By Samantha Bellerose, B.Ed, Dip.Dance (Performing Arts)
Just started Ballet lessons and wondering what things you will need? Or Looking for the perfect gift for a ballet dancer?
As a former professional dancer who studied ballet and taught kids ballet, I have a good understanding of what ballet dancers need and want. In this post I start off with the essentials that all ballet dancers should own, then I get into all the fun things that ballet dancers may not need, but would love to get as a gift and better yet they are things that they will actually use and like if you bought it for them!
Before you begin, I just need to tell you that this post includes what are called affiliate links. An affiliate link means that if you purchase a product I have linked to on this page, I receive a small monetary kickback. This money is a small portion of income that helps me produce informative and helpful pages like this one as well as all the others on this site and I appreciate you using the links as you are helping to make Dance Parent 101 the ultimate resource for parents, dancers and their families! You are awesome!
What Every Ballet Dancer Needs!!!
Let’s start off with what ballet dancers whether small or tall, young or old will need.
1. Ballet Shoes
All ballet dancers need a pair of ballet or pointe shoes. Ideally, these should be professionally fitted either by someone in store or by a dance teacher. If you do want to gift ballet slippers to a ballet dancer, take them into your local dance store so that they can have them professionally fitted! But this is not always possible so you can take a read of our article How to Measure, Fit & Buy Ballet Shoes for Toddlers & Kids: Complete Guide.
If you already know your ballet dancers size you could buy a pair like these budget friendly canvas ones by Stelle. My daughter had a pair and they fit great, were sturdy and well made. They also come in black and white which is perfect for male ballet dancers too.
Tights are next on our list and because dancers can go through a lot of them, having several pairs is a must. A pair for classes, a backup pair for classes, a backup backup pair for performances. Ballet dancers generally wear tights in ballet pink but they can choose to have full footed tights or convertible tights which have stitched holes under the sole of the foot so the ballet dancer can easily roll them up for dancing barefoot during modern or contemporary class.
As you see by the selection in these photos – ballet pink is different depending on the company making them, which for day to day class wear is not a big deal!
Most ballet students are required to wear a leotard in a style and color as set by their studio or school which you order through the school. But ballet dancers also attend master classes, intensives and camps and schools have free dress days where they are allowed to wear whatever they like and when given the chance they love to play with the latest styles available.
With so many new stretch materials on the market and new cutting and sewing techniques, the range of leotards available in dance stores is becoming comparable to swimwear! A great store to look for a leotard to make your ballet dancer stand out is Bloch. They also generally supply many ballet schools with their leotards!
Ballet shoes nowadays come with elastics attached which is fine for classes but when it comes to exams, competitions, recitals or concert time ribbons are generally needed for that professional look to secure ballet shoes. This kit from Bloch makes the perfect gift as it comes with a sewing kit and guide as well as both ribbons and elastics, which you might need if you are like me and have cut the elastics off to sew the ribbons on and then lose the elastics, but need elastics back on your kids ballet shoes! Alternatively, you can just buy a set of ribbons on their own as well.
Every ballet dancer needs to put their hair into a ballet bun for class as well as for performances and to be able to do the perfect ballet bun you need three items – a hair elastic, a hair net and hairpins. Bloch has this handy ballet bun kit and it comes in different colors to compliment your ballet dancer’s hair color.
Most of the above really applies to what female ballerinas need and I didn’t want to leave out our male dancers. So apart from ballet shoes mentioned in first spot, boys dancewear will depend either on the studio uniform or the preference of the dancer. Boys do wear leotards and you can read all about them in our article Do Boys Wear Leotards here. They also might instead wear a white t-shirt or singlet and black tights, leggings or bike shorts with white socks. Bloch again has a great selection of mens and boys dancewear which you you should check out here.
Our other article What do Toddlers Wear to a Dance or Ballet Class has some more ideas for dance wear for boys as well!
One of the most important parts of a ballet lesson is the warm-up at the barre and so having a barre to practice with at home is basically any ballet dancer’s dream.
