Ballet dancers have a deep and rich history of dancewear, mainly known for their iconic formfitting clothes that reveal their sleek silhouettes while providing optimal movement on the dancefloor. The perfect amalgamation of simplistic leotards, chiffon wrap skirts, pale pink stockings, and tutus or tulles are all functional yet classics representations of ballet history. But why do ballet dancers wear leg warmers?
Ballet dancers wear leg warmers to prevent injuries, tone their legs, and keep their muscles warm between rehearsals or class. Leg warmers offer light compression and warmth that promotes blood flow and keeps the muscles warm, decreasing cramping and sustaining severe injuries.
Putting all funky 90s fashion statements aside, leg warmers are a functional must-have for ballet dancers. So, continue reading to gain clarity as to why these knit, wooly warmers are a vital accessory to a ballerina’s work outfit.
Why Do Ballet Dancers Wear Leg Warmers?
Leg warmers are a cost-effective investment that all ballerinas should make. As the name implies, leg warmers mostly keep the bottom half of the leg’s muscles warm. However, they also keep the legs toned and reduce the risk of cramping or serious injuries without inhibiting the dancer’s range of movement.
A ballet dancer’s legs are the center of everything they do. Therefore, most of the weight goes directly onto the legs and calves.
When the dancers bend into different dance moves or stand on tippy toes, their body weight comes crashing down on their legs – the only difference is that weight distributes differently.
The calf contains two essential muscles – the gastrocnemius and soleus, which are vital to support the entire body.
The gastrocnemius is the most significant calf muscle that you’ll notice bulging beneath your skin when you flex your calves. But then, the soleus is a minor muscle that rests directly underneath the gastrocnemius, helping to connect the larger calf muscles to the bone without being disruptive.
Most leg injuries are attributed to extreme tension or force in the leg, meaning a lack of blood flow, oxygen delivery, and excess lactic acid surrounding the muscle.
One adverse leg injury where one of these two muscles tear can spell the end of a career as it can take months to get back on your feet! So, self-care and prevention are an absolute must for any ballet dancer, irrespective of how simplistic wearing woolly leg warmers may sound.
Ballet dancers wear leg warmers for the following reasons:
- To prevent injuries: Leg warmers help keep your muscles warm, protecting them from the cold.
- To warm up before class: Leg warmers speed up, warming your body before class.
- To tone their legs: Leg warmers help tone your legs.
- To stay warmed up: Leg warmers keep your muscles warm between classes and rehearsals.
- For optimal flexibility: Leg warmers help achieve peak flexibility faster and maintain flexibility.
How Do Leg Warmers Help Prevent Injuries?
The secret to leg warmers is warmth!
During practice, you’ll notice that ballet dancers wear leg warmers that go from their ankles to their knees or sometimes halfway up their thighs.
A dancer often has multiple dance classes per day, and the start and stop between these sessions is a leading culprit in everyday dancers’ injuries.
These easy-on/easy-off knit let warmers ensure that the dancers’ muscles retain their stretch and blood flow between classes.
Sufficient heat encourages your blood vessels to expand, allowing an increased blood flow. As a result, more oxygen is delivered to your muscles, resulting in a less lactic acid build-up and solid and healthy legs.
Leg warmers are a quick and efficient way to warm ballet dancers’ legs, primarily through the winter. Leg warmers make up for leotards and tights that do not offer a lot of heat retention.
Ballet dancers commonly practice for multiple hours per day, making it exhausting to manually warm up their leg muscles before every rehearsal or class.
Pros And Cons Of Legwarmers
With all the fantastic benefits legwarmers offer, you may want to keep your pair on for every class. However, they have one or two cons worth noting before never taking them off again.
Here’s a quick rundown of the pros and cons of legwarmers:
|PROS OF LEGWARMERS||CONS OF LEGWARMERS|
|Legwarmers help tone your legsLegwarmers help prevent crampingThey protect your legs from the cold air conditioningThey help warm up your body, especially if you are cold and stiff before classThey keep your body warm between classes and rehearsalsLegwarmers helps increase optimal flexibility||Legwarmers can tire your muscles if they are too warmYou do not have to work as hard to warm up your muscles properly, so you can end up trying less hard in class|
What Ballet Leg Injuries Do Leg Warmers Prevent?
During ballet practice, the number of leg injuries is far more extensive than most people think. Here are some of the primary leg injuries leg warmers can help prevent.
- Seriously sprained ankles can carry beyond the ankle up to the calf.
- Muscle tears can cripple a dancer’s ability to dance and move.
- Leg sprains that lead to dancer’s heel, a result of improper posture that affects the ankle’s rear.
Why Do Some Ballet Dancers Only Wear One Leg Warmer?
When offstage, ballet dancers are primarily concerned with keeping their muscles warm to prevent injury.
Ballet dancers wearing one leg warmer are generally fondling over a niggling injury in that leg.
Why Don’t Ballet Dancers Wear Leg Warmers On Stage?
Have you ever noticed that ballerinas do not wear leg warmers on stage? Well, there is a three-fold reason behind this observation.
- Ballet dancers warm up their muscles before going on stage. So, they do not need the additional warmth. In fact, it’ll tire their muscles faster.
- The spotlights on stage are extremely hot and provide ballet dancers with plenty of warmth that helps maintain widened blood vessels and excellent blood flow.
- Ballet dancers need to be presentable when going on stage. While leg warmers are part of the dancers’ attire, they aren’t meant to be seen by the public as leg warmers are seen as unsightly and unprofessional.
Injuries happen within a blink of an eye and can signal the end of a career (at least a lead role in a concert). So, using these convenient and cost-effective warmers can help ballet dancers prevent sustaining serious injuries without inhibiting their movement.
Whether you are practicing at the studio or your apartment, leg warmers make sense to give your muscles a toasty head start.