Balletiquette

Ballet class is a different experience. It doesn’t matter how many gym memberships you hold or how many cardio barre classes you’ve attended, ballet class is a different sort of place – a wonderful place, but it is a culture all its own. Ballet has a very long and rich tradition and going to class, even as an adult student, makes us all part of that tradition. For this reason alone acknowledging and adhering to ballet class etiquette is an interesting privilege. Besides, unless you are taking a private class, we are all in this together so let’s play nice!

What to know before class:


Clothing. You don’t really need to stress over a leotard and tights but you do want to wear fitted clothing to your comfort because you will soon see the importance of seeing your body moving. And you will be moving so go for simple, comfortable workout wear. If you are so inclined, go for full on ballet class attire, it might serve to make you feel more dancer-ly! Leotard and tights for girls, tights and fitted tee shirt for boys.


Hair – Long hair needs to be pulled back. It’s not just an aesthetic thing, you will be turning your head and leaning over and backward, a flying ponytail starts to get annoying.

Shoes – Soft shoes come in leather or canvas, either is fine really. The ties are used to adjust the shoe to your foot, then tuck the ends in – please refrain from tying BIG bows on the front. 

Jewelry – Be careful not to wear jewelry that can fly off and be lost on the floor for someone to step on. Just remember that you will be moving, dangly jewelry will quickly become bothersome.

Be on time. Traditionally, ballet teachers close the door when class starts, that’s not a hint. Adult classes are usually aware that adults have lives and may be running to class after a long day at work etc. but make every effort. If you are late, enter the room quietly and join in without interrupting – eye contact and a mouthed “sorry for being late” to your teacher is better than a five minute explanation that holds up the whole class.


Turn off your cell phone or leave it outside of the classroom. Enough said.

Do not bring or use rosin in class without obtaining permission. Many studios do not allow the use of rosin. Really, if you don’t know how to use it properly, it can make a big mess and require clean up.

What to know in class: 


Ask where to put your things. Most studios have shelves or cubbies. Fancy studios might have lockers. Do not take the crown jewels to ballet class! Make sure your things are out of the way, not in front of mirrors or strewn out under barre space.

A towel on the barre or a water bottle under the barre means that someone has claimed that barre space. Be aware that sometimes dancers can become territorial about their bit of barre. Don’t take offense. If you don’t know where to stand, ask you teacher to place you. If there is room in your class, really space yourself out, ideally you want to be able to swing a straight leg out in either direction without getting near enough to your neighbor to kick them. It’s your job to make sure that you are far enough away not to be kicked! 

 When going to do center work, you want to form straight lines with each line staggered so that everyone can see themselves in the mirror.

Ballet class is not just a workout class. You really need to pay attention. Ballet class is ripe with potential friends, but it is not social hour (or hour and a half). Exercises move quickly in succession, paying attention to the teacher makes everything much better.

 If you have a question, ask it before or after the exercise not during, raising your hand is a polite touch. Questions should be short and relevant such as, starting from what position, tendu how many times, close to where? Not what is the history of the pointe shoe or what is the class schedule for the rest of the year. More involved questions should be asked before or after class.

We don’t really talk in ballet class. Some might feel that ballet class is in many ways a bit like elementary school, perhaps this is because most professional programs start with kids who are elementary school age. If you were in a professional class, you might hear the teacher refer to the dancers as ‘boys and girls,’ it’s just the way it is.

If you need to leave early, let the teacher know before class and then leave quietly without interrupting class.

 Even if you watched an excellent performance of Swan Lake the night before, try to refrain from embellishing the exercises. Especially as a beginner, getting a strong foundation from a teacher will serve you better in the long run than trying to emulate dancers from YouTube.

 Expect corrections. Everyone gets corrected. Professionals get corrected. Etoiles get corrected. You will get corrected. Take them, learn from them, expect more of them.
What to know after class:


Ballet studios are lovely, keep them that way. Clean up after yourself.

Don’t hoard the teacher if you have questions, others do too. Consider if the question can be asked and answered on the phone, by email or text.

It’s nice to be able to continue stretching or work on that new combination you just learned if the studio is open. However, be polite and clear out if there is a class coming in.

Ballet class should be challenging and fun. I know these are a lot of rules, but knowing the rules makes it easier for all of us to play nice and enjoy ballet class together. Some of the great joy of dance comes from the discipline that we learn and practice in our classes. Learning this glorious art form in a safe, disciplined manner sets the foundation for a lifetime of dancing!


- Lorry for G.U.B.

13 comments:

  1. Please, please come to class as fresh as possible. Body odor is not pleasant when we are all dancing so close together. If you have a tendency to smell strongly and if you can't shower before class, give yourself a wipe off and a spot of deoderant....or maybe if it is really bad, visit your doctor as it could be a health or diet issue.
    I dance with a man who is very odorous and it is a little nauseating at times :( It has actually put a fellow adult dancer off coming to class!
    Great list!! Thanks!

