From left: Tina Pereira, Stark Photo Productions, Courtesy Harlequin Floors; Courtesy Harlequin Floors

All the Gift-Worthy Training Accessories You Need This Winter

For today's versatile dancer, it's not enough to just show up to daily class. Top-notch training includes conditioning, self-care and a home practice with the right training tools. Amp up your home studio (and your dancing) with these three accessories from Harlequin Floors—just in time for holiday gift-giving. (Bonus: They all ship free!)


Harlequin Turning Board

Harlequin Turning Board

Courtesy Harlequin Floors

Whether you're a natural turner or still trying to perfect that triple, spending extra time on your turns at home can only make them cleaner, faster and easier. Harlequin's Turning Board works for ballet, jazz, modern and even tap: With Harlequin's reversible marley on one side and a wood surface on the other, no type of dance shoe is off-limits. Measuring at 36″H x 31 3/8″W x 3/4″D with a small cutout for easy carrying, the plywood panel is light and portable so that you can take it with you to competitions or conventions.

Harlequin Practice Mat

Harlequin Practice Mat & Bag

Courtesy Harlequin Floors

With precision footwork—especially in pointe shoes—having proper flooring is crucial. One small slip on your slick dining room floor could spell disaster. With a Harlequin Practice Mat, you can work on your pique turns, échappés and entrechat quatres with peace of mind. Made with Harlequin Cascade—the floor of choice for American Ballet Theatre, Houston Ballet and New York City Ballet—the 40"x 40" practice mat can be put down on any hard surface for optimal training. Choose from black or gray and enjoy a stylish carry bag for maximum portability.

Harlequin Freestanding Ballet Barres

Harlequin Freestanding Ballet Barre

Tina Pereira

Stark Photo Productions; Courtesy Harlequin Floors

Ballet training begins at the barre. And what better place to start than in your own home? Harlequin's Freestanding Ballet Barre is light and portable with adjustable feet for easy raising and lowering. With two choices of material (aluminum or maple) and two lengths (52" or 72"), you can easily find a barre that matches the size and look of your home dance space. Each freestanding barre contains two horizontal barres of different heights to make stretching out at the end of a long dance day a breeze.

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Ashton Edwards Is Breaking Down Gender Barriers in Ballet

When Ashton Edwards was 3 years old, the Edwards family went to see a holiday production of The Nutcracker in their hometown, Flint, MI.

For the young child, it was love at first sight.

"I saw a beautiful, black Clara," Ashton says, "and I wanted to be just like her."

Ashton has dedicated 14 years of ballet training in pursuit of that childhood dream. But all the technical prowess in the world can't help Ashton surmount the biggest hurdle—this aspiring dancer was assigned male at birth, and for the vast majority of boys and men, performing in pointe shoes hasn't been a career option. But Ashton Edwards, who uses the pronouns "he" and "they," says it's high time to break down ballet's gender barrier, and their teachers and mentors believe this passionate dancer is just the person to lead the charge.

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In the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, a group of about two dozen dancers got the rare opportunity to work on an upcoming Apple TV+ series—one devoted entirely to celebrating, and spoofing, classic 1940s and '50s musicals from the Great White Way and Hollywood. "Schmigadoon!", which premiered on AppleTV+ July 16, stars Cecily Strong and Keegan-Michael Key, who get stuck inside a musical and must find true love in order to leave. The show features a star-studded Broadway cast, including Aaron Tveit, Ariana DeBose, Kristin Chenoweth, Alan Cumming, Jane Krakowski and Dove Cameron, and is chock-full of dancing courtesy of series choreographer, Christopher Gattelli.

"The adrenaline was pretty exciting, being able to create during the pandemic," says Gattelli. "I felt like we were representing all performers at that point. There were so many who wanted to be working during the pandemic, so I really tried to embrace this opportunity for all of them."

Gattelli says it was a dream come true to pay tribute to the dance geniuses that preceded him, like Michael Kidd, Agnes de Mille, Onna White and Jerome Robbins, in his choreography. Each number shows off a "little dusting" of their work.

Dance Spirit spoke with Gattelli about all the triumphs and tribulations of choreographing in a pandemic, and got an inside look at specific homages to look out for.

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Shouldering the Load: What kind of dance bag should dancers use?

Walk into any dance convention, audition or class, and you'll see a vast variety of dance bags lining the walls. But can the style of bag you use (and how you wear it) have an impact on your dancing?

Don't worry—you won't have to shoulder the load alone. Dance Spirit spoke with two physical therapists who specialize in working with dancers to find out what dance bag is best.

What should dancers look for in a dance bag?

Dr. Meghan Gearhart, physical therapist and owner of Head2Toe Physical Therapy in Charlotte, NC, recommends dancers opt for a backpack-style dance bag rather than a duffel or cross-body bag.

"A bag that pulls the weight all to one side creates a side bend and rotation in the trunk," Gearhart says. "That is going to lead to muscle imbalances that will affect dancers while they're dancing, as well as just in regular everyday life." Muscle imbalances can mean limited mobility on one side of your body, as the muscles on one side are overly contracted and the other side is overly extended to compensate.

Gearhart suggests dancers pick a backpack made from a lightweight yet durable and breathable material, such as cotton, linen, nylon or polyester. Straps should be wide enough to not dig into your shoulder muscles, so avoid drawstring styles with rope straps. Adjustable and padded straps are best, so you can wear the straps at a length where the bag rests at the middle of your back.

Dr. Bridget Kelly Sinha, physical therapist and founder of Balanced Physical Therapy and Dance Wellness in Matthews, NC, emphasizes the importance of finding an even weight distribution when choosing a dance bag.

"If a dancer has a lot to bring, like when heading to the theater for a full day of rehearsals and performances, then I recommend a rolling suitcase to offset the load," Sinha says.

How should dancers wear their bags?

Even if you've selected the perfect dance bag, it's important to be mindful of how you wear it.

Gearhart advocates wearing both straps when carrying your backpack. She also suggests placing heavier items towards the back of the bag, where they will sit closer to your body. A bag with straps that are too loose (or a bag that is too heavy) can create an increased arch in the lower back or cause a dancer to compensate for the weight by leaning forward. Ideally, Gearhart recommends a dancer's dance bag weighing no more than 10 to 15 percent of their body weight.

"I usually tell dancers to use their common sense. If you don't have tap today, you don't need to bring the tap shoes," she says. "If your water bottle makes the bag too heavy, just carry it." If your studio offers lockers, take advantage of that storage space to lessen the number of clothes, shoes, and dance accessories that live in your dance bag.

And if you think your bad dance-bag habits have given you alignment issues, seek out a dance physical therapist to prevent further injuries.

"As a dancer, your body is working so hard all day," Sinha says. "It does not need excess strain from your bag."

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