in terms of whether you’ll be enjoying the performance or distracted by how hot or cold you feel. Think layers—a light sweater is basically essential if there will be air conditioning involved—that you can (quietly!) add or remove at will.
Dress so you’re as comfortable as possible. I’m talking about undergarments that don’t pinch or dig, skirts long enough to protect your legs from scratchy seat upholstery and flats if you’ve got walking to do. You want to focus on the show, not on problematic clothing items.
Dress up or down according to the venue, company and time of day. Matinees are more casual than evening performances. Weekend shows are fancier than those on weeknights. Nationally-acclaimed or NYC companies call for dressier clothes than do your local studio’s performing ensemble. And you’ll be safer in casual duds at an outdoor performance than at a concert hall. Your common sense will serve you well here—use it!
Dress as yourself! In every situation, fashion is a chance to express yourself, and this is no different in the mezzanine or orchestra section. If the girly cocktail dress your best friend is wearing to the show feels way too stuffy for you, follow your gut and rock those sequined shorts! If your clothes (and you!) are clean and neat, you really can’t go too far wrong nowadays—as long as you applaud at the right times, keep your chatter to an absolute minimum and, for heaven’s sake, turn off your phone when they tell you to!
Do you think that dressing up for a performance is an outdated rule, an absolute must or something that’s fun if you feel like it? Let me know in the comments section!
(From left) Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland (all photos by Erin Baiano)
Dance Spirit's 2019 Cover Model Search finalists: Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland! One of them will win a spot on Dance Spirit's Fall 2019 cover. Learn more about the dancers on their profile pages, and then vote for your favorite below. You can vote once a day now through July 15.
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Imagine attending American Ballet Theatre's prestigious NYC summer intensive, training among classical ballet legends. Imagine taking the stage at New York City Dance Alliance Nationals, competing against some of the country's best contemporary dancers. Now, imagine doing both—at the same time.
Welcome to Madison Brown's world. This summer, she's in her third year as a National Training Scholar with ABT, while also competing for NYCDA's Teen Outstanding Dancer title. (She's already won Outstanding Dancer in the Mini and Junior categories.) The logistics are complicated—ABT's five-week intensive overlaps with the weeklong NYCDA Nationals, which translates to a lot of cabs back and forth across Manhattan—but Maddie is committed to making the most of each opportunity. "I love contemporary and ballet equally," she says. "While I'm able to do both, I want to do as much as I can."
Maddie has an expressive face, endless extensions, and a quiet command of the stage. She dances with remarkable maturity—a trait noted by none other than Jennifer Lopez, one of the judges on NBC's "World of Dance," on which Maddie competed in Season 2. Although Maddie didn't take home the show's top prize, she was proud to be the youngest remaining soloist when she was eliminated, and saw the whole experience as an opportunity to grow. After all, she's just getting started. Oh, that's right—did we mention Maddie's only 14?
There's a story Kate Walker, director of dance at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Dallas, TX, loves to tell about Emma Sutherland, who just graduated from the program. "We were watching the students run a really long, challenging piece," Walker recalls. "Several kids couldn't quite make it through. But Emma did make it all the way to the end, which is when she walked up to us faculty and very politely asked, 'May I please go throw up?' "