B Dancewear Offers A Rainbow Of Dancewear Options

When you’re working with small costume budgets, as I do when I choreograph on college students, or needing to add something to that ‘almost perfect’ costume, as I’ve also been known to do, finding the right colors for costume pieces can be tricky.

It’s got to be scarlet red, not cherry red or burgundy red, to match that asymmetrical top you found at the overstock store. And only bronze dance trunks will go with that unique seafoam and bronze dance dress from the catalog… You’ve been there, right?

That’s where I was when I first stumbled across BDancewear.com – looking for just the right color of something. I ended up not needing to purchase – we went in another direction – but I definitely filed the site in my mind because they offer nearly 40 types of dancewear basics in over 200 colors, in an array of fabrics.


Cyndi Marziani is the owner of B Dancewear and has only recently decided to take her years of costume creation experience to a national customer base with the help of her son. Having already been somewhat familiar with the company, I was happy to agree to review some products when they approached me.

Of all their products, I decided to take a look at the high-waisted dance shorts which are becoming very popular, the high-waisted palazzo pant (I am a modern dancer, after all), the dance tank top, and out of curiosity, the convertible dance dress.

Fabrics Galore

BDancewear Color SwatchesCyndi generously sent some of these items in a couple of different fabrics to compare, along with full color cards for each of the type of fabrics available, which include Lycra, Shiny Lycra, Cotton, Holographic, Velvet, and Mesh.

Fabric swatches are available to order from BDancewear.com free of charge. The full color cards I received can be sent to dance studios for free, but the delivery address must be the dance studio itself. If you plan to do much purchasing as a studio, I would definitely recommend having these on hand. It was very helpful to see the fabrics up close for color matching. The online color images are fairly true on my screen. (At least, I doubt you’ll see gold where I see blue!) But, of course, digital color will never be exact, tending to look a little darker than in reality.

If it’s important to have a good match, get swatches to compare before ordering. They’re free!

Dancewear Designs

As mentioned, I took a look at four different products. All were well made, felt substantial (not flimsy), and worked well in the fabrics chosen. Do consider the purpose your dancewear will serve before you order a particular fabric. For example, cotton can be perfectly breathable for class but is not always the sharpest look for the stage. I received the convertible dance dress in both cotton and lycra. The lycra would be perfect for a costume piece. The cotton, I’d be more likely to wear for practice or for a day at the beach.

I was pleased to find that the sizes available matched typical clothing sizes. This is especially important, I think, for adult dancers who are frequently disappointed that an adult medium in some dancewear fits more like a small or “junior” medium. Not to mention the items at BDancewear.com are offered up to Adult XXL. How often does that happen in the dancewear industry?

Here’s a little more detail on the four items I received:

High Waist Dance ShortsHigh-Waist Dance Shorts: I liked that these felt like shorts and not a boy-cut brief (which are offered, if that’s what you prefer). They’ve got a clean hem and the the roughly 5 1/2″ waist can be worn up (particularly on long torsos) or rolled down.

High Waisted Palazzo PantsHigh-Waisted Palazzo Pants: These are a nice wide-legged cut and the waist, as above, can be folded over. I found the standard normal length (which I believe you can see in this photo) a little long for my taste even though my leg length is usually average. It came to the floor which can be a hazard for barefoot dancers so I would probably want to hem them. There is an option to request more length on the website but perhaps less length could also be offered. Take your dancers’ measurements and check the sizing chart so that you’re prepared for any alterations that may need to be done.

Dance TankDance Tank Top: This is a dance staple. The dance tank had good coverage and wider straps, which is nice for comfort and modesty. Because these are costume-style fabrics, the tank didn’t quite have that ‘cozy’ feeling that some jersey knits do but it would look great on stage. I like that this dance tank comes to the hips and I was glad to see that the white, holographic tank I received was lined.

Covertible Dance Dress: Convertible Dance DressThe website says this dress can be worn at least 15 ways. I’m not sure I figured out what all 15 of them are but it’s definitely a versatile piece that would work well for costume variation among the dancers in a piece of choreography. I like the halter look and the possibility of just wearing it as a skirt. Keep in mind that the “bodice” portion is a single layer of fabric and is not likely to suffice on its own in terms of coverage or support for women with larger busts. Either way, a flesh leotard or bra top underneath is a practical addition.


