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Dance leotards and tights are the dancer uniform

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Leotards and tights are an integral part of dance
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Leotards and tights are the work uniform of a dancer

If you have just enrolled in a tap dancing class, ballet class or jazz class, ask your teacher—or perhaps she will instruct you in advance—what is the preferred or required class wear. Some teachers may want you to wear a specific type of dance leotard and tights; some may be lax about what her students wear, whereas others may want you to wear dance pants or skirts.

Dance leotards and tights come in such a wide variety of colors and styles that, if the rules are unrestricted at your dance studio, you are going to have a field day picking out the ones that you want to shuffle ball change in or plie in or do your jazz maneuvers in.

Leotards can have long sleeves, short sleeves, three-quarter length sleeves or no sleeves. There are halter leotards and tank leotards. Leotards can be off-the shoulder, one-shouldered, turtle neck, boat neck, mock neck or zippered.

There are ballet cut legs or French cut legs, which are higher cut and show off more leg and, in my opinion, make the leg look longer, leaner and generally more attractive.

Leotards come in various fabrics including spandex, cotton, lycra blends, velvet, foil velvet, iridescent velvet, sparkly velvet and nylons.

If you have never worn a leotard, this is going to involve some trial and error on your part. You want to be comfortable and look good. Some dancers prefer cotton over lycra or spandex. It simply boils down to what feels and looks best to you and which leotard allows you to move, lift your arms freely, and doesn’t cut you in the crotch or ride up too high on your butt.

If you are big-busted you will need to wear a bra under your leotard so pick a style that accommodates and conceals your bra straps. Some leotards are equipped with shelf bras but they do not provide adequate support for large breasted women. Some leotards come with cups, which will give you more support than the shelf bra.

The leotard that you select should not be too loose, too tight, too baggy or uncomfortable. Leotard size and fit varies tremendously by brand so you should probably try on your leotard before purchasing. Once you get an idea of which brand fits and flatters you the best, you can start purchasing your leotards online.

If you have a long torso or are especially tall, try to find leotards that accommodate this body type. If the leotard is too short in the torso, it is going to ride up on you, cut your crotch, and pull down on your shoulders. This is not comfortable and certainly is not conducive to dancing. The straps on your leotard should not be uncomfortable, nor should they pinch, squeeze or tug.

Tights are what a dancer wears on her legs. They provide support for your legs as well as flatter the heck out of your gams.

Tights can be footed, footless, ankle length, calf length or above the knee, much like biker shorts. They come in various colors and designs. Some are opaque, some are shiny, some have seams up the back, while others do not

Tights that have small hole under the foot, which enables the dancer to wear the tights as footed or she can roll her tights up and around her ankle. This is called a convertible tight. Stirrup tights have a hole cut out in the heel and footless tights stop at the ankle. There are full body tights that cover your entire body from the neck down. Full body tights can have long sleeves or feature cami straps.

Some tights are more stretchy than others, depending on the material, and some simply feel and perform better. Once again, this is going to be a matter of trial and error. Try various styles and see which fits you the best, which is most comfortable and, of course, which is the most flattering.

Even when you are not dancing, dance leotards and tights are wonderful to wear. In the winter, they provide you a comfortable and warm extra layer. Leotards look great with skirts and pants as well as under jackets. Tights can be worn anytime, any place.

Resources: The informative guide to choosing dancewear

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