Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Costume Craftiness in the Sewing Room!

Nutcracker fittings are zipping along, and mostly the costumes fit this years cast without alterations....

"Mostly."  lol

The soldiers received a beautiful new set of hats, thanks to a very generous donation from one of our dance families.  So now our little "soldier dolls" hats have been updated to match.

Lots of thanks to our parent volunteers who helped this project happen.  So cute! (There was a lot of giggling over those itty little feather plums!)  I'll try and get a "before" picture up tonight so you can see where those hats started in life.  It's a very big change!

In the meantime, Teri has been working on a beautiful new snow crown (along with about 10 other projects that you don't get to see yet...)

This is just the first layer and already SO pretty!  I can't wait to see it finished!


Monday, October 28, 2013

What have we been up to?

It's GATSBY TIME!  Two very different dresses all finished off.  I'll be finding sequin bits all over the sewing room for weeks!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The newest sewing machine in the Accoutré Workroom!

Today we added a great chain-stitch machine to our arsenal!

I have to be honest though....I'm not sure how much use we'll get out of it.

Owing to the fact that it's only about this big.

Look at her go!  Not bad for a toy sewing machine, huh? 

How To: Sew Elastics Onto Your Shoes

Everyone's foot is a little different.   Most ballet shoes come with loose elastics, or with the elastic only sewn in the back of the shoe.  Sewing them on correctly is important because it can enhance the look of your foot or it can totally work against you, depending on where it's placed.

I REALLY encourage any dancer over the age of about 10 to sew their own elastics.  It's an important skill to have!

My young friend, Alyssa, let me take some photos of her first sewing lesson to share with you.  :)

Step 1:
Decide where to place the back elastic (if it didn't come pre-sewn. )

   Chances are, you won't need this.  Most shoes come with this step already complete.  To place the back elastics, fold the back/heel of the shoe down toward the insole so that the seam is directly down the center of the shoe.  This will make a folded corner on each side of the heel, where your elastics should be attached.   Pin them in place and skip to Step 3 for sewing instructions.

Step 2:
Determine the length and placement of the front elastics.

Put the shoe on, and with your ankle flexed, gentle stretch the elastic across the top of your instep to the highest part of your arch.  For most dancers this will land right at the seam on the side of the shoe. 
Make a small pencil mark on the inside of the elastic where it lines up with the edge of the shoe.

Step 3: 
Sewing!  :)

Start by threading your needle with a double length of strong pink or ivory thread, and tie a good knot at the end.  I use Coats and Clark Hand Quilting thread.

Line your elastic up with the side seam of the shoe. Be sure that the pencil mark is even with the top edge of your slipper, and hold it firmly in place. 

Using small, snug stitches, sew around the elastic tail.  It takes three for four stitches on each side.  Be careful not to stitch through the drawstring at the upper edge!  The goal here is to stitch through the lining, but not all the way through the outside of the shoe.  It takes some practice, so don't worry if you go through a few times.  That's why we're using pink thread!
In the end, it should look something like this.  These shoes don't have an elastic drawstring to worry about, so they are sewn all the way to the top.  If you have a drawstring, just sew up to the seam of the drawstring casing.

Last Step:
The Drawstring

Gently pull the drawstring until the shoe is sitting snug against the foot all the way around, with no gaps.  Don't pull too tight!  Tie a knot in the elastic cord, pull it down towards your toes, and snip it off at the end of the your foot.  When you put your shoe on, push the cord ends into the shoe first.  They'll stay tucked down along the top of the foot, out of the way, for the entire class or performance. 

 That's it!  Your shoes are ready for class!  

Saturday, October 5, 2013

What's in the bag?

A dancer's bag is like a lady's purse.  Stuffed to the gills and oh-so-mysterious.  What's in there, anyway?  We've found some brave souls willing to share it all with us and we're bringing it here the first Saturday of every month.

Whose bag are we snooping in?

Photo credit: A Little RoJo © 2012 - Rowan & Jocelyn Gillson
This months dancer is Lorianne Barclay.   Lorianne is originally from Portland, Oregon and is very excited and honored to be joining Ballet 5:8 this season. You can learn more about Lorianne here in her company bio. 

 What's in the bag?

 Items: Nylon shorts, technique shoes socks, bandaids, gel toe strips, Icy Hot, Oragel, Neosporin, Voss bottle, iPod, dental floss and needle, toe tape, KT tape, box cutter, scissors, tea tree oil hand lotion, arnica pills, clear nail polish, spork, tincture of arnica, baby powder, soft ball, wrap skirts, leg warmer, masking tape, tennis ball, sock toe pads, mints, thera-bands, tiger balm, burt's bee lip balm, deodorant, tin of bobby pins, metal hair piece, dance bag, pointe shoes.

