A Beginner’s Guide to Ballet Leotards

What is A Ballet Leotard?
A ballet leotard is a piece of dancewear designed specifically for dance. It’s skin tight, covers the torso leaving the legs and usually the arms free, and its main purpose is to allow for complete freedom of movement. The ballet leotard is available in several different cuts such as tank, cap-sleeve, camisole, polo neck and long sleeve and there are several variations of each of these styles.

Where does it originate?
The ballet leotard’s history is fairly short in comparison to that of ballet dancing itself which can be traced back as far as the 15th Century. The leotard, however, was developed as recently as the 1800s by fabulous French acrobatic performer Jules Léotard who developed the garment especially for performing acrobatics. He used to call the garment his “maillot”, which is a French word used to refer to different types of tight-fitting shorts. It wasn’t until after Léotard died that his name became synonymous with the piece of dancewear.

Why do I need one?
The ballet leotard is particularly well suited to dance because of its tight fitting – or formfitting – quality. This holds the leotard close to the dancer’s body to accentuate their physique whilst allowing them complete freedom of unrestricted movement. In turn, this allows the dance teacher, choreographer and audience to clearly see the placement of the dancer’s body which is highly important to provide the best possible performance.

What are leotards made from?
Most leotards are made from either Nylon Lycra or Cotton Lycra. Both of these fabrics possess similar formfitting qualities, as well as thermal and breathable qualities too. Together, these enable the dancer’s body to warm without the need for additional heavy clothing which may restrict their movement. The most distinctive difference between these two types of fabric is the fact that Nylon Lycra has a slightly glossy finish whereas Cotton Lycra has a matted finish. Cotton Lycra is generally preferred by slightly older dancers and Nylon Lycra by children. The latter can also create a good base for a dance costume due to its vibrant colours.

What size should I choose?
The best way to choose the correct size for your ballet leotard is to try it on and moving around. Once you’ve got it on, try bending forward, backward and maybe to the sides too. If the straps on the front of the leotard don’t move too much then it’s likely that the leotard is a good fit. Other good tell-tale places of a well-fitting leotard are between the legs and under the arms. If your leotard pulls under the arms or between the legs when you try it on you need to choose a larger size. If, however, your leotard is baggy in any way, try a size smaller.

Where should I buy my ballet leotard?
If you check out your local telephone directory you will almost certainly find a good specialist dancewear shop in your local area. Occasionally, you may find a few non-specialist dancewear shops such as supermarkets stock ballet leotards but it’s always better to go to a dance shop. Even though they may be a little more expensive, they’ll be able to provide you with the specialist advice and information you need.

If you’re particularly price dependant then you will find a myriad of dancewear retailers online. Most of these offer leotards at very competitive prices and quick delivery too. Just remember to make sure they have a simple returns policy in case you need to try a couple of different sizes.

How much should I spend?
There’s no need to spend a fortune! Many brands such as Bloch, Capezio, Dance Gear and Roch Valley produce high quality dancewear including leotards at very competitive prices. These dance companies have been around for many years and have a great deal of experience in providing dancers of all abilities with a wide range of products.

Whichever style of dance you need your leotard for, dancing is all about having fun! If you’re unsure about which leotard to choose simply ask your teacher who will no doubt be only too happy to help!

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