What Do I Wear to a Ballet or Dance Recital? (Ideas for Men & Women)

Your son or daughter, grandchild, niece or nephew started their first dance lessons a few months ago. You are very excited about their progress; they are getting better every day at dancing. Soon they come up to you, a smile beaming across their face with tickets to their recital or dance concert and informative notes from their teacher that cover everything except for one question:

What Do I Wear to a Ballet or Dance Recital? What you wear to a dance recital or concert will depend on the venue. If it’s at the local hall neat casual clothes are fine, but if the recital is being held at the state theatre then you should really try and dress up a little for the occasion. Remember either way you will probably end up getting your photo taken with your child or whoever you have gone to watch, so you will want to look nice for the camera.

It’s their first dance recital. You are ecstatic; you cannot wait to see your child up there, dancing in front of everyone. And of course, you are going to want to preserve the memory of the event. However, you do not want to see yourself in your comfy loungewear while your child is in costume and all made up in the pictures. You should dress up too, even if it is just in neat casual attire.

What to Wear?

You can dress casually if the location calls for it and it is commonplace to do so. However, a good way to determine if your clothing choice is ok is to ask yourself if you would wear the same outfit to church or a similar venue.

Not sure what church appropriate means or need some help finding the perfect outfit as you are also helping backstage or just want some ideas? Keep reading as we have a heap of ideas and images, so you can browse the perfect look. We might spark your memory into remembering you have the perfect outfit in your wardrobe or alternatively, if you have absolutely nothing to wear all the clothing images contain links to Amazon.com so you can buy it if you like it too. Our lists are based on the what type of venue you might be attending and also if you are going to be a dress changer or helper backstage.

What to wear to a dance recital at the local hall or dance studio.

What to wear to a dance recital at a state theatre or similar venue.

What to wear to a dance recital if you are a backstage helper.

Darker clothing is always best for backstage helpers because you will probably want to stand side of the stage when your child is performing to be able to watch and you don’t want to be seen by the audience. So you might want to have a dark base such as black pants and a navy blouse or top but then add a more colorful cardigan or jacket to the outfit for wearing after the recital especially if you intend on going out for something to eat to celebrate the occasion.

Although some of the above outfits are worn with heels, you might want to pack these in your bag if helping out backstage. Flat pumps or sneakers will serve you better during the recital as you run around fixing hair and doing zippers and ballet shoe ribbons. We love some of the following options that are top-rated for being super comfy for all the running around you will do!

What you don’t need to wear!

There are a few things you want to might want to avoid wearing and we will explain why in the following. Most of these apply to both males and females!

A Hat
So the queen never goes anywhere without a hat and most definitely would not be seen without one at the ballet. But you know what – she has her own private box and no one in their right mind would complain to her about not being able to see over her head, but the person sitting behind you will!

A suit or tuxedo or evening gown
Even if the dance recital is being held at your state theatre or similar you do not have to go overboard and wear a tuxedo or evening gown. There is simply no need and you will be overdressed unless your ticket specifically says that you should. If you were going to the opening night of the opera or ballet this might be appropriate. And unless you wear business suits regularly and for example are coming straight from work in your suit (which makes sense) you do not have to go out and buy a suit for the occasion either as there are plenty of other options.

Too much Perfume or Cologne
Try not to do overkill on the perfume or cologne as you will be sitting next to other people who may not appreciate the lingering smell. A little will go a long way!

Bright Fluros
So bright fluorescent colors are in again and if they aren’t at the time you are reading this maybe you just like them?? At any rate, although you might want your child or relative on stage to be able to locate you in the audience, being so noticeable that you distract them instead and they forget their dance is probably not the best strategy for their first dance recital!

To much Jewelry
Do love to wear an armful of bangles or layers of chains that clang and clash each time you move? Remember you don’t want to distract the other members of the audience from enjoying their experience or distract the dancers on stage making them forget their dance routine.

Anything too short
This tip has nothing to do with being conservative or telling people what they can and can’t wear – it is about comfort! Remember you will be sitting for most of the event and however good your legs look male or female you will be uncomfortable or even cold as you continually pull down your skirt or the crutch of your shorts because they keep riding up every time you move leaving you wishing after an hour that you had worn something else!

It is important to make sure you have dressed appropriately while remaining comfortable. You want to look nice for any photos and be able to sit for 1-2hours without squirming because your clothes are annoying you or your perfume is overpowering, so avoid these clothing and accessories as much as possible.

What Else Should I Do or Not Do at a Ballet or Dance Recital?

