When Do I Get to Dress Up and Be A REAL DANCER?

When Do I Get to Dress Up and Be A REAL DANCER?

For most of us, taking up ballet as an adult dancer, or returning to it after a break of sometimes decades, can be a bit of a nerve-wracking experience. It’s completely normal to wonder if you’ll be the worst one there,  whether you’ll be able to manage the steps or will everyone be looking at you? Hopefully once the ice has been broken you realise that the concept of being best or worse isn’t a ‘thing’ in adult ballet, everyone struggles with some of the steps some of the time and, like you, other people are more concerned with concentrating on what their own arms and legs are doing rather that looking at anyone else!

There are so many different reasons that we start ballet but one theme that comes up regularly is how it make us feel. Some people danced as children and coming back to ballet reignites those memories and feelings. Others are starting for the first time because they never had the opportunity to take classes as a child. Whatever the reason there does seem to be a little ballerina inside many of us who we can let out in the safe space of the dance studio.

As one dancer described it to us;

 “Although I danced as a child, coming back to ballet 40+ years later there didn’t seem to be much in the way of things I could remember beyond the very basics of the feet and leg positions. But one day a piece of music was played and suddenly all the memories of being in ballet class as a 10-year-old came flooding back.  The music was Spanish Romance and we were doing the final Reverence at the end of class. The emotional feeling of being back in class as a young girl was so intense. I can’t think of any other time I have been so vividly  transported back to childhood. The power of the music and dancing to it was incredibly moving.”

For the first few weeks or months (or maybe even years!) general sportswear is what most of us wear to class – tee shirts, leggings, maybe shorts and singlets in the summer. Like every sport, the more ballet we do the more we start to think about what we wear, but in the case of ballet wear it can be a big leap to buy a skirt – after all that’s what ‘real’ dancers wear, but attending one or two classes a week doesn’t make us a proper dancer right? WRONG!

Ballet is a unique form of exercise blending artistry, physical movement and musicality into what can be an emotional experience. This feeling is real dancing, no matter what the age or stage of the dancer. At Butterfly we have a vision that our dancewear can contribute to EVERY BODY being moved, physically and emotionally, and feeling beautiful. We hear repeatedly that dancing in a swirly skirt makes dancers feel more dancey! And it’s true! Getting dressed for class in lovely clothes definitely does set an intention that is different to the feeling you get from leggings and a tee shirt. Suddenly you can be that ballerina from the musical box!

The relationship between how we feel and what we wear is an interesting topic that has been explored by psychologists and fashion experts alike. Our clothing choices can have a significant impact on our mood, behaviour, and even our cognitive processes.

One theory behind this relationship is called "enclothed cognition," which suggests that the clothing we wear can influence our psychological processes. This theory proposes that clothing has symbolic meaning, and that when we wear certain types of clothing, we can adopt the traits and attitudes associated with those clothes. For example, if we wear formal clothing, we may feel more confident and professional, while if we wear athletic wear, we may feel more motivated and energetic. So when we wear ballet clothing to class it sets us up as being ballet dancers.

Another theory is called "self-perception theory," which suggests that our clothing choices can reflect and reinforce our self-identity. Wearing clothing that aligns with our self-identity may make us feel more authentic and confident. On the other hand, wearing clothing that is incongruent with our self-identity may lead to feelings of discomfort or self-doubt.

Our clothing choices can also influence how others perceive us, which can in turn affect how we feel about ourselves. For example, wearing clothing that is associated with a particular social group or status can influence how others perceive us, and can even impact our own self-esteem and confidence.

When we are relatively new to ballet we probably don’t really think of ourselves as real ballet dancers so wearing ballet clothing might make us feel self-conscious; a bit like imposters, especially when we see images of ‘real’ dancers who are usually professionals who have trained since childhood and are in their twenties, with bodies to match! Comparing our real life, lived in bodies with professional athletes at the top of their game isn’t going to help our self-confidence!

The psychology behind how we feel and what we wear is complex and multifaceted. Our clothing choices can reflect our self-identity, influence our mood and behaviour, and impact how others perceive us. By being aware of the impact of our clothing choices, we can make intentional decisions about what we wear to support our mood and goals.

So when do we decide that we are real dancers? How do you identify yourself? If you see yourself as a dancer, and dance is an integral part of your identity and self-expression, then you can call yourself a dancer. It's not just about technical ability, but also about how you feel about dance and how it contributes to your overall sense of self.

Ultimately, the label of "real dancer" is not a fixed designation that is bestowed upon you by others. It is a personal choice and can depend on your own goals, aspirations, and self-perception. If you attend class regularly, are passionate about dance, consistently working to improve your skills, and see yourself as a dancer, then you are a real dancer.

Whether you dance once a week, once a fortnight or take class every day, if ballet is important to you then you are a real dancer. Real dancers get to wear real ballet clothes! Just adding a ballet skirt to your usual leggings and top will make all the difference to how you feel, and once you’ve taken the plunge – beware! Beautiful ballet clothes are addictive! Especially when they’re made for adult bodies, cut to be flattering and made in Aotearoa 😉

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