#Trending: Dancewear Makers Are Changing the Game for Dancers of Color

So this is cool: The dance apparel company Mahogany Blues has joined the ranks of other dancewear manufacturers in creating a range of skin-colored leotards for dancers of color.

The leotards come in three styles—halter, camisole and short sleeve—and four shades of nude. In a particularly awesome touch, three of the leotard shades are named for Disney princesses: Mulan, Jasmine and Tiana. The fourth shade, Amina, is named for a fierce African warrior queen. (Is this a ripple of The Misty Effect? We hope so!)

Mahogany Blues creator Whitney Bracey with dancers from Dallas Black Dance Theater and Booker T. Washington High School in Dallas. Photo courtesy of Mahogany Blues.

Other dancewear companies offer leotards (Body Wrappers, Capezio) and tights (So Dança, Bloch, Eurotard, Danskin) in a range of skin tones. And after Royal Ballet soloist Eric Underwood posted an Instagram video last summer of the tedious process of temporarily dyeing his ballet shoes before a performance, Bloch came out with canvas shoes in the color "Eric Tan!"

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Music
Mary Malleney, courtesy Osato

In most classes, dancers are encouraged to count the music, and dance with it—emphasizing accents and letting the rhythm of a song guide them.

But Marissa Osato likes to give her students an unexpected challenge: to resist hitting the beats.

In her contemporary class at EDGE Performing Arts Center in Los Angeles (which is now closed, until they find a new space), she would often play heavy trap music. She'd encourage her students to find the contrast by moving in slow, fluid, circular patterns, daring them to explore the unobvious interpretation of the steady rhythms.

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For Parents

Darrell Grand Moultrie teaches at a past Jacob's Pillow summer intensive. Photo Christopher Duggan, courtesy Jacob's Pillow

In the past 10 months, we've grown accustomed to helping our dancers navigate virtual school, classes and performances. And while brighter, more in-person days may be around the corner—or at least on the horizon—parents may be facing yet another hurdle to help our dancers through: virtual summer-intensive auditions.

In 2020, we learned that there are some unique advantages of virtual summer programs: the lack of travel (and therefore the reduced cost) and the increased access to classes led by top artists and teachers among them. And while summer 2021 may end up looking more familiar with in-person intensives, audition season will likely remain remote and over Zoom.

Of course, summer 2021 may not be back to in-person, and that uncertainty can be a hard pill to swallow. Here, Kate Linsley, a mom and academy principal of Nashville Ballet, as well as "J.R." Glover, The Dan & Carole Burack Director of The School at Jacob's Pillow, share their advice for this complicated process.

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Teachers Trending

From left: Anthony Crickmay, Courtesy Dance Theatre of Harlem Archives; Courtesy Ballethnic

It is the urgency of going in a week or two before opening night that Lydia Abarca Mitchell loves most about coaching. But in her role as Ballethnic Dance Company's rehearsal director, she's not just getting the troupe ready for the stage. Abarca Mitchell—no relation to Arthur Mitchell—was Mitchell's first prima ballerina when he founded Dance Theatre of Harlem with Karel Shook; through her coaching, Abarca Mitchell works to pass her mentor's legacy to the next generation.

"She has the same sensibility" as Arthur Mitchell, says Ballethnic co-artistic director Nena Gilreath. "She's very direct, all about the mission and the excellence, but very caring."

Ballethnic is based in East Point, a suburban city bordering Atlanta. In a metropolitan area with a history of racism and where funding is hard-won, it is crucial for the Black-led ballet company to present polished, professional productions. "Ms. Lydia" provides the "hard last eye" before the curtain opens in front of an audience.

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