Saturday, August 31, 2013

Boy Gear 101

Josh Schwartz
-Portland Festival Ballet
 What do boys wear to ballet class?


Are guys tights the same as girls?  What should they wear on top?  And what the heck is a dance belt??

Men's dance wear can be almost as difficult to navigate as women's.  To add to the mystery, some studios may one have one or two young men dancing there.  You don't always have the option to ask a more experienced dancer or another mom for guidance with the gear. 

Dance Belts
First, what's a dance belt and does my dancer need one?  (Girls, look away.  We're gonna get kind of personal here.)

A dance belt is a support garment worn like underwear.  It keeps the genitals up, out of the way, and firmly packaged so there is no unnecessary movement or danger of being aggressively pinched while dancing.  It also helps to 'smooth things out' so that they are not so exposed in their tights.  They're generally worn by dancers who have already reached puberty or are close to it.  If you have a very young dancer (under 10 or 11) he probably doesn't need one yet.  Snug underpants will do just fine. 

Dance belts are usually sold by waist size, in black, white or nude, and you should purchase the color closest to (but not lighter than) your dancer's skin tone.  They have a wide waist band, a frontal 'pocket' and a thong back.  They should fit snug but not tight.  Nothing should be able to move without his permission. 
They're meant to be worn at the natural waist, with the thong back seated firmly between the cheeks.  Last, your dancer should 'scoop and lift' himself into the pocket so that everything is pointed up towards his belly button.  This should create a smooth (and not distracting) bump in the tights.

Men's Tights
Men's Tights are NOT the same as women's.  I can't say that enough.  They would be more aptly called men's footed leggings.  They are not sheer and are meant to be worn as pants.  Older dancers generally prefer microfiber tights like M. Stevens or similar brands.  

Tights should be worn at the natural waist with the crotch pulled up snug against his body.  The rear seam should be settled snug against his behind (noticing a trend yet?)  Tights that are not pulled up completely can create a kind of "webbed" effect in the crotch and limit the movement of his legs.  

It can be very difficult to find boy's tights for very small boys.  Some studios will allow little guys to wear leggings rather than tights, as these can be found in the girls department at most major stores.  (Just don't tell him where you found them!  *wink wink*)

Most dance schools prefer black tights for young men.

On Top
There are a few choices here, depending on what your studio and your dancer prefer.  The important thing is that whatever he chooses to wear on his top half should be form fitting to keep the lines of his body visible.

Some young men wear a snug athletic shirt (like Under Armour or similar brands) or a fitted white tank top like the ones worn under a dress shirt.

Your studio may require a leotard for their young men.  Very young boys can get away with a unisex leotard from the dance shop.  Young men who are into puberty will need a men's leotard.  They have a slightly different cut and will generally have a thong back.  This will keep the leotard in place, but offers no support or coverage, so a dance belt should still be worn.

Most studios prefer young men to wear white on top.

Men have all of the same options for shoes as women.  Leather and canvas, full- and split-soles.  Boys usually wear either black shoes directly over their black tights, or white shoes with thin white socks. 

**Some studios have very specific dress codes, so always ask before you start shopping!

Veteran moms of boy dancers, what do you wish someone had told you when he started dancing?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Ballet Girl Gear 101

There's a reason some dance studios have very specific uniforms, right down to the style and shade of tights.  When you're new to dance, the options for dance gear can be completely overwhelming!

Here's a breakdown to help you out...


Leotards are the easiest part.  Your studio will tell you what kind of sleeve they want (short, long, tank top, etc) and what color.  Simple is better when you have a young dancer.  Skirts and sparkles can be very distracting (and some studios do not allow them.)  The most important thing to know is that panties are NOT worn under a dance leotard.  Nothing looks quite as strange as My Little Pony undies hanging out the sides of a leotard.  They can't be worn on stage, and you will never see an older dancer sporting panty-lines in their leo.


To start, dance tights are not the same as the tights you wear under a dress.  They don't have the line around the top of the thigh, are generally thicker, and will wear better than dress tights.  There are several styles of tights available for dance.

Seamed Convertible
Full Footed

Full footed tights have a closed toe and a smooth foot. This is generally what very young dancers wear for class.

Convertible tights have an opening on the bottom of the foot.  This allows older dancers access to their feet when it's time to prepare for pointe class.  They're also handy after class for dancers who like to wear flip flops.  Most kids over about age 9 or 10 choose these.

Seamed tights have a seam down the center back of each leg.  They come in footed or convertible.  Seamed or seamless?  That decision comes down to dancer or instructor preference.  Most older dancers prefer seamed tights for the traditional look.

**Veteran Mom Tip**  When you're shopping for tights, watch out for the word "mesh" in the description.  Some mesh tights will get looser and looser as they wear them, until they have "saggy elephant ankles." Microfiber tends to fit better, and is a good choice for little dancers.


There are several styles of ballet slippers and soles.  Shoes are the most important piece of gear you will purchase.  If you're going to save money on ballet gear, don't do it here.  Your dancer's feet are worth it.

Let me first say that these are not suitable for class. 

I know they are sold as "ballet slippers" but they are really dress-up shoes.  The slippery satin fabric and loose fit makes these shoes unsafe for class use.  

Split-sole canvas slippers
Full-sole leather slippers

Ballet slippers are generally made of leather or canvas and have a full-sole or split-sole.

Leather shoes form to the foot well, look nice on stage, and are sturdy and stable for little dancers.

Canvas shoes are sometimes worn by older dancers for classes only.  They breathe well and are less expensive for dancers who are in class up to six days a week.

Full-Sole shoes have a leather outer sole that goes all the way from toe to heal in one piece.  Most teachers will prefer a full-sole, leather shoe for a young new dancer.

Split-Sole shoes have a two piece sole that covers the ball of the foot and the heal separately.  They flex better in the arch of the foot and are generally the shoe of choice for dancers older than 8 or 9. 

**Veteran Mom Tip** Go to a real dance store to buy your shoes.  The price is the same as the big box stores, but the quality and fit of the shoes is FAR superior.  

Veteran dance moms, what do you wish you had known when you started? 

What about my young male ballet dancer? Stay tuned, we'll have a break down on boy gear coming up soon!