My Bag of Tips and Tricks: The Unusual Things Every Dancer Needs

Happy holiday season! Everyone likes a little behinds the scenes peek every now and then right? Yesterday in a shoot we started talking about all the little tricks I have to solve problems that come up for dancers in our studio and we thought we’d give you a little Holiday Grab Bag of odd, unique and interesting tidbits. It’s like the proverbial ‘what’s in your dance bag’ articles in Dance Magazine, but for dance photography!

Now, you know me, I like to give out real info, no fluff posts here! We are not advertising for anyone and we are not getting paid by anyone to push their products. This is a list of real problem solvers that we have researched for dance photography clients, found through clients and vendors, or sourced as a way to solve a problem we were working through in the studio. Everyone has a unique opinion on what works and what doesn’t.  These are just mine and I am happy to share them with you!

1) Ever been in a class or rehearsal space where they won’t let you use rosin but you are slipping all over the place or in a photoshoot with a photographer who wasn’t a dancer and doesn’t understand that the quality of the floor is important?

I spent about a year working on this one: when we use paper backgrounds in the studio, dancers slip. It’s dangerous, and I’m all about dancer’s safety (to the point where we actually put in a sprung floor when we built my photography studio in Long Island City!).

We tried water, soda, traditional rosin, roughing up the platforms of shoes with a scraper, even a solution that dries sweaty palms for aerialists. Some solutions were better than others, but most left marks on our paper that cost me a lot of retouching time. Then I had a pole dancer into the studio last year, Phoenix introduced me to.. wait for it… Firm Grip by Cramer. It’s an anti slip spray, a ‘natural rosin formula’ that we order from Amazon. Better and cheaper than the spray rosin from Chacotte. Spray it straight on your shoes, not on the paper or floor.

2) Occasionally we have dancers in the studio that have super fine, slippery hair. Or, sometimes we want to create a crazy up-do that requires a lot of help.

Two years ago I had a makeup and hair person introduce us to Powder Play from BigSexyHair. Little red bottle, (again, I Amazon it), shake it like baby powder on your hair and presto, it’s like rosin for your hair!!! Awesome!

3) Still searching for leotards that actually look good on you?

If you haven’t already, get a copy of our Leotard Guide.

4) Don’t have the best feet in the world? Interested in using fake arches under your tights?

Listen, we don’t like to talk about it. We like everything to be ‘all us’. But if you are a totally awesome dancer but blessed with average feet, sometimes a little help boosts the confidence. I won’t tell you how many dancers I work with that use them, but I can tell you some of them have gotten jobs, and that’s what it’s about sometimes right? I had a dancer in recently whose mom bought her the best things to use… Nipple Concealers!!!!

Yes you read that right. We have found most fake arches to look, well, fake. They don’t like to stay in place, they can be too bulky, sometimes you need a sock that bunches to go over them to hold them down. Bunhead Smoothies are the best… they kind of stick to your foot, are just slightly big enough to be realistic and just smooth out your line. I saw them for myself, 3 hours later in a shoot and they hadn’t moved and still looked good.

Dance photographer Rachel Neville holiday NYC

5) It’s hair static time!

A handy little trick when you don’t want to wet your hair in a shoot but the flyaways are flying: use a dryer sheet to smooth over those areas gently.  You won’t crush any curls or shift the blowout but you will tame the strays. If you don’t have a dryer sheet, you can use Static Guard: don’t spray it on your hair (it smells a little toxic), spray it on a paper towel then smooth your hair!

6) One of my favorite makeup artists, James, begins his sessions with dancers by doing their eyes first.

That way any powder droppings from shadows and liners are easily brushed away before the foundation is applied, rather than having to ‘fix’ the foundation. Yah, can’t believe we hadn’t thought of that one before, right?

7) James is also currently using a for contouring cheekbones a neutral toned check color (not pinks or reds) and dipping the brush lightly in grey before applying.

Genius right? This is what shadows actually are, an area where there is less light. To a photographer this makes perfect sense, because shadows are actually grey areas, to increase them we sometimes just decrease the density of the light, which we do by adding darkening down the area, not shifting the color.

Finally, the one you’ve been waiting for…

8) What tights are best for photoshoots?

There really isn’t a definitive answer here.  Ever dancer has favorite tights for different reasons. Some dancers like a soft waistband, others like hard. Some like mesh, others do not…

The list of preferences goes on and on, but here are my guidelines:

Avoid pink tights.  Most shoot slightly blue or green tinged, particularly the more they are washed, and they give your legs the stuffed white tube look. Tights that are as close to your skin tone are best, the thinner the better for a photo shoot. The flip side to that is that they run easily, so make sure to pack two pairs. Also look for a softer waistband that doesn’t pull your skin in at the waist.

I do not like Capezio tights. There, I said it. I feel so politically incorrect! I do like that they make a low rider version that goes under low backed Yumiko leos well, but their color does not shoot well.

I do like Gaynor Minden Natural/Classic mesh – very thin, soft and excellent color. Probably the best color out there. Unfortunately, the gusset on these stretches out quite a bit and is a pain to retouch. Take heart, I’m told that they are aware of this and will more than likely be fixing it soon.

I also like American Movement tights. Supper soft and do not shoot blue, but the mesh can be a little orange before the first several washes. The gusset on these: excellent.

Finally, I love the shadowing on the performance version of Zarely wear tights. I create that shadowing on my dance photography clients with lighting, but the added extra there is just subtle enough not to be noticed by the average eye and to have the desired effect if you don’t have the lighting to work with. There is a cooler color tone to these tights, so if you have a warm skin tone your photographer may have to adjust the color on your legs.

One More Gift for My Readers

For all my blog readers, I thought you might like a shot at picking up our Human Nature Calendar! For the next week, you can use the code BLOG15 to receive 15% off to purchase this beautiful, great-for-Christmas Lists present!

Lots of love to you all in this holiday season,



One Comment Add yours

  1. prince17 says:

    Thank you for sharing your tips and tricks for dancers. Nice stuff.

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