When Dance Teachers Come to Shop

As you replenish your stores inventory with dance teachers in mind, consider what these three instructors have to say about the apparel that works best for their very different teaching settings. 

So much of a dance teacher’s apparel depends on her students—their age, what type of dance style they’re learning, what kind of school setting they’re a part of. We asked three instructors who teach in three different settings—at a studio, in public schools and at a pre-professional program—about the dancewear that meets their specific teaching needs. 

Jeannette P. Van Haverbeke 

Off Broadway Dance Studio, company director

New Orleans, LA

Jeannette Van Haverbeke likes teaching in a black tunic and leggings. Photo by Jason Van Haverbeke.

DBW: What’s your go-to teaching outfit?

JVH: I usually wear all black, specifically Lululemon Align full-length leggings and a V-neck, three-quarter-sleeve tunic from Torrid. It’s a pretty fitted shirt, a little longer than most T-shirts, with slits on the side. In the winter, if I feel like really looking like a ballet teacher, I’ll wear a shawl sweater.

DBW: Is there any apparel you specifically avoid when teaching?

JVH:I try to stay away from gray shirts, because they get super-sweaty super-fast. I also stay away from anything super-low-cut, like a deep V-neck, because I’m teaching kids, and I don’t want to bend down and have my chest out. I avoid scarves, too, because the kids always want to play with them.

DBW: Do you wear shoes when you teach?

JVH: I don’t wear tennis shoes very often, because they stick to the marley. I like the Capezio Hanami ballet shoes. Sometimes I wear black Nike socks. There’s also this dance sock, Apolla Shocks, that I love. They’re specifically made to dance in—they’re compression socks. 

Mari Meade 

Dancing Classrooms and New York City Ballet teaching artist

New York, NY

Mari Meade always has a light sweater in class, which she ties around her waist in case she needs it. Photo by Shawn T. Bible

DBW: What type of pants do you prefer to teach in?

MM: I like high-waisted black leggings that are super-stretchy. Light-colored leggings or ones with mesh cut-outs don’t feel appropriate for teaching in public schools. I don’t like any pants that look like sweatpants, because I’ll most likely be wearing them out on the street, too, and I don’t want to look messy. 

DBW: What’s something you always have with you for teaching?

MM: I always carry a light sweater with me that opens or buttons down the front, so that I can tie it around my waist. I prefer a long-sleeve one, so that I can push up the sleeves to three-quarter length if I get warmer. I have two black ones, one off-white and one patterned sweater. 

DBW: What kind of bag do you use to hold all of your teaching supplies?

MM: I have different backpacks for each job. I like them to be as small as possible but still hold the equipment I need: an iPad, my curriculum binder and a Bluetooth speaker. Both of my backpacks are black. I’m a New Yorker—everything I own is black!

Vanessa Salgado

Joffrey Ballet School and The Ailey School, children’s ballet

New York, NY

Vanessa Salgado often wears a pull-on skirt over her leggings and leotard. Photo by Kyle Froman

DBW: What’s your favorite ballet shoe to wear for teaching?

VS: I usually wear a Bloch ballet flat slipper. I need something that has a bit more structure—these have a lower vamp, which is more flattering for the shape of my foot. Now I wear flesh-colored or black shoes. I’ve moved on from pink.

DBW: Do you ever add color to your teaching wardrobe?

VS: In terms of color, I like to keep things very plain. I usually wear all black: black leotard, black leggings and a pull-on black, slinky skirt. I like that slinky fabric because it doesn’t stick to my skin. Sometimes I’ll wear a leotard that has a fun color on the piping—that’s when I really live it up! My pop of color comes in my legwarmers. I have RubiaWear legwarmers, the shortie style that goes from right above my knee to all the way down to my ankle. I have a charcoal pair and a pair with pink and white stripes. 

DBW: What’s your preferred style of leotard? 

VS: I stay away from the fancier-cut leotards. I find that a leotard with more structure lends itself well to teaching children, so I go for a thicker strap or a racer back. I want my leotard to feel familiar to my students—something that gives them an idea of a teacher’s sophistication. My go-to leos are usually the Mariia brand. I like the Irina style that has wide straps, and also the Danica that’s a cap-sleeve style.

For more inventory picks with dance teachers in mind, see “Inventory Check: Dance Teacher Dancewear”

Rachel Rizzuto writes regularly for Dance Teacher and is working on her MFA at the University of Illinois.