Lorianne says, " I like to be prepared when disaster strikes, at the same time, I don't want the "lead dance bag" tragedy. I carry a lot of first aid and foot remedies in various zipper bags and only a few clothing articles, such as a single leg warmer. I like to make my own skirts to wear, I usually carry more than one option to choose from, or one for a friend. The item I absolutely couldn't live without is my bottle of tincture of arnica for my chronically bruised toenails. Bruised toenails can be extremely painful on pointe, but tincture of arnica is one of the few remedies."


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Workroom Sneak Peek

What's new in the sewing room?

Dance season is picking up and  the workroom is a busy place!  Here's a peek at what we've started this week.

We've had adventures in fabric dye...

This is a trial run to test the cut and dye colors for a set of flower skirts.

We're giving some soldiers a step up...

These sleeveless jackets were new last year and were worn over long sleeve red leos. This year they get new sleeves and some sharp white cuffs.

And a spirit soldier is being fitted for his uniform...

This contemporary jazz costume is in the early stages.   I can't wait to see it all come together. 

Stay posted to see more from the Accoutre workroom!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Dancers are great Jugglers

Time Jugglers, that is.
Your dance world was so easy in the beginning.  45 minutes on a Saturday morning and then run off home to play!  It's one of life's little ironies that your dance schedule, your school schedule, and your social calendar all get crazy at the same time.   So how do you keep it all straight without losing your sanity?

  • Keep a list. When you're running 100 mph all day, it's easy for small things to slip through the cracks.  "Oh, I'll remember later.." are the famous last words.  Trying to keep track of everything in your head takes up valuable brain real estate!  Take a second to jot it down somewhere and free up that brain space for more interesting things.
  • Use the time you have.  I know, this seems obvious, but what I'm talking about is those small chunks of time that we ignore.  The ones we don't consider to be long enough to accomplish anything.  Get your homework started on the bus ride home.  Do a little reading while you stretch.  Start your laundry on a commercial break.  Pack your dance bag while you wait for the microwave to ding.  Using those small pockets of time can free up a bigger piece of the day later.
  • Free up some bigger chunks of time.  Some schools will allow athletes to fulfill their physical education credits by enrolling in an independent study.  Your dance hours can work in your favor here!  Freeing up that class period can give you space for a study hall and help enormously with your homework load.  Look for other ways to free up big chunks of time.  It's time to think outside the box here!
  • Use your phone!  Sorry parents, but I'm about to give an argument in favor of smart phones.  Most homework these days requires internet access, and having it right at hand means your student can make the best use of their limited time. 
    Apps like Cozi allow you to enter your entire schedule, color coded, in a place that is accessible from any authorized device.  Mom can add an appointment from home, and send a reminder to your phone.  You can add your rehearsal schedule, and it can be accessed at home.
    Timers and alarms will allow you to concentrate fully on the task at hand without the need to monitor the clock.
 What are your best tricks for keeping your schedule and yourself in order?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Audition Day Printables

As promised, here are the forms that we use for our own audition day measurements. 

Just click on the thumbnails below to download a full sized PDF of each form.    We hope you find these useful, and wish you a smooth production season. 

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Audition Day Sanity for the Wardrobe Manager

It's audition day, and they've talked you into being the wardrobe manager.  Now what?  

Here are a few tips from the trenches to help you out.

  • Be prepared.  Bring a couple of extra pens, a good stack of measurement charts, and two or three tape measures.
  • Take more measurements than you think you need.  It's practically guaranteed that your director will surprise you with some wardrobe switch that will leave you hunting for measurements.  Take them all, even if you think you won't need them.  You'll save yourself time and headache later.
  • Grab a helper. There are always lots of parents and older dancers hanging around.  Don't be afraid to ask for help!
  • Mark their number after they're measured.  Audition days can be very hectic.  With all of the dancers milling around, it's easy to miss people.  A sticker or dot on their audition number will make it easy to see who's been measured and who hasn't. 
  • Don't let them leave until you have their measurements!  Trust me on this one, you will waste weeks trying to chase down the dancers you missed on audition day.  Ask your studio "gate keeper" to send anyone without a sticker back in to be measured.

Check back on Tuesday!  I'll be sharing the measurement worksheet and cast list forms we use at our own auditions.  Free to print for your own use. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Dance bags are packed (okay, school bags, too.)  It's the beginning of another dance year, and at most studios that means one thing.  Audition Time!

Most of the audition advice floating around on the internet applies to older dancers auditioning for advanced parts or ballet companies.

The audition process can seem a bit intimidating for parents and dance kids who are trying out for the very first time. Don't worry! It's not as scary as the movies. I promise.

Here are some tips to help you through your dancers audition.