These portable barre are great for a home studio or even bedroom and if you want more information about buying the perfect ballet barre check out our article How to Choose a Kids Ballet Barre here or my top selections for ballets barres here.
Alternatively, if you are a DIY kind of person you could make your own and I made 9 different portable home ballet barres from PVC pipe, Galvanised steel pipe as well as a mixture of pipe and wood. Check out all the video tutorials and step-by-step instructions with images on the DIY Ballet Barre Hompage here.
Practicing ballet on carpet or tiles is not really the most ideal way to practice. Not only can a dancer get hurt, but they might also ruin the flooring. This is where portable dance flooring comes in handy. Ballet dancers generally dance on a floor covered in Marley or Tarkett a floor covering that is perfect in its ability to allow a dancer to glide across the floor but simultaneously grip the surface. A Dot 2 Dance is a form of portable flooring dancers’ love for home practice covered in Marley, and you can read all about them on our resource page here.
9. A Dance Bag
Every ballet dancer needs a bag to carry not only their ballet shoes, but also their dance wear, drink bottle, warm up boots, leg warmers, foam or ball roller and many of the other items I am going to list here. Both my girls have these bags in pink and black (check the Dance Parent 101 Instagram, we are always using it!) and they have lasted us several years now and fit everything we need in them!
For more options take a look at our Dance bag resource page here!
10. Warm Up Boots
Both my girls also have a pair of these booties. Celine has them in bright pink and I was able to get my daughter Sydney a pair with a design of the city of Sydney (Australia) on them which also displayed her name!
They love to wear these over their ballet and dance shoes to keep their feet and ankles all warmed up and supple before going to class. They also protect their shoes from walking from the car to the studio.
Keeping feet warm before class is important in preventing injuries and so wearing a pair of warm up boots before a lesson can help keep all those muscles and joints toatsy and warm especially if you live in a colder climate or have extremely cold winters.
BONUS – More Ideas for Gifts that Ballet will use and want!
So that was six items I believe every ballet dancer needs, but there are also a lot of tools and items that you can buy which will help them improve their strength, technique and balance.
On top of that there are plenty of things that help motivate dancers to practice and other things that they just want because it has something to do with ballet. So the following is a list of more things dancers need, want and will use.
A Stretch Machine
The first time I saw one of these machines was when I walked into the ballet studios at the fulltime dance school I attended. They help to push the legs out into a middle split and allow you to hold a stretch just at the right place to help increase flexibility. Ballet dancers need to have flexible hips and if your ballet dancer is struggling with their middle splits, or even if they are aiming for an oversplit this is the machine for you!
Odor Eliminating/Freshener sachets or bags
Let’s face it, when ballet shoes are used regularly they can start to get a little funky smelling and so simply using an odor-eliminating charcoal bag which you can either slip into the actual shoes or just chuck into a dance bag can help to leave ballet shoes fresh and inviting for their next use!
A drink bottle
This ‘Oh Plies’ drink bottle would only appeal to a ballet dancer, and only a ballet dancer would understand all the things that the phrase can bring up – it’s a good one!
But for super practical I would go for the Nike Hyperfuel water bottle – why? Because you pick it up squirt into your mouth and put it down – no lids to screw off or straws to mess with! Our family loves these water bottles for all our activities! If you search you can find a variety of other colors too!
Ballet dancing puts calf, shin, ankle and feet muscles through a thorough workout and their overuse through consistent practice can create tenderness or soreness in the muscles and tendons of the feet and legs.
Compression wear has been shown to help circulate the blood promoting faster healing and recovery when worn before or after activity and even when worn overnight depending on when an individual feels the best results. Therefore investing in some compression wear for your ballet dancer’s legs could leave them leaping for joy! For more options click here for our resource page!
Again to help ease those achy muscles a good supply of Epsom salts, to throw in the bath could help a ballet dancer relax and release all the tension after a hard rehearsal or performance. This gift set from Village Therapy has bath salts as well as some other goodies for muscle aches and pains making a great gift set for a ballet dancer!