B Dancewear is filling a common need in the dance industry with a line of quality products that gives dancers and choreographers options and versatility in their dancewear or costuming choices. Certainly check them out the next time you find yourself looking for just the right match.


For additional information on the company and more clothing reviews, visit our friends at 4dancers for their take on BDancewear.


Though B Dancewear has advertised on this website in the past, Dance Advantage did not receive compensation for the publishing of this review. Products were provided at no charge. The thoughts within are the author’s own words and opinions, not those of the advertiser.

The Great Costume Debate: The Controversy Over Age Appropriateness

Our guest, Shawna David is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of the dance competition organization, World-Class Talent Experience.

As we look toward the coming of a new competition season, it’s an issue deserving of a fresh look. We think you’ll appreciate Shawna’s unique perspective and balanced overview of the controversial issues that surround competition costume choices.

As a dance teacher, judge and competition director,

Inspire Dance Company from Las Vegas, NV/ Photography- WCTE Palms Casino Resort Las Vegas, NV

Inspire Dance Company from Las Vegas, NV/ Photography- WCTE Palms Casino Resort Las Vegas, NV

I have witnessed the “age-appropriateness” issue being discussed and fought over for some time, but most recently, the debate seems to have escalated, as costumes and styles have evolved. The issue has become a hot topic, resulting in serious and often emotional discussion, as sides are taken by studio directors, teachers and parents.

My background research for this article included telephone interviews with studio directors and dance parents. I also searched the internet for blogs and community boards that dealt with the topic. Finally, I went over photos from my competitions and my judges’ score sheets for the related performances.

By way of background, there are two “camps” of opinion on the matter. One group feels that costumes should not be restricted; the other fears that costumes are increasingly revealing and approach (or exceed) the point of being inappropriate, especially for younger dancers.

In this article, I will not take sides. I will instead try to provide in detail the arguments from both sides, and try to lay the groundwork for both sides to understand the reasoning behind the position each camp has taken.

Don’t shoot the messenger [Read more…]

Performance Formula: Successfully Showcasing Young Dancers

Growing up, my favorite weekend of the year was recital weekend.

Since I lived in a small town, my recital was 45 minutes away. My family would pack up the car and stay the weekend in a hotel. Those are such fond memories that I will never forget.

Until recently I never dreamed that I could give the same experience to my students here in New York City. This city is so big, how could I ever pull something like this together? This year I was determined to create a community that was excited about dance. I would call it a “celebration.”

When I told a colleague about this showcase a few days ago she said:

“The way you get your program to grow is to let it be seen. The way you let it be seen is to showcase it in a way that everyone can understand.”

The celebration was a few years in the making and I was prepared for it to fail miserably, but it overcame my expectations and was successful! Almost a month later I still don’t know how I did it. After reviewing and analyzing what I think made it turn out so well for my young dancers, I thought I would share the formula with you. If you are a creative movement teacher like me and are looking to showcase your students but aren’t quite sure how to do it, try this!



1) Forget the costumes, the backstage, and the ticket charge:  I wanted the vibe to be casual. First, I am not that fond of everyone looking the same. I don’t know why, well, actually I do know why. Everyone is not the same! I had them wear what they normally wear to class. That was anything from a tee shirt to a tutu. It looked just fine, I actually really loved it!

Second, I am in charge of my entire program, it’s me and me alone. I like it that way, but using the back stage was not an option. Instead, I put mats on the stage for about 60 kids. My students sat by class on the mats. When it was their turn to dance, they did their showcase and then returned to the mat.

Third, I didn’t charge for seats. I know this might sound OUTRAGEOUS but I believe to build community some things just ought to be free. Like watching your child, grandchild, or niece dance for the first time on stage.

2) Be visible: At the start of the show I was greeting everyone as they arrived. Some of my students only come to class with their caregiver so I have never met their parents! It was nice to be out and visible to make my students feel comfortable and say hello to families.

3) Spread out the age groups: I had 130 students this year. I put together two days of shows only 1 hour each. I divided the age groups into both days so my youngest dancers (and their grown-ups) at 18 months could see what my 4 and 5 year olds are working on. It’s the best way to show the progression.

4) Create space for the inevitable: I had 3 students that cried on those days. I had some of them cry and then pull it together and went on stage. (I had no idea what they were going to do, but if I have learned nothing else from teaching young dancers, it’s that they will always surprise you.) I forgot my notebook with the line-ups in it at my apartment. The music person didn’t show up. You know, those types of things will happen. Don’t loose your cool, just create space for them and know they will happen. If you expect things to go wrong, you won’t be disappointed when they do.

