Starter’s Guide: Ballet Class – Clothing, Footwear and Books
New to ballet, not sure what clothing to get, what footwear is right for you? With so many clothing options, dance specific footwear, and books to read, where do you start? Don’t worry; I’ve prepared a complete starter’s guide to get you ready for your first ballet class.
If you are like me, I like to do some research before I jump into something new. If this is the case, I suggest the following two books to get you introduced to some of the terminology you will here in ballet class as well as some historical background on the most famous ballets out there.
First up is the Classical Ballet Technique by Gretchen W. Warren. This book contains ballet vocabulary with explanations of the steps along with visual aids of dancers in each stage of the step to help you understand how the step should look. Additionally, the book has practical advice for those who are willing to commit and go far in the art of ballet. Having a book you can reference ballet vocabulary will be invaluable when you are done with each ballet class.
- Keep a notebook. After each class write down the new terms you heard during class. Then when you get home, or if you have the book with you, search for the ballet term and review. When you learn ballet you not only learn new dance moves, you are also learning a new language. Click here to read my article on 3 Major Benefits of Learning Ballet Terminology.
Second up is one of my favorite gifts I received during the winter holiday. It is The Faber Pocket Guide to Ballet (Faber Pocket Guides) by Deborah Bull and Luke Jennings. A quick guide inclusive of the most famous ballets in the world, when they debuted with which company and who the choreographer and composers are. Did I mention it also offers a synopsis of what the ballet is about? Basically, all you need to know about renowned ballets at your fingertips. A great investment that will help you impress not only your ballet teacher but also your friends and family.
Now that you’ve got your research materials in the bag, let’s move on to clothing. Usually if you are an adult, the studio where you will be attending class will be pretty flexible on dress code. Meaning they will let you wear form-fitted clothing, like yoga pants/running leggings and any exercise top of your choosing. However, if you want to go the more professional route and wear a leotard, tights and a chiffon wrap skirt (what a female ballet dancer typically wears) or black tights and form-fitted white t-shirt (what a male ballet dancer typically wears), I’ve got you covered.
Nowadays there are many different leotard styles, cuts and fits. However, the more common styles have to do with sleeve length. You have the choice of camisole, tank, short sleeve, or long sleeve. After the sleeve length you can get creative with colors, fabrics, embellishments like lace or cinching and prints. For those starting out, I would recommend a black leotard. The color is flattering on all skin colors and it covers any undergarments you choose to wear for support. In terms of sleeve length, think about what you would be most comfortable in. My favorites are the camisole leotards, I feel they accentuate the beautiful collarbone area and freely show off those ballet arms. But like I said, leotards are a personal preference; so go with your gut.
There are many brands and styles and even colors of tights. I prefer the transitional tights because they allow you to go from having your toes covered, to “rolling” them up and having your foot uncovered for floor work. In terms of colors, pink is the go-to selection for classical ballet class; however, black is a great color and as I’ve gotten older it is definitely my go-to choice for class.
If you are interested in covering up a little more a chiffon wrap skirt is in order. These are great because they offer coverage but still allow the instructor to see your lines for corrections. Again my preference is to wear one in black. Here are some options I’ve found to offer a nice length.
Apart from the traditional clothing sometimes you’ll want to spice things up a bit with a fun t-shirt. There are so many options out there that it was definitely hard for me to narrow my selections down, but here are some of my favorites.
Many male dancers prefer a nylon, spandex blend for a more form-fitted look. For colors the most classic selection is black and I agree this a good choice for the most coverage. Here is one option that could be a great option for someone starting out in ballet class.
Traditionally a white t-shirt is worn with the black tights. Any white undershirt will do, but I’ve found one here that could be a nice fit.
FULL BODY SUIT – SHORTS
Another option in place of black tights and a white t-shirt could be a body suit/unitard. Perhaps you would be more comfortable with a one piece, if this is the case, I have found an option for you.
For more support for our male dancer friends a dance belt is in order. There are many styles for whatever your preference is and level of comfort. Here are several options to get you off to a great start.
Ballet slippers are definitely something that is based on preference and whether you like leather or canvas material better than the other and what brand you are fonder of. In addition to your choice in material you will also be faced with the decision to select full sole or split sole. Unfortunately, this means you will have to go through a trial and error period until you find your best fit. Nevertheless, I am here to help you sort out which might be your best bet by providing my favorite slippers and the pros to each. I like leather more than canvas. The reason behind this was because in my old studio we were not allowed to wear canvas (cloth ones) so I grew to love leather. Click here to read my article on How to Select the Right Ballet Slipper for You?
Pros to leather:
- Longer lasting
- Develops your feet more because they are a bit stronger material and it takes more strength to “break them in”
Pros to canvas:
- Easier to break in because of their softer material
- I believe they are a bit more affordable when compared to leather slippers
I also prefer split-sole slippers and both leather and canvas come in this option. When I was younger I used Bloch brand, but recently purchased Capezio brand. Both are very nice and perform beautifully. Here are some options to get you started.
As you start to try the different items out you will become more familiar with what you prefer. Hopefully, this starter’s guide will help you sort out all the clothing, footwear and books you will be able to focus on learning ballet and the experience the many joys of dancing.
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