Have you ever wondered why ballet schools insist on students wearing uniform? Or why we at TLFCB are so picky about the length of skirts, quality of tights, and the fitting of shoes? Here’s your answer!
Students wear the uniform in ballet class for several purposes. Each part of the uniform has a specific role in helping both the teacher and the students in class. It is also part of a long-standing tradition in ballet across the world. Additionally, wearing correct, clean uniform is a sign of respect towards the teacher.
Let’s start from the bottom.
Ballet shoes are an integral part of the uniform, and it is very important that they fit correctly. Shoes that are too big (with ‘room to grow’) will not enable the student to use their feet properly, nor will the teacher see the shape of the foot or if all the toes are fully pointed. There is also the hazard of tripping over extra fabric at the end of the toes! Shoes that are too small will also inhibit the correct use of the feet by scrunching the toes up at the front of the shoe. Neither scenario is desirable.
Next up we have ballet tights. Tights are fully footed (meaning they cover the toes inside the shoe), light pink, and elastic. When dancing, the arms, legs and back create lines, and in ballet they should be long. Wearing tights that end at the ankle, such as leggings, ‘cuts’ the long line of the legs from the hips to the toes. In addition, the teacher will not be able to see the ankles and knees if baggy leggings are worn. This prevents her from ensuring that the ankles are not rolling or dropping and that the knees are lifted up.
The ballet skirt serves an important role in the primary years of ballet. Students learn the correct use and positioning of the arms holding the edge of the skirt, and this is why the length and style of skirt are important in class. In the higher grades, where the legs are lifted above 90’C degrees and there is great emphasis on hip alignment, students don’t wear skirts.
The leotard is fitted, hugging the body on all sides. This enables the teacher to monitor the student’s stomach, back, hips, and shoulders. Correct alignment and learning how to maintain a straight, elongated back by holding the abdominal muscles are part of the basics of ballet technique. Wearing fitted clothing is a must.
What about the hair?
Professional ballet dancers will almost always keep their hair out of their face with a bun at the back of their head. This ensures that they will not be distracted by hair flying in their face as they move, jump and turn. It also keeps the hair up and away from the neck, creating the long line through the back, neck and head. In addition, it completes the neat, disciplined look that is part of ballet. If the hair is too short, simple clips or a hair band to match the rest of the uniform do the trick.
Finally, the uniformity of all students wearing the same clothing helps the teacher quickly spot mistakes in the class. Teachers wish to give every student the help, corrections and alignment cues that they need, and wearing correct, clean and tidy uniform makes this possible.