5) Educate the Audience: You had the whole year with your students and have educated them, but now it’s time to educate the audience! Instead of making a program, I announced each age group as they went to perform. Then I gave the audience a brief idea of what they would see.

For example:

“My 5 year olds are doing a partner dance. While creating this dance we worked on teamwork, giving our partner space, and counting.”

This way the audience will know what to look for, and you are sneaking in that dance education. How sneaky!

Where I teach this program, I have access to an auditorium. If you don’t have access to a stage, don’t worry! You can do something like this anywhere. Anywhere! How about outside? Or in a gymnasium? Or in the studio? Or even a church or synagogue? Use your imagination to showcase your program, you, and your students in the best way possible. Then watch your program grow.. and grow.. and grow.

I had the time of my life, can you tell?

Have you pulled together a “celebration” for your young students? Was it successful? Leave your thoughts in the comments below! 

Check out these related posts previously featured on DA!
Give The Gift Of Dance In Your Community
The Costume “Blackout”Keeps Choreography Center Stage

This Is Why I Bother

Melanie Doskocil’s final entry for Ballet’s Un-X-pected Lesson Files this year. Enjoy!

I looked over the group of 5 and 6-year-old budding ballet students.

The girls were all clad in their little yellow and black stripped leotards, little yellow and black tutus, wings, head pieces with cute bouncy antennae. The boys in their striking bug costumes with jet black bodies and iridescent green wings.

I had a can of good old Super Final Net in my hands and wandered amongst them, spraying a wisp of hair here, a clump of bangs there. I checked ears and wrists and fingers for forgotten jewelry, tucked loose draw strings into leather ballet slippers, clipped threads and checked hands for no-no nail polish and pesky pen doodles.

IMAGE Excited little bumble bees IMAGEAs I was grabbing a few bobby pins to tackle a loose bun, one of the guest chaperones whispered loudly to another,

“I don’t know why she bothers; they are only on the stage for about a minute.”

I turned to the kids and said, “OK, Bees and Bugs, are you ready to go dance with your Flower in the Nutcracker?”

One tiny ballerina said to me, “I feel like a fairy princess!”

Then I turned to the parent and said, “THAT’s why I bother.”

Many families are inducted into the ritual of ballet performance during The Nutcracker.

There are strange rules to follow [Read more…]

The Nutcracker: Unwrapped

Hand-torn snow. 7,000 lbs of it.

Houston Ballet’s current version of The Nutcracker, choreographed by Ben Stevenson, premiered in 1987. And ever since, what falls from above in the Land of Snow is what designer, Desmond Heeley always wanted: Crepe paper, because of the way it looks, reflects the light and most importantly, because of the way it falls. Hand-torn because its densely textured surface makes it impossible to cut layers of paper without sticking and clumping.

For the first few years, volunteers from the Houston Ballet Guild and the HB staff donated several days in the weeks before The Nutcracker opened to sit and tear paper into snowflakes, but over the years a new method was developed using spools and special blades. Now a crew of four can tear several layers at once more efficiently over a period of 2 weeks.

About 200 pounds of snow fall during each snow scene, after which (during intermission) the snow is swept up and placed in special boxes to be cleaned. The used snow is carefully sifted and cleaned to be used again in another show. About 30 minutes before curtain on each performance day, the snow bags are refilled with either new or newly cleaned snow that will majestically fall to the stage, to the delight of the Houston Ballet audience.

IMAGE The Nutcracker Sugar Plum Fairy tutus and Soldier costumes in wardrobe storage. IMAGE

The Nutcracker Sugar Plum Fairy tutus and Soldier costumes in wardrobe storage.

Repair. Rebuild. Remake. Repaint.

Snow isn’t the only thing that’s reused and recycled in The Nutcracker, which is produced season after season for more performances than other ballets in the Houston Ballet repertoire.

According to HB’s Production Director, Tom Boyd, who has been part of its production team from the start, there have been the expected subtle changes in choreography over the years. But everything else has remained very close to what was originally conceived by Stevenson and Heeley. Even costume fabrics and trims, which endure the wear and tear of hundreds of performances, are replaced only with the best possible match to the original design.

