Just like that, the new academic year is almost upon us. Whether you spent your holidays sweating it out in the studio at summer intensives, or sweating it out in the sunshine, now it’s time to start thinking about the year ahead.
You might be about to start an entirely new school, maybe in another city or even country. You might be moving away for the first time. You might be going to university. You might be continuing where you are, ready to start a new year of work and progress. I’m in the latter category- and I’m determined to make it my best year yet! I have set goals and I’m excited to start working towards them, because I have decided that I want to progress as much as humanly possible this academic year.
The start of the year is the best time to refresh your dancewear wardrobe, pick up some new stationery, and get set for the classes to come. If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll know that I am an absolute stationery addict so back-to-school shopping holds a special place in my heart! I decided to compile something of a wishlist, detailing my picks of all the things a dance student might need for September. Whether you’re shopping for yourself or buying a gift, use this ultimate guide to get what you need to start the year in style!
I have categorised this guide into stationery, dancewear, fitness wear, accessories & tools, and others. This isn’t a sponsored post- the products I’m recommending are ones that are on my personal wish list, or are things that I already use and love. Happy shopping!
Everyone should have an academic planner. It avoids the otherwise inevitable forgetting of important assignments or appointments. If you’re a travel-light, straight-forward kind of person, I recommend the Kikki.K mid-year planner, which I used last year and it did the job perfectly well. If you’re a slightly more planner-obsessed, Type A kind of student (i.e. me) then my personal choice this year is going to be the Erin Condren Academic Planner. I haven’t ordered mine yet but my guess is that it’s fairy chunky. However it’s full of great features, plus you can completely customise it, choosing the cover design, colours, binding and the addition of your name and a photograph to the front or back covers. You can also get all sorts of stickers to personalise the inside!
Bujo Notebook/ General Notebook
If you’re someone who likes to bullet journal, or have a general notebook for keeping your life in order, my new favourite find is the Filofax notebook. I like the Leuchtturm 1917 as much as the next person (most people’s bujo notebook of choice), however the great thing about the Filofax is that the pages are removable and replaceable, and you can buy extra inserts. I buy a mixture of plain, squared, lined and dotted pages, and discard any that I don’t want to keep when I’m done (i.e. I’ll get rid of general lists, notes from when I’m on the phone, etc. but keep my weekly spreads, meal plans and important notes). If you like to get fancy and use paint or ink in your bujo, this is ideal because you can take out the page while you work on it so that nothing gets on the other pages, then put it back in. You can also re-order your notes. The paper is thick, too. Basically, it’s a great notebook, my favourite recent find.
Dance Journal/ Notebook for Corrections
I highly, highly recommend writing down all of your corrections after every class, and reading them before your next class or at the end of each day. This is an important key to improving your dancing a lot in a short space of time, and really overcoming things you struggle with in your technique. You can use any notebook for this, really- as you might have read in the past, I have enjoyed using The Dancer’s Journal. However, I recently created my own dance journal, for more freedom about what I write in it and how. I will do a separate post showing what’s inside if you like- comment below if you’re interested! I’m using a soft-touch notebook from Paperchase in pale pink, but I’d say the Filofax above or the Leuchtterm 1917 are both great choices, too.
Paper for Class/ Lecture Notes
If you’re studying academically as well as taking classes, you’ll need paper to take notes. I’m a university student, (as well as a vocational student! Busy bee!) so for my lecture notes, I swear by the Oxford Campus notebooks and refill pads. The paper is lovely quality, and perforated so it’s easy to tear out and organise into a folder/ ringbinder. There is also an app that allows you to scan all of your notes in easily.
I’ve always used either Stabilo or Staedtler fineliners for general note-taking, because I find that writing in colour helps my memory and makes note-taking more interesting. However, on a recent trip I discovered a Papersmiths shop and fell in LOVE. I picked a few pens and I was so impressed, I went back and got a selection for my return to university. This is more expensive per pen than buying a multipack of fineliners, but it means that I have a more exclusive selection of pens I’ve hand-picked because I love them, in the colours I’ll realistically actually use. (Side-note: Papersmiths have loads of lush stationery, not just pens, anything from there is a great shout).
Planner/ Journal for Home
I’m adding this section because as you may know, I’m a long-time fan of The Happiness Planner. It may seem crazy to have ANOTHER planner on top of a pretty serious academic planner and a bunch of notebooks, but this planner serves a completely different purpose and I’ve found it so helpful in my life. I don’t carry this planner around- it lives at home, I treasure it, and enjoy spending a few minutes each morning and evening filling it in. It helps me to plan out my goals, go into each day with focus and purpose, and reflect on each day with gratitude. I use and adore the mid-year planner, but you can also get the undated 100-day planner if you don’t want to commit to the full one yet. I started off with that one and really enjoyed it. Happiness Planner also have lots of other great positive stationery- I use the gradient notepads for things like meal planning, keeping track of my goals, and habit-tracking (pictured below, along with inspirational pencils, also from The Happiness Planner).
