Choosing the appropriate dance class can sometimes seem daunting, but this process should be simple as your dance teachers can help decide what is in the best interest for the dancer. Most dance studios will post the age requirements for each class so this is definitely a good guide, but there are some other factors to consider. For tiny tot dance classes (typically ages 6 year and under), the age requirements are truly a good rule of thumb to follow. Parents often call and say their child is really mature for his or her age, is used to pre-school, or has already had some dance experience. Although that is going to help the dancer’s success in the dance class, the dancer should most likely still be in the same age group as posted for that class. It does not benefit a dancer to be in a class that is too old for them as it won’t grab or hold their attention as strongly since the material will most likely be too mature for them. That is the biggest mistake parents can make is to register a child in a class that is too old. It is always a safe choice to start a dancer in the younger class as it is easier to move a dancer up than to move them down a dance level. Besides it is really important for the little one to be confident and experience leadership in the dance class before moving up to the next level. Parents will also say, “My child is 4.5 years, should they go in the 3-4 year old class or the 4.5-6 year old dance class?” Again, I would recommend starting in the younger class and then communicating with the dance teacher about when the dancer is ready to move up. Another factor to consider is if the child is mature enough to handle the older class in regards to emotion and coordination. It’s always a good idea to call the dance studio or teacher and talk through the options your dancer has and to go along with the dance teacher’s recommendations. Don’t be shy to ask! This is why they are dance teachers...to help teach the world about dance and to make sure your dancer is getting the most out of his or her class.
As dancers get older (7 years old and up) and the classes become more specific in terms of level and style, not only is age a factor but the student’s dance experience. It is really important for any dancer to feel challenged in the class, but also comfortable so that they mix well with the level, age, speed, and energy of the class. Boys especially need to be comfortable in the class. Ask if there are other boys registered in the class if that is an important factor to your boy. Teachers can change up the vibe of the the class depending on if there are boys there and what the personalities and dynamics are of the class. Overall, it is best for a parent to stay in communication with the dance teacher to see how their dancer is doing and to confirm they are in the proper class for their age and level.
This would depend on the age and level of the dancer. For tiny tot dancers, don’t waste your money on the most expensive pair of dance shoes that are available for dance classes. I always tell my dance parents to buy the most budget friendly pair as the dance steps that tiny tots will be doing in their dance classes do not require a higher quality shoe. Besides, a tiny tot dancer is going to outgrow the dance shoes before the quality is even a problem.
Most tap shoes run similar in size to street shoes, and like street shoes, a tap shoe for a tiny tot dancer should have a pinch above the big toe for comfort, but not too much so that the shoe falls off the heel when dancing. (A good trick to see if the dance shoe is too big is to have the dancer go up on the balls of their feet. If the heels pop out of the shoes, you should consider going down a size.) Typically, tap shoes for tiny tots are black, shiny and tie with a ribbon. Tap shoes can come in enticing fun colors, but check the dress code for your dance studio. I recommend getting black because come recital time, the dancer will already have the necessary shoe.
Ballet class shoes for tiny tot dancers are typically pink leather that tie on top of the foot. Again, I would recommend going with the traditional pink ballet shoe for the recital as most dance studios are going to use pink ballet shoes. Ballet class shoes should have an elastic strap across the ankle to keep the shoe from falling off the heel and be snug on the foot, but ensuring the toes are not pinched. The one shoe that should be avoided is more of a slipper. It has a cushion or padded sole and is usually silky material. Although these may be cute for around the house, they can be a safety concern in dance classes. Dancers can trip with the padded sole. Dancers are also not learning to feel the floor while dancing in dance class. (See picture of a cushioned ‘ballet slipper’ that should be avoided.) Both tiny tot tap and ballet shoes, can be purchased online for the best prices at www.discountdance.com and www.dancedistributors.com.
For older students, there are multiple ballet and tap brands. It is probably a good idea to buy your first pair in a retail dance store where you can try on various brands and styles. After that, you can definitely order them online to save some money. For the dancer buying her first pair of pointe shoes, it is very important to go into a well known dance store that has professional and knowledgable staff for the fitting. Many dance teachers will go with their students for this fitting in preparation for their first pointe class. Every dancer’s foot is significantly different in size, shape, and arch and therefore it is imperative to get the pointe shoe that fits the dancer’s foot.
For hip hop dance classes, dancers simply need to wear a tennis shoe that ties so it doesn’t fall off while dancing. It is also a good idea to have a shoe with less traction so that slides and turns are possible. This becomes more important with older dancers as they start doing more advanced moves and helps prevent knee injuries. High top shoes are great for added support too!
For more information on dress codes or where to purchase dance clothes and shoes, please check out my other blog.
This is a common question from parents with new or young dancers with an endless answer. There are tons of places that sell dance clothes and it depends on what you are looking for. For a nearby retail store, an easy internet search of “dance clothes stores” will bring up a few options. Those results will probably include a couple of privately owned stores. (Just confirm that they are selling what you are looking for as some of these stores may be directed towards partner dance styles.) You will also find results that include dance name brands such as Capezio. Many studios sell dance wear or their own studio branded wear and can be purchased on site. These types of places will definitely have everything that you are looking for, but it will come with a higher price tag.
For some more budget friendly options, I have a few suggestions. If you are comfortable ordering online, I think the best two sites are www.discountdance.com and www.dancedistributors.com (with Discount Dance being my preference). You will find absolutely everything that you need on these sites, including name brands and store brands for dance wear but at a much lower price. (If ordering from Discount Dance, receive an additional 10% off with our code of TP35961.) I am a store brand buyer as they work for me and are really great options, especially for tiny tots. Both of these sites also sell shoes. Again, for tiny tots, a basic pair of tap or ballet shoes are fine as they do not need the most expensive ones. As the dancer gets older, he or she may prefer different brands because of the way they fit or the quality (and therefore how long they last).
If you would like to make your purchase in person, Target, Walmart and other such stores will also sell basic dance clothes to include leotards, tights and sometimes tutus. (If you are in Southern California, Discount Dance has two retail locations.) Before you buy anything, I do suggest that you check your studio’s dress code policy. (Also check out our blog on dress code.) Final words, is don’t overbuy until you know if your child is really committed to dance and never overpay with so many options out there.
Brittany White, EvOLvE Dance Director