Dressing the Cast

When asked which Nutcracker costume is her personal favorite, it seems an easy answer for Houston Ballet’s Wardrobe Manager, Laura Lynch. “The Snow Queen,” she pronounces. “Love that tiara.”

One-hundred and thirty costumes appear in a single Nutcracker performance. But if you break it down to the individual clothing pieces, like collars, petticoats, and more, the wardrobe department maintains over 650 items, not including tights, facial hair or wigs.

Because The Nutcracker is performed every year, the show’s costumes hang in the back wardrobe room at Wortham Theater Center all year long so that Wardrobe may continually restore and rebuild as necessary in the costume shop at Houston Ballet’s new Center for Dance (the largest professional dance company facility of its kind constructed in the United States).

IMAGE The Sugar Plum Fairy's Costume tagged by Wardrobe IMAGE

Sugar Plum’s costume tagged by Wardrobe and ready to go. Photo: Casey Ayala/Art Institute of Houston North

The Wardrobe department uses a dancer’s most current measurements to rebuild costumes and depends upon the fitting process to determine if Nutcracker costumes must be rebuilt or altered. Costumes are generally not re-fit on dancers who have performed the role previously, so it may surprise those visiting Wardrobe during Nutcracker preparation that seemingly there’s not much going on with the show. However, the department is always working on other productions as well. This season, you’d see costumes for the one-night-only Jubilee of Dance, photo shoots, Cinderella (opening in February), and academy performances.

How does Wardrobe keep track of all the measurements, alterations, and other costume details?

“LOTS OF ORGANIZATION,” exclaims Lynch. “We use an extensive inventory system to keep track of which costumes belong together. We also have a numbering system in all costumes to assist in charting who wears which costume.”

If you’re producing your own Nutcracker this year, Ms. Lynch has some tips: “Stay on top of keeping things clean. Spot cleaning and hand washing are very important and if left to wait will certainly damage the costumes.” She recommends you have a system in place and “stay the course.”

Making Theatrical Magic

In the second act of HB’s The Nutcracker, flying chef-angels zip across stage. Tom Boyd recalls the origins of this unique feature: “The idea came from the fact that Act 2 is the Land of the Sweets and the designer, Desmond Heeley, was quite interested in answering the question, that a child might ask, ‘Where do all the sweets come from?’ So, Desmond decided there should be bakers and cooks and some of them would be flying. And, if you look at the chandeliers you will see flying cooks on either side. Ben liked the idea so much, he decided to expand the concept with dancers flying to open the Act.”

According to Tom, the dancers rehearse the basic positions and timing in the studio as part of the regular rehearsals for many weeks prior to moving into the Wortham. When the flying rig apparatus has been installed in the theater, the dancers are called to be fit in their harnesses and work with a flight coach until they feel comfortable being in the harness and off the ground. Then, they rehearse the flying sequence to piano music with all the flyers, the flight coach, the stagehands (each flyer requires 3 each), stage managers, and artistic staff needed during the actual show. Throughout the entire run of The Nutcracker, the flying sequence is also rehearsed onstage during Intermission for the comfort and safety of the dancers and crew alike.

IMAGE Sketch of The Nutcracker set design by Desmond Heeley. IMAGE

The Nutcracker set design by Desmond Heeley.

Though flying takes a great deal of coordination, it is the extremely complicated transition from the Battle Scene to the Snow Scene that Boyd describes as the most technically challenging. “The house scenery has to move off and fly out, with the enormous tree, and in its place is revealed the Land of Snow. This transition involves the entire stage crew, with 7 people pulling lines on the fly-rail, and 11 people moving scenery off-stage. Both stage managers are involved in calling cues, timing the moves to the music and the entire company of dancers are either running offstage, running onstage, or quick-changing costumes to be onstage.” All in a matter of seconds.

What are the essentials for staying organized and keeping The Nutcracker running smoothly?

“It helps to have very good archived records of how the show hangs, what is involved from scene to scene, how many people are required to do what,” says Boyd, “but, the most important element of all is to have highly skilled, dedicated, experienced people putting it all together. And, we are fortunate to have an outstanding production staff, stage crew, and wardrobe staff who all know that we have a duty to present this amazing company of brilliant dancers with the highest production value possible, whether it’s The Nutcracker or any other performance.”

