“The job of feet is walking, but their hobby is dancing.” - Amit Kalantri

There are an estimated 17,000 dancers in the UK. With many different dance clubs and dance schools, you might be wondering if there’s anything, in particular, you’d need to wear to attend.

Some dance schools have a very strict dress code including a leotard, tights, and ballet slippers, whereas others will let you wear anything suitable for dancing. So far, so good. In some cases, the colour of your leotard will indicate your level. In most schools, however, you’ll just be expected to wear clothing appropriate to the style.

In this article, we’ll look just at what you need to wear for ballet classes.

Choosing a Leotard for Ballet

The leotard is a close-fitting garment that allows you to effectively dance without being bothered by your clothing and it also helps your teacher to see your movements. It was invented by French trapeze artist Jules Léotard to help him with his work.

Which are the best leotards for ballet?
Tutus are only usually worn during performances and not during practice. (Source: nikidinov)

Not to be confused with a bodysuit, which is also worn by dancers, particularly in modern dance. The leotard looks a lot like a swimsuit. It’s often worn without underwear. Tights are often worn under the leotard.

The small skirt sewn into some leotards is known as a tutu. The leotard can be worn with a tutu, shorts, leggings, trousers, or a cache-cœur.

There are various types of leotard and you need to choose for the one that fits the best and works well with your dancing:

  • Thick straps
  • Thin straps
  • Criss-cross straps
  • Backless
  • Crew neck
  • Short sleeves
  • 3/4 sleeves
  • Long sleeves
  • Leotard with shorts

The second decision you need to make is the material that your leotard is made of. Leotards were originally made from cotton. This is a comfortable material but it doesn’t wick away sweat very easily. It will also become rougher after multiple washes. Don’t hesitate to try different materials: lycra, elastane, microfibre, polyester, polyamide, Tactel nylon. Each has its advantages and disadvantages so it's up to you to see which works the best.

The best thing is to try them on in the shop, especially if it’s your first time buying one. Each brand is different and sizes might be bigger or smaller than what you’re used to. A leotard needs to be tight-fitting but shouldn’t leave marks on your skin when taken off. Make sure that the straps stay in place and you can move easily.

In terms of colour, that’s up to you: pink, red, black, white, blue, green, etc. There’s something for everyone.

Ballet Slippers and Pointe Shoes

While a lot of little girls dream of owning some pointe shoes, we’re not going to start there. Before you can use pointe shoes, you need solid heels so that you don’t injure yourself. Generally, young girls will start wearing pointe shoes from 11 or 12 depending on their strength.

Check Superprof for dance classes London.

What are ballet shoes?
There are many different factors to consider when buying ballet slippers. (Source: StockSnap)

Pointe technique is very demanding so you need to have the technique mastered before you can try. If you’re starting ballet as an adult, you’re going to need to be patient before you can start dancing in pointe shoes.

You’ll need to invest in some good demi-pointe shoes before you can start doing pirouettes and a grand jeté!

There are several types of ballet slipper. Similarly, there are many things you need to consider:

  • The sole of the demi-pointe shoes: when you first start doing ballet, it’s recommended that you opt for a full sole to offer you stability. When you get to an intermediate level, you can move onto half-sole demi-pointe shoes, which means the middle of your foot is free to move around in the slipper, which can help you for pointe technique. There’s also leather or suede parts under the heel and under the ball of the foot to facilitate turning.
  • The material of the shoe: leather is more durable but less supple. Canvas is supple but tends to wear. You’ll also need to buy demi-pointes if there are holes in them. There are also satin or mixed materials (leather and canvas or elastane) options available.
  • The colour: pink is one of the most common colours but there’s also beige, black, white, red, etc.

For pointe shoes, there are also a few other things to consider:

  • The width: this has to be according to the width of your foot. If they feel tight, you may need wider shoes. If you’re sliding around in the shoe, go for narrower shoes.
  • The durability of the sole: Beginners will start with a supple sole and move up to harder soles over time. Each time you buy new ballet shoes, you’ll need to ask yourself whether or not they need to be harder.
  • The length of the upper: This is how much of the shoe covers the top of your toes and foot.
  • The shape of the inside of the shoe: This might be square or conical depending on the shape of your foot.

It's very important choosing the right ballet shoe or dance shoe to take your time and make sure that you try them on.

How Much Does a Ballet Outfit Cost?

Starting ballet classes requires a bit of investment both in terms of the classes themselves and the ballet outfit. You might be happy starting to do ballet in a t-shirt and bottoms but you’ll soon see that you need to free up your movements. The leotard-tights-slippers combination is the obvious one to go for.

How much do ballet outfits cost?
While entry-level ballet outfits are quite cheap, you can spend a fortune on professional gear. (Source: Vladislav83)
  • Leotard: this can cost between £10 and £60 depending on the style and brand you go for. You can get leotards from Decathlon for just over £10.
  • Tights: these aren’t like your regular tights that ladder at the slightest movement. Ballet tights are reinforced and more resistant. You need to pay around a tenner for a pair of ballet tights. Don’t hesitate to get a few pairs to find your favourites.
  • Dance shoes: these can also cost between £10 and £60 according to style and brand. Block demi-pointes are the professional standard but you’ll expect to pay a good amount for them. If you want to get pointe shoes, you’ll be paying upwards of £50.
  • Other items: leggings, bottoms, tutu, cache-coeur, brassier, etc. There’s plenty of choices for those who don’t feel comfortable in just a leotard and tights. That said, it will cost you a bit more. You can pay around £40 for each of the above.
  • Clothing for warming up: cache-coeur, gaiters, warm-up boots, etc. The price will vary according to what you opt for!
  • Dance accessories: bag, hair accessories, pointe protectors, etc. It’s up to you how much you’re willing to spend on these.

The average cost of a basic ballerina outfit (leotard, tights, slippers) should be around £50. However, this will depend on what you get.

Stage Makeup for Ballet Dancers

If you’re going to be performing on stage, you’ll need to think about the makeup you’ll be wearing and learn how to do stage makeup.

How do you do your makeup for a dance performance?
You won't apply makeup for a dance performance in the same way you usually do. (Source: kinkate)

The most important thing to know is that stage makeup is made to be seen. Your audience won’t be close to you and stage lights and spotlights tend to make faces paler. Thus, you’ll need to exaggerate the colour of your eyes, mouth, and complexion.

Start by applying makeup to your eyelids with three lots of eyeshadow. Apply the lightest layer first, a darker second layer in the middle, and the darkest layer around the edge. Then, add a thicker eyeliner than you’d usually wear. Next, generously apply mascara to your eyelashes.

Now let’s look at your complexion. Consider using a liquid foundation and working from the centre of your face outwards. Powder and matte your skin so that it doesn’t appear shiny on stage. You can also add blush to your cheeks to give your face some contrast.

You’ll want your mouth to be a matte red. Shiny lipstick won’t pop with stage lights. The best idea is to apply it to the contours with a brush. Finish by accentuating your eyebrows.

For more information, don’t hesitate to check our full article on makeup for dancers.

So when will we see you in your first ballet lesson?

If you need more help with ballet, think about getting in touch with the talented and experienced tutors on Superprof. You can get either face-to-face tutorials, online tutorials, and group tutorials and since each comes with its pros and cons, make sure you carefully consider which one will work best for you, your preferred learning style, and your budget.

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Joseph is a French and Spanish to English translator, language enthusiast, and blogger.