I’m fortunate that neither of my dance institutions have a required uniform for classes, so I can be creative with what I wear to class. I am currently lusting after the new Bloch collection, featuring gorgeous floral prints and interesting patterns in autumnal colours. However, the top spot on my leotard wishlist goes to Maldire dancewear. These handmade leotards are unlike anything else on the market- they are really unique, special and drop-dead gorgeous. I’ve got my eye on the ‘teasing lulu’ print in a boatneck cut- you can choose the designs and cuts on the website. They have also just released a Flower Project collection, with stunning designs completely covered in mesh, and every leo is absolutely to die for!
Seen on the likes of such ballerinas as The Royal Ballet’s Melissa Hamilton, the skirts I’m wanting at the moment are the Designed By Alice wrap skirts. These skirts come in amazing unique designs- my favourites are the Some Fish, Rainbow, and Watermelon (!) designs.
If you don’t need a full, formal rehearsal tutu, the Cloud and Victory tulle skirts work well for rehearsing in place of a romantic tutu and they are ABSOLUTELY STUNNING. I really, really want one of these bad boys, so I’d love to invest in one if I’m ever rehearsing something that requires it. To be honest, I might get one anyway and wear it as a normal skirt because it’s too pretty to confine to the studio!
However, if you do need a proper rehearsal tutu, either classical or romantic, or if your uniform requires a black or white one, then I’d personally choose the Gaynor Minden tutus. I haven’t worn them, but I trust their products completely and these would be my top choice.
I won’t comment on pointe shoes because that’s a completely personal preference, and no one shoe is best for everyone (although if anyone is interested I wear Gaynor Minden), and I am not in a place to advise about dance shoes for other styles (i.e. tap, jazz, ballroom)- if you are then feel free to comment your favourites below to help out anyone looking! However, I do have a pair of ballet flats on my new year wishlist, and those are the MDM ones. You may have seen MDM promoted by lots of young ballet stars on Instagram (including Juliette Doherty and Maria Khoreva), but they are really difficult to find in the UK! I’ve found one website that sells them online- firstposition.com. I want to try the MDM Intrinsic Canvas Hybrid Sole flats. There is actually a newer version- the Intrinsic Profile Stretch Canvas Hybrid Sole, which I would choose given the option, but can’t find them anywhere for sale in the UK- if you know, share the love and comment below!
I really like the idea of these ‘trashbag’ type trousers which are meant to be great for keeping the muscles warm. The most appealing type I’ve found are the Gaynor Minden Microtech Pants, which apparently don’t make a rustling sound which is ideal for class.
As you may know, I love my Bloch warm-up booties to bits… almost literally! I’ve had mine for years, and I can’t believe how well they’ve lasted, because I wear them before and between classes but also around the house as slippers. Mine are still going strong, but they are starting to show their age, so I think that now is a good time to invest in another pair. If you don’t have some, you should get a pair now before the chilly autumn weather sets in. They keep your feet warm like nothing else and are so comfy! You can get plain coloured ones, two-tone, or patterned. I have the orangey ‘scaled’ patterned ones now, and I think my next pair will be ‘kaleidoscope’.
I like leggings because I can wear them for contemporary classes, for my workouts, to warm up in, and around campus so I don’t need to keep changing. I very much want to invest in a pair of Lululemon leggings, because the quality is amazing. They have all sorts of great designs, but the simple Align full-length yoga pants are my favourite, available in a selection of gorgeous colours perfect for autumn and beyond.
I love, love, love the tops from Cloud & Victory. I already have two, but there are so many that I would buy! These tees have beautiful designs, they’re gorgeously and ethically made, and they feature really fun slogans that dancers will love! I have a cropped tee with “TURN UP, TURN OUT” on the front, and a T-Shirt that says “Sissonne the Day”. You can browse the whole selection here. However the one that I really want to get (so much so that I considered taking this bit out so that it doesn’t sell out before I get to buy one, but I decided to be unselfish) is the Will Plié for Pizza sweater in Heather Pink. Heart eyes!
