Ballet Class Beginners

Whether a child or teen is planning to study ballet for a limited time or has ambitions to become a professional ballet dancer and maybe even star, all start as ballet class beginners if they are about to start studying with a teacher at a dance studio.


Some research needs to be done on this all-important matter. At the outset, though, one can say that to become a ballet dancer, it is important to start as young as possible. And that means that a student is not at first on any kind of stage, but is a ballet class beginner.


If there is a real possibility or desire to take ballet very seriously, it is best to start as early as possible, preferably between 6 and 8. The extreme cases of beginning to dance at very late ages, as with Martha Graham, are very rare, and even then, hers was not the classical technique, which must be strictly taught very early in order to have the muscles acquire the necessary strength.


Not everyone can be in the School of American Ballet, much less become a professional in the New York City Ballet, of which the School of American Ballet (SAB) is a part, both at The Juilliard School and at the David Koch Theater. Lucky young students who live in New York City may have access to the most famous schools and teachers, but there are dance studios everywhere, and parents who want to know the best instructors available to them will research this in a variety of ways–first by immediate locality, which can then move into the more established studios and teachers that are at a reasonable distance to travel to. As time passes, the student may wish to live in the city where the instruction is working best.

But any small city and many small towns have studios that are known to everyone in the area, and these can always be the ones to start with to learn the basics.

There are great teachers from the great New York City Ballet all over the country now, in the bigger cities like Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Miami, and at the North Carolina School of the Arts. But many have started (including world-famous stars) with lesser-known teachers in small cities and towns and shown such promise that they moved up; yet they had started with what was accessible.


Any person who goes into ballet started with classes. These are in studios ‘at the barre’. Performances always come later and the barre is where the first plié, the first ronde jambe is done. And this continues throughout the career of a ballet dancer, including the later period when the ballet- master or ballet-mistress demonstrates and guides from the barre as well as in the center of the studio for other movements as with pirouettes and arabesques.


The young ballet student will want to know more about ballet, which will be enriched by going to live performances when possible, by watching television performances or dvd’s of old and new performances. If these are not easily available, there are innumerable video clips which are all over the net, although these are just starting points for convenience, not a substitute. This is obviously useful and convenient in cases where you may not have access to live performance, although it is still possible to understand more and more about ballet through the internet clips,. and to familiarize the student with the important ballets, choreographers and dancers. If the ballet student is also becoming a pianist or other instrumentalist or composer, listening to ballet scores such as Tchaikovsky’ music for ‘Swan Lake’ and ‘Sleeping Beauty’ is vital. For the advanced pianist, piano reductions for these as well as Prokofiev’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ are wonderful ways to understand the music which accompanies almost all important ballet.


Aurelie Dupont, the former star of Paris Opera Ballet, and George Balanchine, the great choreographer of the Ballets Russes and New York City Ballet, were both highly accomplished classical pianists. This is not necessary to become a musical dancer, but it certainly can add new musical dimensions to the pursuit of the art, and it does prove that, for the most part, music is always, with a few exceptions, the partner of Dance itself.


We begin with class attire and graduate to attire which is chosen for particular performances. The more fanciful and mythically-oriented costumes of most Romantic, Classical and Neoclassical ballets will come much later, although productions of the ever-popular The Nutcracker always require special costumes for the children taking part in the performance. The teacher and school where the children study will make special decisions on what is needed for performances, which can take a wide variety of forms. Some prodigies graduate into real ballet dancing very quickly, but that is not the general rule. Yet both young ambitious hopefuls and students just wishing to learn something of what ballet feels like must have the proper attire. It is good to look at images in ballet ‘coffee table books’ as the one about Mme. Karinska by Toni Bentley as well, in order to familiarize the student with the highest achievements in ballet costume design.

Image result for costumes by karinska toni bentley book images

You can find many more books about all aspects of ballet (and modern dance) on the internet and many old and new materials are sold by Amazon and eBay as well as specialty ballet stores.

There are also important ‘ballet boards’ where these matters can be discussed with other dancers, such as ‘Ballet Alert! for Dancers’, which is the adjunct to the big discussion board of ballet fans, ‘Ballet Alert!’ probably the best in the world–both parts.


Here is a look at some of the basic kinds of ballet attire a beginner will need.

Image titled Dress for a Ballet Class Step 2
Image titled Dress for a Ballet Class Step 8

For ballet dresses, girls must wear black sheer ballet skirts, not anything pleated or in any other style.

These, as well as all ballet class clothing necessities, may be purchased at specialty stores like Capezio or online.

A plain white T-shirt is the parallel necessity for boys and men. Black tights footed or footless are the requirements for beginners, and although short tights can be used in some studios, the studio’s dress code must be adhered to. Male dancers must also wear dance belts underneath. A dance belt is a kind of smooth jockstrap.

New ballet shoes can be purchased online for either men or women, but it is important not to use pointe shoes until the instructor advises it, because they can cause injuries if you try to use them unsupervised.

Please feel free to add comments to this post. I would be most grateful to hear suggestions.

2 thoughts on “Ballet Class Beginners

  1. Very interesting content! The flow is a little off for me becuase I feel like some of these topics would be great as their own posts which will help you create more content! Like one post dedicated to Proper Ballet Attire and another for Choosing a Ballet Studio, etc.! Great job…keep it up!

  2. Hey,

    This was a very interesting read. I agree with you that serious dancers need to start ballet early, whilst the joints are still developing in order to achieve the correct level of turn out necessary. Although I believe Nureyev didn’t start until he was around 16 however he was very much an exception to the rule.

    I LOVE that you talk about Balanchine and the Ballet Russes and I thoroughly enjoyed your explanation of costuming, particularly with regard to the different genres of ballet. A joy to read!

    Do you have any favourite dancers that you particularly love/get inspired by?

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