Tips on Uniform and Grooming for Ballet

by Alexandra Barnes – Fellow and Examiner, The Imperial Society of Teachers of Dance

Leotards & Skirts

Grooming in general has always been considered an important part of the training of young dancers in the classroom as well as for those entering exams. Leotards should fit well so that the teacher can see and be fully aware of correct posture and placing. Skirts worn for some Grade exams and Class Assessments should fit securely around the waist and not the hipline. For older boys a narrow leather belt secured at the waist and covered by rolling over the top of the tights several times is recommended.

Ballet Shoes

Whether one buys leather, canvas or satin (girls only), shoes it makes no significant difference which style is chosen. All shoes should give good support for the feet. Shoes that are too big will not show the line of the foot correctly and in some cases could cause injury. The drawstring at the front of the shoe should be tightened accordingly, tied and neatly tucked into the front of the shoe. For very young children and those entering Pre-Primary, Primary Grade exams, elastic on shoes is now permitted. For all other types of ballet exams girls should have narrow pink ribbons sewn correctly at the sides of each shoe and for Pointe work, the ribbons may be slightly wider. To gauge the correct placing for sewing elastic/ribbons, bend the leather or satin that goes around the heel of the shoe inwards towards the inner sole which will then form two creases, the elastic or ribbons may then be sewn on the inner fabric of the shoe where the folds lie also ensuring that the correct side of the ribbons is sewn inwards. Shoes should be tied with the inside ribbon crossing first to support the instep, followed by the second ribbon to make a neat X, then individually once around the ankle carefully placing one ribbon on top of the other so that from the front of the foot only one ribbon can be seen going around the ankle. The knot should always be tied on the inside of the ankle away from the Achilles tendon with large amounts of excess ribbon now being cut so that the remainder may be easily tucked away under the tied ribbon.


Hair should always be neatly groomed and in a style that complements the Classical Ballet image. For girls taking exams please note no headbands or fringes. Jewellery should not be worn in exams. If a candidate has recently had their ears pierced then small studs are acceptable. Plasters to cover these are not required. Make-up is also not allowed in any Grade exam up to and including Grade 5. A very small amount of make-up may be worn for Grade 6 and above. Though no marks are awarded for grooming, it is considered to be an essential part of the training and can only help the dancer to feel correctly prepared for his or her work.