Be Prepared
Some companies will list a dress code for auditions.  If they don't, your class uniform is fine.  Either way, everything should be clean, neat, and in good repair (No holes!!) Hair should be in a stage-ready bun with no whispies or accessories. Leave the sparkly bun cover at home. Remove any jewelry before going in.
If your dancer is old enough to wear makeup on a day to day basis, then light and natural looking make-up is fine. The younger crowd does not need makeup unless instructed otherwise.

Bring your calendar. Many studios will have a tentative rehearsal schedule in place and will want to know about any conflicts or family trips right away.

Be On Time
Arrive early. Give yourself plenty of time to fill out paperwork, have measurements taken, and get comfortable with the process.
Encourage your dancer to warm up and stretch if they are old enough to do so.

Be Professional
Remind your dancer to curtsy and thank the instructors before leaving the audition.
Keep the lobby chatter to a minimum.  If you can hear their music, they can hear your voice.
Stick around when your dancer comes out until someone dismisses their group.  There may be announcements, questions, or additional paperwork.

And most important of all,
Be Excited!!
Your dancer is about to make memories and friends they will never forget!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

What's in the Bag?

A dancer's bag is like a lady's purse.  Stuffed to the gills and oh-so-mysterious.  What's in there, anyway?  We've found some brave souls willing to share it all with us and we'll be bringing it here the first Saturday of every month.

Whose bag are we snooping in?

This months dancer is Gina Eslinger.
Gina is a company member with Ballet Ariel in Denver, Colorado. Before joining Ballet Ariel, Gina spent two seasons with David Taylor Dance Theatre. Gina has had the opportunity to perform works by August Bournonville, David Taylor, Gregory Dawson, Ilena Norton, James Wallace, and Gregory Gonzales. She has been featured as a soloist in Napoli, Sugar Plum, Snow Queen, Dewdrop and Arabian in Nutcracker, Sacred 36 in Avoca: A Tale of Molly Brown, Fairy of Joy in Sleeping Beauty, the Bird in Peter and the Wolf, Greg Gonzales’ Polar Equals, and Tom Ruud’s Mobile. Gina’s other passions include singing, teaching dance, training in lindy hop, and performing in various theater/musical theater performances in the Denver-Metro area. Recently, Gina was featured in Performance Now Theatre Company’s Oklahoma! as Dream Laurey and in Music Man as Zaneeta Shinn.

What's in the bag?
Top row: Various skirts and shorts (I always have at least three colors to choose from) and my favorite gray knit shorts (and black belt to keep them from falling down). Lip gloss (lower right on top of shorts). Three pairs of pointe shoes with tupperware of spacers/gel big toe caps with baby powder to apply after wearing them. At least three pairs of different leg warmers, wool socks.

Lower row: Foot roller, pouch of bobby pins/hair ties/etc, Orajel (for really bad toenail pain/bruises), Arnicare gel, Advil, Biofreeze roller, tennis ball and spiky massage ball for rolling out cramps in muscles, heavy thera-band, two different thicknesses of toe pads (when feet are swollen, I use thinner ones ), Kleenex, contact lens drops, technique shoes.

What's the one thing you just can't live without?
My favorite item is still big toe gel caps, then knit shorts/legwarmers.

So, dancers...how crazy is your bag?   

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Boy Gear 101

Josh Schwartz
-Portland Festival Ballet
 What do boys wear to ballet class?


Are guys tights the same as girls?  What should they wear on top?  And what the heck is a dance belt??

Men's dance wear can be almost as difficult to navigate as women's.  To add to the mystery, some studios may one have one or two young men dancing there.  You don't always have the option to ask a more experienced dancer or another mom for guidance with the gear. 

Dance Belts
First, what's a dance belt and does my dancer need one?  (Girls, look away.  We're gonna get kind of personal here.)

A dance belt is a support garment worn like underwear.  It keeps the genitals up, out of the way, and firmly packaged so there is no unnecessary movement or danger of being aggressively pinched while dancing.  It also helps to 'smooth things out' so that they are not so exposed in their tights.  They're generally worn by dancers who have already reached puberty or are close to it.  If you have a very young dancer (under 10 or 11) he probably doesn't need one yet.  Snug underpants will do just fine. 

Dance belts are usually sold by waist size, in black, white or nude, and you should purchase the color closest to (but not lighter than) your dancer's skin tone.  They have a wide waist band, a frontal 'pocket' and a thong back.  They should fit snug but not tight.  Nothing should be able to move without his permission. 
They're meant to be worn at the natural waist, with the thong back seated firmly between the cheeks.  Last, your dancer should 'scoop and lift' himself into the pocket so that everything is pointed up towards his belly button.  This should create a smooth (and not distracting) bump in the tights.

