A man wearing tights and a leotard is what many people would describe as cross dressing. Well in ballet class men have to wear tights whether they like it or not. Sometimes a ballet class for beginners might not be so strict, but all ballet schools that have a high standard have a strict dress code for students. If you like the idea of wearing ballet tights and leotards without people questioning your motives then why not take a ballet class?
It’s also a fantastic way to trim yourself fit and learn to have a perfect posture and move with grace and elegance. Wearing a tight fitting ballet outfit helps make you conscious of your body shape and you’ll already feel more fit just from wearing it. The male to female ratio in ballet class is something like 10 : 1 and among the heterosexuals that ratio is probably more like 20 : 1 . So chances are that you might be the only man among a whole group of thinly dressed, feminine women. If ever there was an incentive for guys to take ballet class!
More about Ballet Class
Training for advanced ballet is one of the most physically demanding and strenuous activities ever. A ballet class of 90 minutes can be very tiring but young students aspiring to become professional dancers spend most of their day doing ballet practice. I think ballet is a great example of physical discipline and anyone would benefit from taking at least a few years of ballet lessons.
When you learn a musical instrument, you normally practise on your own, in your time and use the method and routine of your choice. But in ballet, most exercises are done in class as a group.
Appearance and Clothing in Ballet Class
Most ballet schools are very strict about appearance. For example the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) used to require girls to wear pink ballet tights with a navy blue leotard while the boys had to wear black ballet tights (thicker than the girl’s tights) and a white leotard. Hairstyles are also subject to regulation. Women have to wear their hair in a bun that must be very secure without a stray hair, and men (sadly) have to cut their hair relatively short.
But this is for serious ballet students who take exams and aim to be professional dancers. If you just want to do it for fun, you can easily find a ballet class for beginners that will not be so strict. Especially in adult classes there is often no real dress code at all. But tights are a must in ballet. You need to be able to see the legs properly and the teacher needs to be able to see if your legs really are straight. You cannot go beyond the very basics if you never wear ballet tights. Without tights, ballet class is more like an aerobics class.
skirts are not normally worn in ballet class. Some kids’ classes have them because
the girls love it and it makes them more enthusiastic. Sometimes students will
have practice tutus for class though. Getting a tutu is surely what you're dreaming of so have a look at my article on tutu skirts.
Getting the Ballet Outfit
So you’ve taken some ballet classes for beginners and want to stick with it. Then find out from your teacher what exactly you need because it can vary from school to school. The tights used in ballet are thicker and more durable than what you find in a hosiery department. Also the shoes need to fit well and so there’s no way around going to a ballet shop and trying things on to get the right sizes.
Pointe Work and Pointe Shoes
Dancing en pointe is the cliched tiptoeing that we all know from ballet on TV. Men hardly ever dance en point but sometimes they do – especially if they act women’s roles or in some contemporary production. Some schools have men take pointe classes even if only for practice. Pointe work requires specialized pointe shoes and buying these can be a major challenge of its own. You have to go to a ballet shop for this and get them fitted properly. The shoes on the photo above, even though the dancer is en pointe, are NOT pointe shoes. Pointe shoes have a solid block at the tip in front of the toes making the foot appear longer.
Pointe work is more advanced though and beginners don’t and shouldn’t do it. When it is time, you’ll be taking specialized pointe classes for it rather than doing it in the regular ballet class. Not everyone has feet that are suited for pointe work though. The ballet teacher will inspect your feet and see if they’re strong enough.
Cross dressing in Ballet Class
Well apart from the fact that you’re wearing tights and leotards, you won’t be doing any cross dressing in ballet class unless you got the role of a female character in a performance. There is a dance company that is all male but play female ballerinas as a comedy act. They’re hilarious actually and they dance really well too. I think they were called the Trocks or something like that.
However, because ballet is often about costumes and dressing up, cross dressing for fun isn’t unheard of. So you might find a ballet class where you get a chance to wear one of those pretty tutu dresses.
jamie on December 20, 2014:
I attend an adult begineer ballet class..the only male in it. I had hoped to wear a pair of ladies pink ballet tights. to my dismay..all the women do class in tee shirts and leggings. Not a proper ballet leotard orr a pair of pink tights anywhere. I started out wearing black footed tights but following the odd looks i got I now wear my tights under track suit bottoms
Josh on August 11, 2013:
I take ballet class in a white leotard and black tights and pink pointe shoes. since the school i go to is an all girls school (They were the only school here with an opening) I learn as a female.