As the chilly weather is coming, keep warm between classes and going about your day. I love jumpers that are designed for yoga, because they’re usually lightweight but still warm and snuggly, and they often have long arms with those thumb holes that make the lines of your arm look really good during barre (also keeps your hands toasty!). My choice out of what’s currently available is the Luxe Simhasana Sweatshirt from Sweaty Betty.
ACCESSORIES & TOOLS
The most-wanted bag of the moment has got to be the Gaynor Minden Studio Bag. It can be carried by the handles or worn as a backpack and has 12 pockets!! I definitely want to get one for those days when I don’t have to carry loads of books around and can just pack my dance kit.
However I was recently told off (literally) by my doctor for carrying my heavy dance bag on my shoulder and damaging my back! What she didn’t know is that I usually carry two bags, containing my dancewear and everything I need for both contemporary and ballet classes, and then also my laptop, stationery, books, water, lunch, and all the other bits I need for the day. This year I’ve decided to do my back a favour and just invest in a large pull-along bag that can store all of my dance things as well as all of my university things. I looked and looked and looked for a wheeled dance bag but apparently such a thing doesn’t exist, unless you want one with a collapsable clothing rack (which is a super cool idea if you go to a lot of competitions, etc. and need to hang your costumes! But totally not what I need). In the end I looked for travel luggage and found my ideal bag, which is a Ted Baker cabin luggage bag and it is gorgeous. However, it’s also £185. It’s staying on my wish list for sure, but as a more affordable option I’ve also found another wheeled holdall on Amazon with a cute design– the only drawback is it doesn’t have as many pockets as I want, but that leads me on to the next list item!
Dance Bag Organiser
The Bloch organiser bag is a really great idea. It has four pockets with zips, big enough so you can store your pointe shoes and flat shoes, and you can also use it to store hair things, sewing things, toe tape/ padding/ pointe shoe accessories, physio tape and creams, etc., or anything else you have floating around your dance bag! It folds up neatly and has a hook so that you can hang it up. A great investment to help you live your most organised life this year!
I’m a huge fan of the Gaynor Minden Flexibility Band. It’s great to help you to stretch in middle splits and arabesque, but it’s also a really useful tool for a variety of conditioning exercises.
I have the Tendu Balance board from Dancia International in London (I actually won it in a Dancia & Danceworks London competition along with a foot massager and theraband, both of which I also recommend). It’s a really good way to work on your balance at home, and you can do it just while watching TV or brushing your teeth, etc. A good addition to your at-home conditioning.
If you don’t already have a foam roller, make it your next purchase! There’s nothing better for working out points of tension in sore muscles and is excellent injury prevention. It’s also a great way to stay loose between sports massages and other therapies. I use a 30cm foam roller by Karrimor, because it’s short enough that I can carry it to the studio if I want to, but big enough that I don’t need a second one. You can get longer ones and I’ve even seen really short ones that are super portable. Decide what you like best, but get one with lumps and bumps because it will get into the muscles so much better.
This hair kit from Bloch is great because it contains everything you need for neat and tidy hair, but the main selling point for me is the little tin it comes in, which is perfect for keeping all of your pins in one place!
You may have spotted this one over on Instagram- Freshify foot spray. I don’t use it at the moment but I’ll definitely be getting some for dance bag for the start of the year! Let’s face it, working out in the same dance shoes and pointe shoes repeatedly is going to eventually lead to less-than-fresh odours! I wash my canvas shoes in the washing machine with my leos once a week, but it’s a no go with pointe shoes, so it’s a good idea to do what you can to keep your feet fresh!
Hydration is so important! I’ve found it surprisingly difficult to find the right water bottle. I had a large metal one, but it was prone to leaking. Then I replaced it with a cute glass bottle with a rubber outer, but that one is really heavy even when it’s empty. So, I’ve been on the hunt for the perfect water bottle for the new academic year. Coming up top in my research are the Chilly’s bottles, which have excellent reviews for keeping hot drinks hot and cold drinks cold. There are loads of gorgeous colours and really cool designs to choose from, but my favourite is the Avocado one- there are a range of sizes but my suggestion for dancers is 750ml for maximum hydration!
Well, that just about completes my list of back-to-school essentials for dancers. I hope that this list helps to give you some ideas and inspiration for your back-to-school shopping!
Before I go, just a reminder that I’m by no needs suggesting you need to buy all new everything for the new year- I won’t be purchasing everything on this list! It’s more a list of things people might be (or should be!) shopping for in preparation of the new year, and my top picks of what I would ideally like to buy if I were shopping for those things.
Let me know if any of these products have made it to your own wishlist, or if you purchase any of them! Also, if there are any other products that you recommend, please do share them in the comments, it’s always great to have recommendations from people who have tried things out.
Until next time,