A Dancer’s Tools

Dancer's bag

A painter needs a paintbrush to complete their piece of art, a sculptor needs clay to make a masterpiece and a musician can’t play a song without their instrument. On the other hand a soccer player needs a ball to score a goal, a football player needs a helmet to protect their head and ice skaters can’t get on the ice without a proper pair of skates. Dancers are artistic athletes who use their bodies to tell a story and express their art form through movement. Without the proper tools this can be extremely difficult. To set your dancer up for success you need to make sure they have the proper tools.

When a studio enforces a dress code they are preparing your child for success and safety in class. As dance teachers we try to ensure that students have what they need to succeed. Can you imagine trying to learn tap with shoes that are too big or doing a jump in a pair of ballet shoes that are too tight? How about doing a turn when your hair gets in your eyes or having a necklace with tons of beads that break all over the floor where people are dancing? These are all things that I encounter everyday as a dance teacher and I want to help parents and students understand why there is a need for a dress code and how to set your student up for success.

Dance 101 Dancers Stretching At Barre

I had a teacher once say, “To feel like a dancer you must look like a dancer.”  When instructors are able to properly see alignment they can prevent injuries and incorrect habits. If a student is wearing clothing that is too baggy around their middle I might not be able to help them strengthen their abdominals to prevent back injury. A pair of baggy pants over the knees would not let me see if the student is tracking their knees over their toes to prevent a muscular imbalance in the leg. Habits are hard to break and the sooner I can correct them the better. We all want our children to grow up to be healthy active adults with little or no injury and I am here to start them on that right track.

Dancers should wear clothing that does not have to be re-adjusted during the course of his/her class. A dancer should be able to move freely without restriction. I sometimes have students who play with their attire (i.e. roll skirts up in their hands, put clothing in their mouth, pull clothing into the incorrect area). Can you imagine the distraction that it causes for not only the student who is mesmerized by their clothing, but also the other students who might want to play with their own outfit in the same way? This is even distracting for the teacher who is trying to correct a student’s movements and can’t since they are playing with their clothing instead of dancing. If your child tends to be tactile perhaps the best outfit for dance is a plain leotard with tights. This type of outfit is very classic, simple and easy to move in. I also want to note that jean shorts are not dance attire. They aren’t easy to move in, nor do they cover properly when stretching, kicking or jumping. Feel free to express yourself, but please do not wear anything you wouldn’t wear to school or an interview (i.e. tiny spandex shorts, exposed midriff, sagging shorts with exposed underwear).

Tights are highly recommended to protect the feet from blisters. I know it seems counter intuitive to wear tights when the temperature is 110 degrees outside, but it is the contrary. When a dancer wears all leather dance shoes (which is the kind of shoe that they should have) their feet sweat and swell in the shoe. A pair of tights will absorb the sweat and keep the shoe comfortable to move in.  When the student then goes to change into their next shoe (be it tap or jazz) it will slide on easily. Socks are not recommended to wear with ballet, tap or jazz shoes. These shoes should only fit when wearing tights, if you have socks on with them it is hard to feel the floor and move your foot freely in the shoe. If you have to wear a pair of socks with your ballet or tap shoes then they are too big. All shoes should be fit with a pair of tights. Socks don’t slide into dance shoes with the same ease as a pair of tights and when you are trying to change an entire class of 3-5 year olds into the next shoe, the easiest way is always the best way. Tights are also a good idea is for the safety and health of your student. With open wounds and sores (otherwise known as boo-boos) we always run the risk of spreading diseases. Keep his or her precious legs covered so when we can all be safe when we are on the dance floor.


All hair should be pulled back and secured. Did you know that I once did a turn on stage with my hair in a low, long ponytail and sucked a piece of hair down my throat? No joke. From then on it was bun or braid for me only. The students in all levels are working on turns and their hair needs to be pulled up and out of their face and eyes. A hair stuck in the eye is no fun either.

For the dancer’s safety, dangling jewelry is not allowed. Not only do we run the risk of having the jewelry break and leave tiny pieces all over the floor, but also it is a distraction for the student. They tend to play with necklaces and bracelets and end up taking them off halfway through the class anyways. We should lessen the distraction by just removing it prior to dance class.

Do you know what style of shoe is required for your dancer’s class? Urban dance requires shoes, sneakers or “kicks” that should be flat on the bottom (try not to wear running shoes, they are harder to move around in). We ask that all urban students designate a pair of shoes that are used strictly for urban. Please carry in your urban shoes and only wear them in the studio to keep the dance floor clean and free from debris. These Urban students will find themselves on the floor working on breaking moves and they don’t want to be dancing in a pile of sand from their shoes that they wore on the playground too.

For ballet, tap, and jazz I highly recommend buying your shoes from a local dancewear store. There are some shoes on the market, which are not good quality (sold at Big Box Retailers) and can actually hurt your dancer’s feet. The dancewear stores can size your child’s foot and make sure they get a proper fit. Please check that the fitter allows some room at the end for growth (less than a fingers’ width). If you are buying at a second hand store beware…you might accidentally purchase a brand of shoe that is sold at the Big Box Retailers (i.e. Target, Walmart, Amazon). Two brands I recommend for all ages and styles is Bloch or Capezio. Remember, you should always have your child with you because each brand fits differently. The local dancewear stores offer discounts when you say you dance at DANCE 101. If you have any questions about the fit I would be happy to look at them before your child dances in the shoes so they can be exchanged if needed. Always check with the store on exchange policies before purchasing the shoes.

Here is a list of the local dancewear stores.
(Shop local and support other small businesses in our city!)

Barry’s Capezio
Dee’s Dancewear
Body Language

Dance 101 Dresscode Ballet
Dance 101 Dresscode Ballet Tap Jazz

Does your child have the proper fitting shoes for class?
A dancer will have trouble learning their technique if their shoe is constantly squeezing their feet or falling off. Please check periodically if their shoes fit or ask me to check. I try to let parents know when I see a shoe is not fitting well or if a student tells me that their shoes are hurting them. I do have a bin of shoes that can be borrowed on a temporary basis, but students really need their own pair of shoes to ensure that they have a proper fit.

Is your dancer set up for success in dance class? Please review DANCE 101’s Studio Policies for more dress code information.

And the most important part of a dancer’s dress code is to carefully label all dance items including shoes so that I can help dancers keep track of their proper equipment!

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