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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Milner

A Dancer's Wish List 2023

The holidays already feel in full swing - is it just me? - and it seems everyone’s a bit more eager than usual for some holiday joy and festivity. Gift shopping is well under way, and requests for wish lists are starting to come in!

Wherever you are in your holiday season - brining a turkey, scrambling with college dance auditions, weeping not-so-silently as you stuff your feet back into sweaty pointe shoes for a second Nutcracker of the day - I know you can use a little love, a little pampering.

So here’s my gift to you: a ready-made wish list, to share with your loved ones and make sure you get what you REALLY want and not another ballerina-with-a-sickle-foot ornament.

(By the way, that’s an excellent idea for a horror movie - a dancer trapped with technically incorrect dance ornaments that come to life. Shudder.)

Starting off this year’s list, we’re looking at travel again. Last year I mentioned new rolling suitcases, new travel containers, etc. and I’ve had several grateful emails on that. So if your dancer is dragging a suitcase that is more duct tape than case, consider springing for a new one! Travel is such an integral part of dance life - auditions, touring, short-term gigs, and more - and luggage, cosmetics bags, and toiletries are areas we don’t often feel we can justify spending money. I promise, they’ll be grateful!

A great gift for travel, performances, competitions, and more is this portable lighted mirror. I love that it collapses completely flat, has a few different brightness settings for the LED lights, and can either run on a rechargeable lithium battery or plug it in directly. Super easy to throw in a dance bag for the theatre, or for auditions, competition, and more.

Also looking at travel, I seriously love these Vim & Vigr compression socks. I find the cotton ones to be the most comfortable, and I use them when I travel. My feet feel so much better when I wear these on the plane, or even on long car rides! It really makes a huge difference. They come in a couple different strengths so try both to see what works for you. I use the plain black but love some of the prints! Dancers who use them also love them during company warmup on long theatre days.

Going one step further, I have dancers who swear by the Energetiks compression tights. They come in black, two shades of pink, a beige, and a darker tan. They’re convertible and give enough support for you to feel a difference but not so much they become uncomfortable. Some of my professional dancers keep these on hand for long theatre days and swear they make a huge difference!

And while we’re on the subject of dancewear, I still have a soft spot for the RubiaWear warm up collection. Designed by a retired ballerina and dancer-approved, the line is always spot-on. My current favorites are the matching sets (I love the Sugar Plum) the new Cindy romper, a short jumper with open rather than gathered legs. (Check out the vintage rose color!) You can’t go wrong with any of it, though!

One final thought for dancewear - practice tutus. You can get a nice white or black, of course, which is very practical and extremely helpful. I do really love these ombre practice tutus by Mia Dancewear, though. The price is great and the colors lovely, and give that little extra bit of joy to rehearsal time. Check out the dark grey - so professional looking with either black or white leotards!

Something dancers always need are supportive shoes for outside the studio. I’ve introduced several of my dancers to the Oofos shoes and they always get raves! The basic slide comes in a variety of colors and is perfect for errands and running back and forth to the studio or even around the house! I use my OMG Eezee Low sneakers a lot when I travel and they’re one of the few shoes I can wear without arch supports. These shoes are way more supportive than your typical slide-on sandals or flat-bottomed sneakers and your dancers will thank you!

This is the time of year when everyone struggles with tired, achy bodies, and the HyperVolt 2 makes a great gift that every dancer will love! Less pricey than some other brands, the HyperVolt is my go-to massage tool because of the variety of attachments it offers. There’s a split head that is simply perfect for the achilles and calves of exhausted dancers. Trust me, this gift would make the top of any dancer’s list!

Moving on to my favorite category - books! Even if your dancer isn’t a big daily reader, some of these gorgeous dance books will bring huge happiness to their life. Trust me!

First up, by the woman who brings us Brown Girls Do Ballet on Instagram, we have The Color of Dance: A Celebration of Diversity and Inclusion in the World of Ballet by TaKiyah Wallace-McMillian. Gorgeous, inspiring photos and short quotes that I devoured in one sitting. This book is a true celebration and encouragement of the ballet world today and a great inspiration for the next generation of dancers.

Finding Rhythm: An International Dance Journey by Aliénor Salmon is a book I stumbled across but was so glad I found. A novice dancer interested in learning more about different cultures, Ms. Salmon traveled the world learning cultural dances to learn more about places. It’s an exciting read and a wonderful dive into how dance both describes and shapes our culture and heritage.

If you’re looking for an accurate insider’s account of life inside a major ballet company, I really enjoyed The Cranes Dance by Meg Howrey. Though fiction, the book reads like true-life thanks to Meg Howrey’s career as a ballerina with Joffrey Ballet, City Ballet of Los Angeles, and more. It’s not sensationalistic or salacious, but unflinching and at times painful to read because of its relatability. For anyone wanting to understand life in a major ballet company, this is the perfect book.

Last but definitely not least, is Dance Pedagogy for a Diverse World: Culturally Relevant Teaching in Theory, Research, and Practice by Nyama McCarthy-Brown. I was fortunate to hear her speak live recently and can’t wait to dive into my copy of this book. In the book, she discusses how to diversify ballet technique classes and dance history courses in higher education and so much more. A must-have for teachers, especially in higher education.

So there you have it - my Wish List for 2023! Select something from this for the dancer in your life, and you’re guaranteed to see a happy face on a wintry morning!

What would you add? Please share your top choices with me!

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