So you want to be a…

During the 1980’s Boyd made the leap from dancing to managing productions and scenic design. If you’re planning to make a similar leap, Boyd says to pay attention to all that is going on around you. “Our audience sees only the tip of the iceberg when attending a performance, but as members of an arts organization we have the opportunity to understand and be involved with the entire infrastructure,” he explains.

“Find out what the other departments do, how they contribute to the final product. Any single performance and audience experience is the result of hundreds of people doing so many different things. Not only could you encounter interesting career options, you have an opportunity to capitalize on the experience you already have.”

Similarly, Laura Lynch, says the path to becoming Wardrobe Manager for a large ballet company requires experience. Lots of it, working in all aspects of Wardrobe. “I have a theater degree and have been working professionally in costuming for 27 years,” divulges Lynch. “I’ve done everything from stitching, patterning, cutting, dying, crafting, painting, shop supervising, freelance design, traveling with Broadway productions to community theater. To rise to the top hard work, good work ethic and a passion for what you do are necessary.”

In addition to supervising in HB’s wardrobe and costume shop, she has also designed costumes. If you’re a dancer with a passion for ballet fashion, Lynch says, “Research! Everything, from fashion to theater.” She explains that exploring museums and art history are two great ways to research and learn, and that paintings offer an enormous wealth of fashions throughout history. “Get involved and keep learning new skills,” Lynch encourages.

Of course, what Nutcracker feature would be complete without a few stories from those who’ve seen it all?

I couldn’t help but ask Boyd about something a little mouse told me: That HB used to stage an elaborate “Nutty” Nutcracker for audiences at the close of the run.

“The Nutty Nutcracker was a tradition for a number of years,” explains Boyd. “It was a way to close out a very long season of The Nutcracker performances, and to let the dancers and audience have some fun within a very traditional framework.”

“I think my fondest memory was when Drosselmeyer brought out his trunk of dancing dolls to entertain the children, and pulled out Lauren Anderson dressed as Tina Turner doing her signature song, ‘Proud Mary’,” he recalls. “That one was so popular, she made several cameo appearances in subsequent shows, even when it made no sense, just for the fun of it.”

Last year on Dance Advantage, corps member Madison Morris, shared her favorite wardrobe malfunctions involving rats. Lynch recalls a year when one of the rats’ ears came unglued and was barely hanging on to the head. “Lots of flopping about… luckily the rat was done for that show and we were able to re-glue for the next show.”

Boyd says so many things happen behind the scenes, most if not all unseen by the audience, that it’s hard to pick one thing that he can look back on and laugh at. “The ones I remember weren’t funny when they happened, and unfortunately, they really aren’t funny in retrospect. Oh, I guess they are just a little bit. But, each little hiccup in the otherwise smooth running of a show, is a reminder that there is an enormous level of detail that needs to be constantly monitored in a show like this and one can never, ever take it for granted or think you can phone it in.”

He does relay one instance of flying gone wrong: “The flying cooks are supposed to meet at center and hold hands until they are flown off to their respective sides of the stage,” he says. ” Well in this performance, the stagehand in charge of traveling the flyers to their marks went so far past his mark that instead of stopping at center stage, the dancer from stage left went past the one from stage right, and they spun around each other getting their flying cables hopelessly entangled. So, they were just stuck together center-stage, 15 feet above the floor, staring at each other.”

Oh no, what then?

“When the stage manager realized they were not going to untangle themselves, he instructed both sets of crew operating the flying rig to travel the flyers off stage right until they were in the wings.” To a round of cheers from the audience, of course.

Featuring breathtaking scenery and costumes by Tony Award-winning designer Desmond Heeley, Houston Ballet’s The Nutcracker is ideal for introducing children to the power and beauty of classical dance, and a delightful way for the entire family to ring in the holiday season. Thirty-three performances run November 25 – December 27, 2011 in the Brown Theater at Wortham Theater Center in downtown Houston. For tickets call 1-800-828-ARTS, or visit www.houstonballet.org.

More of The Nutcracker Behind-the Scenes:

Houston Ballet’s The Nutcracker By the Numbers
CultureMap goes Art & About and wants to know…
Team Sugar or Team Snow?
Art and About: Culture Bro and Culture Sis hit the Houston Ballet and learn all about the Nutcracker

Watch this video on YouTube.

Nancy Wozny, aka Culture Sis, aka dancehunter, and Joel Luks, aka Culture Bro, go behind the scenes at the Houston Ballet to learn why Ben Stevenson’s version has been a hit for 24 years.