Men's Tights
Men's Tights are NOT the same as women's.  I can't say that enough.  They would be more aptly called men's footed leggings.  They are not sheer and are meant to be worn as pants.  Older dancers generally prefer microfiber tights like M. Stevens or similar brands.  

Tights should be worn at the natural waist with the crotch pulled up snug against his body.  The rear seam should be settled snug against his behind (noticing a trend yet?)  Tights that are not pulled up completely can create a kind of "webbed" effect in the crotch and limit the movement of his legs.  

It can be very difficult to find boy's tights for very small boys.  Some studios will allow little guys to wear leggings rather than tights, as these can be found in the girls department at most major stores.  (Just don't tell him where you found them!  *wink wink*)

Most dance schools prefer black tights for young men.

On Top
There are a few choices here, depending on what your studio and your dancer prefer.  The important thing is that whatever he chooses to wear on his top half should be form fitting to keep the lines of his body visible.

Some young men wear a snug athletic shirt (like Under Armour or similar brands) or a fitted white tank top like the ones worn under a dress shirt.

Your studio may require a leotard for their young men.  Very young boys can get away with a unisex leotard from the dance shop.  Young men who are into puberty will need a men's leotard.  They have a slightly different cut and will generally have a thong back.  This will keep the leotard in place, but offers no support or coverage, so a dance belt should still be worn.

Most studios prefer young men to wear white on top.

Men have all of the same options for shoes as women.  Leather and canvas, full- and split-soles.  Boys usually wear either black shoes directly over their black tights, or white shoes with thin white socks. 

**Some studios have very specific dress codes, so always ask before you start shopping!

Veteran moms of boy dancers, what do you wish someone had told you when he started dancing?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Ballet Girl Gear 101

There's a reason some dance studios have very specific uniforms, right down to the style and shade of tights.  When you're new to dance, the options for dance gear can be completely overwhelming!

Here's a breakdown to help you out...


Leotards are the easiest part.  Your studio will tell you what kind of sleeve they want (short, long, tank top, etc) and what color.  Simple is better when you have a young dancer.  Skirts and sparkles can be very distracting (and some studios do not allow them.)  The most important thing to know is that panties are NOT worn under a dance leotard.  Nothing looks quite as strange as My Little Pony undies hanging out the sides of a leotard.  They can't be worn on stage, and you will never see an older dancer sporting panty-lines in their leo.


To start, dance tights are not the same as the tights you wear under a dress.  They don't have the line around the top of the thigh, are generally thicker, and will wear better than dress tights.  There are several styles of tights available for dance.

Seamed Convertible
Full Footed

Full footed tights have a closed toe and a smooth foot. This is generally what very young dancers wear for class.

Convertible tights have an opening on the bottom of the foot.  This allows older dancers access to their feet when it's time to prepare for pointe class.  They're also handy after class for dancers who like to wear flip flops.  Most kids over about age 9 or 10 choose these.

Seamed tights have a seam down the center back of each leg.  They come in footed or convertible.  Seamed or seamless?  That decision comes down to dancer or instructor preference.  Most older dancers prefer seamed tights for the traditional look.

**Veteran Mom Tip**  When you're shopping for tights, watch out for the word "mesh" in the description.  Some mesh tights will get looser and looser as they wear them, until they have "saggy elephant ankles." Microfiber tends to fit better, and is a good choice for little dancers.


There are several styles of ballet slippers and soles.  Shoes are the most important piece of gear you will purchase.  If you're going to save money on ballet gear, don't do it here.  Your dancer's feet are worth it.

Let me first say that these are not suitable for class. 

I know they are sold as "ballet slippers" but they are really dress-up shoes.  The slippery satin fabric and loose fit makes these shoes unsafe for class use.  

Split-sole canvas slippers
Full-sole leather slippers

Ballet slippers are generally made of leather or canvas and have a full-sole or split-sole.

Leather shoes form to the foot well, look nice on stage, and are sturdy and stable for little dancers.

Canvas shoes are sometimes worn by older dancers for classes only.  They breathe well and are less expensive for dancers who are in class up to six days a week.

Full-Sole shoes have a leather outer sole that goes all the way from toe to heal in one piece.  Most teachers will prefer a full-sole, leather shoe for a young new dancer.

Split-Sole shoes have a two piece sole that covers the ball of the foot and the heal separately.  They flex better in the arch of the foot and are generally the shoe of choice for dancers older than 8 or 9. 

**Veteran Mom Tip** Go to a real dance store to buy your shoes.  The price is the same as the big box stores, but the quality and fit of the shoes is FAR superior.  

Veteran dance moms, what do you wish you had known when you started? 

What about my young male ballet dancer? Stay tuned, we'll have a break down on boy gear coming up soon!