Foam rollers are a must have tool for any ballet dancer these days, and even if your dancer already has one – having a selection of lengths and widths to choose from is great to see which works for which areas.
Foam rollers help to release tension at a deep level within the muscles and improve the blood circulation so they are not only great to use as part of a warm-up routine but also during cool down or for when a tap dancer just needs to roll or rub out some tension in their muscles.
Heated slippers are heaven for a ballet dancers feet. Not only are they useful before a class to help feet warm up especially if you live somewhere it snows, but they can also be used after class to relax the muscles and relieve tension.
A Home Foot Spa
After a hard long day of rehearsals or classes what ballet dancer wouldn’t love to come home and soak their feet in a warm bubbly, massaging foot spa!
A Foot and Calf Compression Massager
In terms of buying a foot and calf massager this is very budget friendly and I really think it would be something your ballet dancer used everyday to help melt away the aches of a long ballet rehearsal!
Stretch and Resistance Bands
A resistance band is great for helping to strengthen and develop the muscles needed in ballet dancing within the feet and ankles.
This set comes with both a resistance band and a stretch band so not only can your dancer work their ankle muscles but they can also use the stretch band to help increase their flexibility!
Ballet Dance T Shirt
The trusty t-shirt is always a winner especially when it has some witty ballet quote or words on it.
Ballet Themed Jewelery
Ballerina Jewelry Box
Ballet Inspired Key Chain
Key chains are are a great idea even for young ballet dancers who don’t need them for keys as they will usually hang them off the end of a zipper from their dance bag. This way if someone else has a similar bag, they can always identify their own bag from others!
Ballet Pillow for the lounge or bed
Ballet Travel Pillow with Memory Foam
Ballet Bed Covers
Ballet Bed Sheets
Ballet Dance Posters
Ballet Wall Decals & Stickers
Ballet Christmas Tree Ornaments
Ballet Tech Gear
Tickets to a Professional Ballet Performance
Tickets to the ballet are always a winner with ballet dancers and many ballet company programs are developed way in advance so you are able to buy tickets usually for shows that aren’t even going to be on until several months away.
Tickets to a Ballet Performance
Instead of buying tickets to a professional company, perhaps your dancer has been talking about taking lessons at a certain ballet school, a pre-professional full-time school, or in college? You could buy tickets to a performance by those schools or colleges.
Day or Weekend Trip to Visit an out of town/state college or preprofessional school
Most colleges and preprofessional schools have open days of some sort where you can watch classes and speak with teachers. Although the day is generally free, getting there if the school or college is not close by is not. You could create a day or weekend experience where the gift is the flights or petrol money or your offer to drive your dancer to the school or college!
Tickets to a Master Class, Intensive or lesson at a school they wouldn’t normally go to!
Any serious ballet dancer would love the opportunity to develop their skills by attending a master class taught by one of the best. Intensives and conventions are another option and are generally held over several days like a camp. Or lastly maybe you could make all the preparations and arrangements for them to go to a class at one of the best schools in your state, for example, The Broadway Dance Centre in New York offers weekly casual classes with some of the best teachers in the US!
A Membership for online classes or a ballet program.
With so many studios being closed currently there has been an influx of studios developing online programs, but there are also a few companies that have been producing online tutorials for quite a while and have extensive libraries of lessons in all different styles and for all different levels. Most have a yearly membership fee which allows you to access all of their classes at you convenience – meaning whenever you want to do class.
The following I do not have affiliation with nor have I tried their programs but from being in this industry I can see that these program would be what I would buy and what I am thinking of currently buying for both my daughters to really help develop their technique for two reasons. One because we are in and out of quarantine where I live and two because we live in a regional or country town and we don’t have access to as many classes, teachers and styles where we live: Progressing Ballet Technique and CLI Studios.
A DVD about Ballet
There are lots of movies especially from the early era of movie making – think Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers that a Tap Dancer would love to get. Most DVDs are becoming harder and harder to buy and instead you can rent them through a service such as Prime Video, so this might be a gift for the tap dancer who lives in your home. But some tap dancing movies to look out for are (just check the rating as some advise parental guidance).