Diving into the Dance Bag with Maarja Praks

What do you picture when you think of a ballerina? Do you picture the girl in the tutu with perfect makeup, bedazzled from head to toe? Or do you picture the girl in the studio with baggy old clothes, a messy bun, and a giant dance bag? Well, both are very accurate pictures of ballerinas. We can bounce from one fashion statement to the next within an hour. But if you have the image of the latter ballerina, you may have also wondered why in the world they carry around giant bags all day long. What could possibly be in there that they need so much and at all times?
Well, today is the big reveal. In preparation for this interview, I asked the ballerinas of the Estonian National Ballet, who has the biggest dance bag in the company. The answer was unanimous, Maarja Praks.

Maarja Praks is an Estonian ballerina. She was born and raised here and now works at the national company bringing so much life and beauty to both the studio and stage. She is not only a beautiful dancer, but a hard worker, responsible, always ready and eager to work and give her best. All of these characteristics are also evident in the things she carries in her bag. Whether it’s snacks for her friends, cream for her ankles, or sewing stuff to always be productive, she never misses a beat when it comes to living the ballerina life beautifully.

So, when choosing a dance bag Maarja explains that bigger is indeed better.

“I used to have a small bag and my things would fall out nonstop. And at some point, I was like ok I need to make an investment and get a proper bag and it needs to be huge! And it’s nice if it is in a dark color because, honestly, we always put it on the floor and there is no point in having a nice light pink bag because it would just get dirty very quickly.”

As Maarja likes to be organised the next priority is it needs to have lots of pockets.

“It takes less time to find my things (if you have pockets) than if they’re all in one.”

Altogether her bag has about 6 -7 pockets but she wishes it had even more.

Now time to look inside the bag, or bags, rather.

The most important bag is the pointe shoe bag. Maarja has to carry around lots of shoes because for her they die quickly and she wants to have the option to change them out whenever she needs or according to the rehearsal.
Maarja also always has sewing stuff in this bag. That way she can make the most of long breaks or rehearsals where she doesn’t have to dance much.

Pointe shoesMultiple pairs for specific rehearsals. 
Soft shoesFor class or contemporary rehearsals.   
Sewing stuffMaarja always has sewing stuff so she can make the most of long breaks or rehearsals where she doesn’t have to dance much.

And now for everything else.

Content Purpose
ThermosMaarja always has coffee or tea on hand.
HeadphonesTo avoid socialising in the morning (kidding- kind of) and to help focus on warm up.
Cable pliers For darning pointe shoes – saves your fingers!
More pointe shoe sewing stuffYou can never have enough.
Toe tapBallerinas sometimes tape their toes to prevent blisters.
Jet GlueA dry-fast glue that hardens pointe shoes to help them last a little longer.
LighterFor burning fraying ribbons.
Leather needleFor poking the hole into your pointe shoe so you can darn them.
Hot GlueYou never know…
Nail clipsEmergency nail trimming. Proper toenail length is essential for pain free dancing.
Scissors There are endless uses for scissors.
Black an white threadFor black or white shoes.
Rosin To make your shoes less slippery – there is nothing more scary than dancing on a slippery floor.
BandagesFor any kind of blister, cut, etc…
Physio Tape Sometimes dancers literally need to tape themselves back together. Physio tape provides that extra support certain bones or muscles might need.
CandyNo explanation needed.
ShirtIf its too cold for a leotard, but too warm for a sweater.
NutsMore for Maarja’s friends than for herself.
Energy barsSnacks for Maarja. She doesn’t like to eat a lot before a rehearsal, so snacking is a very important part of her day.
Long SkirtFor rehearsals- What dancers wear in rehearsal should resemble the costumes they will wear on stage.
Short skirtsFor class – normally black or nude colours. Short in length so legs can be seen and more thoroughly corrected. 
Isostar candyHas caffeine. Life saver on hard, long days. 
Toy CherryMaarja says she has no idea how it ended up in her changing room, but now it’s in her dance bag. 
Victoria’s Secret Forbidden Berries perfumeFor when you need to freshen up in-between rehearsals. Ballerinas tend to sweat a lot and need to counter that with a sweet fragrance. 
Blanket/MatPrevents bruising when doing warm up exercises in the morning. Also comes in handy to cuddle in when the studios are cold.
Warm Socks. For keeping feet and ankles warm in-between rehearsals.
Duoball RollerFor rolling out calves and neck area. 
Ankle LeggingsHelps warm up the ankles without having to wear chunky booties.
Three different therobandsGood to have options depending on what exercises you want to do, and so you can monitor your load.
Medicine BagSometimes you have to dance through pain, meds can help.
Warm up shall.Keeps the lower back warm – one of Maarja’s pain-prone points.
Second skin.Blue silicon gels that protect from blisters and alleviate pain. 
TowelMaarja can’t recall ever using it, but its cute and she likes it.
My huge water bottle Maarja admits she often forgets to drink water. But she carries it in hopes that she will remember. It is also a thermos, so when she feel a little sick she can make a huge amount of tea and sip on it throughout the day. 
Random NapkinYou never know…
More RosinWe also put it on our heels so the shoe won’t slip of from our feet.
Bear BalmA random discovery. A balm Maarja uses every single day. It makes her feet really warm and she feels no pain.l with this magical cream.
Lip BalmAlways a must no matter who you are.
Tiny ballVery effective in rolling out feet when they are all jammed together. It cracks all the small bones and helps the muscles relax again.
A pen. For taking notes.
A  notebook For writing down my thoughts and corrections she might get throughout the day.
Hair pins and mirrorFor touching up your hair when it gets overly frazzled.
Tea BagsImportant for little tea breaks. 
Foam RollerWarm up, stretching, muscle health maintenance.

We asked Maarja one last, very important question: If she was stranded on a ballet island, which five items would she take with her?

Here is her answer.

  1. A pair of pointe shoes
  2. Foam roller
  3. Snacks
  4. Bear Balm
  5. Thermos
  6. Warm up Mat

Oops she chose six items… I guess it is really impossible to survive on five.

As you can see, ballerinas carry around far more than tutus and a pair of pointe shoes. There are so many necessary tools that a ballerina could need on any day to day.

What surprised you most? What is in your dance bag? Do let us know in the comments below.

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