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What To Expect: Your First Ballet Class


Evgeny Atamanenko | Shutterstock


ongratulations—you finally signed up for your very first ballet class! Whatever your inspiration—the latest dance competition show or dreams from long ago—as someone new to ballet, you are probably excited and full of questions. Because we Rockettes want you to be a prepared and confident ballet beginner, here are the answers to your most-asked questions about that first ballet class:

What will I do during ballet class?
Most classes follow a traditional structure. This means you can take ballet anywhere in the world and expect to do pretty much the same things, in practically the same order, every time. A ballet class usually begins at the ballet barre. You’ll start with exercises that include fundamental movements and gradually progress to activities that are faster, bigger or more challenging.

From here, your class will move away from the barre for centre work. Some of the barre movements will be revisited and a variety of other steps, turns, and jumps will be introduced during this portion of ballet class. Class usually ends with reverence, a customary series of bows, which offer thanks and appreciation to the teacher and accompanist.

How early should I arrive for ballet class?
It is a great idea to arrive at least 10-15 minutes early to ballet class to warm up before the teacher calls you to the barre. Plan to come even earlier if you are not already dressed for class.

A warm-up for ballet typically consists of movements that increase the heart rate and blood-flow, and static stretching. Try jogging in place, jumping jacks, a runner’s lunge or anything that ‘gets the kinks out.’

What should I wear for ballet class?
Traditional ballet attire for ladies includes “ballet pink” tights, a black leotard and pink ballet slippers. It’s usually acceptable to also wear a short ballet skirt. Guys traditionally wear thicker, black tights or leggings with a white, fitted T-shirt, or a full-body tight; black ballet slippers and an undergarment called a dance belt.

Whether or not this is the required attire, will be up to the teacher or school. The best thing is to call ahead and ask. Ask about acceptable warm-up or cover-up attire while you’re at it.

What should I bring to ballet class?
Other than the proper attire, it’s a good idea to bring a water bottle and something to put sweaty garments in after class. You may want to bring a small towel for catching sweat, increasing comfort if you are asked to place your ankle on the barre or for placing under your hands at the barre to reduce the spread of germs.

What will the ballet teacher expect of me?

  • To be on time. (Which means early, remember?)
  • To have questions. He/she will also want you to wait until an appropriate time to ask them (i.e. after she has finished giving instructions or after class).
  • To let him or her know if you must leave early. For your first session, at all costs, arrange to be there the whole time.
  • To remove most jewelry and watches, and refrain from chewing gum or sucking on lozenges. This is for your safety!
  • To wear your hair up or away from the face and neck. Here are a few hairstyles that go beyond the ballet bun!
  • To work hard while you are there and to apply the corrections he or she gives you to the best of your ability.
  • Your teacher will not expect you to do everything perfectly!

How will I compare to other dancers?
Don’t compare yourself to other dancers! Ballet takes years to master, especially if you’re taking class only once per week. It’s a waste of energy to compare your abilities or progress to that of someone else.

For your first ballet class, relax and enjoy yourself even if, or maybe because, ballet is one of the most beautiful ways to exercise your body and brain.