What color is “nude”

Julia Kocsis, Assistant Editor

Photo by https://www.yougogirldancewear.com/Grab-Bag-Adult-Footed-Tights-p/gb-footed-ad.htm
One of the many disappointing ranges of tight colors for dancers

When you hear something referred to as a “nude” color, what image comes to mind? We should think of a variety of different flesh tones, but like the fashion and beauty industries, the dancewear industry sees “nude” as a color ranging from pale pink to light tan.

For those whose skin tone does not fall within the narrow, whitewashed spectrum, finding dancewear in an appropriate shade is a longstanding problem.

Basic dancewear necessities like shoes and tights tend to come in three colors: ballet pink, black and “nude,” which only matches a specific light tan shade. These choices do not even begin to cover the extensive breadth of human skin colors.

“Currently, to my knowledge, there are not any pointe shoe companies that create shoes in flesh tones,” says Chyrstyn Fentroy, a member of the Dance Theatre of Harlem.
Being limited to only pale tones poses an obvious problem for dancers of color, and the lack of readily available, diverse dancewear options is embarrassing.

“As an African American dancer, I feel unrepresented in the dancewear industry because of the minimal amount of dark skin tone garments,” said Janae Bell, a Wake County student.

Dancers of color have to go to ridiculous lengths to achieve temporary shade solutions for their tights, shoes and other accessories. Common practices are taking “nude” tights, shoes and tutus and dyeing or painting them a darker tone. This is an extremely laborious task and the results are imperfect and short-term.

There are only a handful of new companies that cater to dancers of color, like Shades of Dance, a dancewear company founded in 2008 offering tights in 10 shades. Hue Polish by Kinetic Essentials for canvas ballet and pointe shoes is a popular polish made in nine skin-tone shades.

These are popular, solid options but they cannot solve the root of the issue– a blatant lack of convenient options for dancers of color. It should not be any harder for a dancer of color to find appropriate dancewear than for a lighter-skinned dancer. It is simply not fair, realistic or justified.

“I love having flesh tone shoes and I really do think that no matter what your skin color is, having shoes that create one continuous line from the top of your leg to the tip of your toe allows the audience to focus on all of the beautiful things your body has as a ballet dancer and not focus on what you are wearing,” said Fentroy.

Dancers like Misty Copeland, who made history by becoming the first African-American principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre, inspire others to keep dancing and pushing for diversity and more color options, in the dance world and the world as a whole.