Other important dance recital etiquette includes:

  • Generally, recitals have allocated seating, but some do not. If this is the case it is not a great idea to save a whole row of the best seats for a large group of people you hope or expect to come. It is okay to save a few, but saving a whole row is rude. And it makes it harder for those trying to get seated to find a spot.
  • Decide whether or not you want to hire a babysitter if you have little ones. Bringing siblings to a recital is absolutely fine, but remember even though it might be exciting to watch their brother or sister dance, they will still have to sit quietly without too much fidgeting for 1-2 hours. Getting someone to watch your younger kids so that you can enjoy the concert might be a good idea for your family.
  • If you don’t want to get a babysitter which is fine for your younger children, make sure you have enough quiet toys and items to keep them entertained. A dance recital may seem long for little kids, so keeping them occupied is key to silence. Also try to get seats next to the aisle, towards the back, so you can make a quick escape if they start making too much noise.
  • Some schools specifically put their preschool or junior routines in the first half of a recital so those families can go home during the interval. Others do not so find out what the etiquette on this is at your school. Leaving and not watching the others in the school might be considered rude because everyone else was kind enough to sit through your child’s performance and might expect the same from you.
  • Do not leave your seat until a routine or dance number is over. It is important not to get in people’s way just because you must get up to use the bathroom. It might be their child up there and you have stopped them from seeing the part their child had gone on and on about in anticipation of the concert effectively ruining their night!
  • Use the bathroom before you get seated. This way you will not interrupt any other parents watching their kids.
  • Do not whisper criticisms to other parents during the recital. Other people will hear you and you don’t know if their family is sitting near you.
  • If you must snack, you need to bring quiet foods to eat. Try not to bring crunchy, loud foods.
  • Do not fall asleep! Yes people do otherwise we would not have to write this – It is just rude, and will upset any children dancing that see you asleep.
  • Try not to be late for the recital! You might miss the only item your relative is in and if the seating isn’t allocated you will be disturbing everyone as you try and find your seat.
  • If you end up being late to the recital, stand in the back by the entrance. Quietly open and close the door and stand quietly until intermission. You do not want to be rude and get in people’s way so that you can find a seat.
  • You will be sitting very close to others, make sure you have looked after your personal hygiene such as showering and wearing deodorant before you leave for the venue.

More on Dressing Up

Basically, going to a recital can be fun and exciting, but you should make sure you dress appropriately. Your choice may depend on the place you are going to, what other people you are going with are wearing or if you are helping backstage.

At the end of the day if you do not care, then dress in jeans and a t-shirt. But remember our actions speak louder than words and the dancer you are going to see might remember more the fact that you turned up in your old dirty track pants because they weren’t allowed to hug you in incase they got their costume dirty rather than the fact that you actually showed up and sat through the whole thing!

Related Question

How long does a ballet or dance recital go for?

If you are going to a ballet recital the performance is usually based on a ballet story such as The Nutcracker or Sleeping Beauty or something similar and this will have a set time which might be on your ticket and if not just ask the ballet studio teacher as they will know the answer to this. Generally, a ballet recital like this will have two 40-50 minute halves.

If you are attending a dance or ballet recital made up of different routines danced by the various classes at the school you can determine the length of the concert by finding out how many routines are being danced and multiplying that by 5 mins. 5 minutes gives each group time to get on and off stage and for props or scenery to be set and the curtains to open and close as well as for a 3minute dance routine to be performed. So if you find out there are 24 routines the concert will possibly go for 2 hours. Also, add on another 20 or 30 minutes for an interval or if the concert starts late.

Do you give flowers or a gift after a dance recital?

No, you don’t have to give flowers or a gift after a dance or ballet recital especially if you have just paid a pricey fee for your ticket. Your presence and kind words after the performance are generally enough. Giving flowers to performers was and still is a tradition but it is one you don’t need to follow. Although it needs to be said receiving flowers or a gift is always nice and can make your dancer feel extra special, but they are not expected.

About the Author

Samantha Bellerose

Samantha is a wife and mother of four kids aged 1-9. She danced and acted from the age of 5 and performed in film clips, on television, and in musical theatre professionally. She also taught dance, but after leaving the profession to backpack through Europe, Canada and the USA with her husband for three years, she then completed an Education Degree and taught within primary schools in Australia. Today she is a business owner with her husband and the creator and writer for Dance Parent 101 where she hopes her previous experience as a dancer, current experience as a dance parent and the research and writing skills she gained completing her education degree will help enlighten parents on their journey with their child through the world of dance.