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    1. Wow! Good point, Rosanna. And let me say that I'm sorry that you have to deal with this delicate & offensive issue. Yes, let's all be a fresh as possible for class. Sometimes people do have health or dietary issues that cause odors, so we can all try to be tolerant and understanding. At the same time, lets all be aware of ourselves because class is a social situation. So that being said, please also refrain from using strong perfumes or scents that others may not like or might even be allergic to. I carry a packet of antibacterial wipes in my dance bag. They come in handy for a variety of circumstances and although I usually have time to freshen up and change before going to class, they would come in handy for a last minute touch up if necessary.

      Thanks for contributing, Rosanna!

      ~Lorry for GUB

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    2. I have experienced the same offensive issue with a more mature lady taking our classes sometimes. I don't wish to describe that odour other than as really nervous sweat.. Sadly she seems oblivious to the use of refreshing wipes and deodorants. We just have to bear it, and breath in above wind.

      So please, take enough showers and do wear deodorants. Having said that, ballet is hard and physical work. Men sweat and so do ballerinas. Sometimes deodorants fail and other than cosmetic scents are released into the air.. That's just life. Thank goodness we get to sweat over ballet!

      Good comments, thanks guys!

      - Johanna for GUB

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  2. I would have also liked to comment that besides sweat or other "natural" odours, too much perfume (or perfume which is just too strong) is also very uncomfortable, especially when the classroom gets warm and sometimes quite humid. I'm not suffering from asthma or a real, diagnosed allergy but sometimes I have to switch the place at the barre if I'm standing next to someone who wears a strong "Poison-like" perfume. :/ It's also very difficult to mention about it to anyone, because it easily sounds a bit rude or petty (and there's actually nothing one can do about it at that very moment). The same goes for public transport (or other public places), so it's not just ballet.

    Having said that, I have to confess that sometimes I've noticed my freshly cleaned clothes start to smell bad just when they become wet of my sweat. So some fabrics just don't get clean enough after passing some crucial point and it's quite embarrassing when you realize that it's actually YOU who smell like cat's pee. :D

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    1. Thanks for your comment, Janina. I actually do have asthma and allergies so strong scents or certain scents can be a bother. I hate having to run for my inhaler in the middle of class!

      I've been there too, Janina, when you realize hey, I'm the one who is smelly!

      Let's just all try our best! :D

      ~Lorry for GUB

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  3. I have one to add... In an adult ballet class there is only one teacher. Everyone else is student!

    Please do not impart your unsolicited technique wisdom onto your fellow classmate before, during or after class. I take open advanced classes with several other ballet teachers, and I feel that in class we are all relegated to role of student only. I do not appreciate when a fellow student leans over when waiting a turn across the floor to give me advice on why I didn't land that triple pirouette as cleanly as I would have liked.

    And when another student asks the teacher a question, don't butt in with an answer if you weren't asked directly. Teacher's job is teacher, your job is student. Just listen up, watch and learn. :)

    - Susan for GUB

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    1. Good point Susan! At least as far as unsolicited advice goes.. Among friends we do help each other out on occasion, if we are waiting for our turn in diagonal and it's not disruptive. More often it's about steps, rarely about technique. But I don't mind if one of my experienced dancer friends quietly informs me that I have been once again veering to the right with my turns. We also talk about technique before and often debrief after class, and it's all very supportive.

      However, I would not welcome advice from other students, nor would I impart my wisdom onto others - unless asked. Only if they were in my group and starting off with the wrong foot, and somesort of collision might not be avoidable! ;)

      Johanna for GUB

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    2. Thanks, Susan! I agree that there is only one teacher, I also have to admit, I've gotten great tips from some of my fellow students. I think it is best, however, to generally wait until asked to offer assistance. My experience has been that if I have asked one of the better students a question in the past, they feel more comfortable to continue to offer advice. Similarly, if someone has asked me for advice, I might be more comfortable to offer them unsolicited advice in the future.

      It should definitely never be disruptive to the class and should never be disrespectful of the teacher! A definite balletique rule in class is when the teacher is talking, he/she should be the ONLY one talking.

      ~Lorry for GUB

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  4. I would also add to take charge and responsibility for your own space. If you are in the way of someone else when they turn or kick, they will likely ignore you and run right into you. Ouch! Be respectful of everyone else's space but do not be afraid to claim your own "bubble."
    I also like Susan's comment--very true!

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    1. Indeed, Literette! Let's all be responsible for the use of our space. Fellow dancers don't necessarily mean to kick you or run into you but sometimes we are so caught up in our dancing that we might not see a neighbor who is too close!

      ~Lorry for GUB

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  5. I would like to add another thing. When doing exercises from the corner, run forward not into the people who are coming behind you and get out of the way as quickly as possible don't just stand there in the way. it is extremely annoying and disrespectful for other dancers!!!

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    1. Thanks, Kyra! You are so right! When traveling from one corner to the other we should all be moving in one direction! No backing up or stopping allowed! Nothing is worse than a dancer pile up in the middle of the floor. And when you reach the opposite corner, continue to move forward either to go again or to change directions. It's important to give the dancers behind you some place to go when they finish the exercise too.

      ~Lorry for GUB

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  6. Well awaiting for some great post in regards to girl's dance leotards workouts.

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