Simon on April 24, 2013:
Well, I am loving these comments. I have loved ballet since I was a small boy (now in my 50's) I have been dressing in a black leo, pink tights and pink slippers plus burgandy skirt and taking lessons of the internet and also following various routines. I would love to take lessons in my fem stuff but doubt anyone would like it! I live in UK near Slough - its rubbish:( just about to buy some gear - satin slippers, seamed tights skirts and leks - zoo excited xxxx
_DANE_YOUSSEF_ from California on March 07, 2013:
FURTHER DETAIL ON THE PERFECT PRE-TEXT FOR TRANSVESTISM by Dane Youssef
Ballet being used as a legal loophole for boys to behave like... "material girls" is nothing new. The Australian Primer Danseur Noble Sir Robert Helpmann enjoyed dressing in his mother's garb as a toddler. Maybe it just seems less extreme than a total sex-change. Is it true homosexuals who are androgynous are just more evolved... the best of both worlds?
Ballet is about so much more than the feminine apparel--or behavior. It is literally the hardest of all sports, all exercises, all endeavors... all arts. Anything else
There is a massive flood, an overpopulation of females--and a total drought--an endangered species of males. But all that seems to be changing.
But there's a universe, a never-ending closet of possible dance-wear. Leotards, unit-tards, tights, slippers--both full and partial, Pointe shoes, foot-thongs... Hey, maybe the women get into ballet for the feminine fashionable garments themselves. It's true, how many other sports can they also play dress-up in?
I've seen some of the boys who were into ballet for the sake of the ballet itself... just come to class wearing basic T-shirts and bike pants, yoga pants or even just shorts or sweatpants. But the trannys looking for political asylum? They come in dressed like they're doing a show tonight. They wear the full bodied unitards, leg-warmers, headband and slippers. And they act uber-man-bitchy to everyone in sight. Like they could pirouette circles around the ballerinas--around Baryshnikov. They have great gay-man attitude, but no technique or skill of any kind. They're just there to camp it up! Like going the cross-dressing bars and doing the drag acts wouldn't constitute them as artists. Maybe they think that just straight transvestitism is beneath them. They want to make it "artful."
Still, for those "bitch" gay men... ballet is the perfect art for them, isn't it? If only it wasn't primarily the art of the woman.
Go wild, "girls." Like it up. You only get one life. Whatever you are... do it your way.
Thanks again for raising this one, Lucy. We're all grateful. Those who wanna dance... and well, those who want to make nylon and spandex body-stockings... "uni-sex."
--Thanking You Kindly, Dane Youssef
rachael17 on June 01, 2012:
bought me a pink lace leotard,pink floral wrap skirt,new pink tights and another pair of pink satin shoes for ballet class..my teacher insisted that i be as fem in her class as possible..also very strict about me wearing make up too
rachel17 on May 30, 2012:
well done nicole,will you be wearing a short wrap skirt in class too.xx
Starline's Star on May 28, 2012:
I take ballet/tap and have for 8 years. I am in my senior year. My school is Starline school of dance in Mass. I was never treated any different than the other 12 girls and had to wear a solid color leaard, pink/tan tights and white ballet shoes. I was allowed to wea the school shorts because I was a boy. I remember at 14 having the same tap costume for recital as the other girls. They were a navy costume with shorts. I was also told that stage make up was must. I don't like dressing like a girl but my school has only one set of rules and they go for everyone. I have also been in a christmas parade with pink santa hats, white tights and brown leatards and pink gloves.
nicolelondontv on May 26, 2012:
I started ballet at 16 as an outlet for my desire to cross-dress....i started with tights, leotards etc..but soon I found myself cross-dressing fully and it fell by the wayside. Especially as I wanted to learn pointe etc.
However, last summer, as my cross-dressing became more 'out' and I started going out femme and spending weekends on end fully dressed I thought I would try and find a class again.
I spoke to the teacher and she had a small early afternoon midweek class - only 4 other ladies in it - all my age or older (40) and like me did it as a youth.
I had a candid chat with the teacher and explained why I left and that - well - i'm kinda unusual and I wont turn up in a dress!
She said that she had seen it all before and i can wear whatever i feel comfortable in. The others do leotards and white tights...if yu dont feel up to it at first...i'm sure you can wear what yu like when yu feel comfortable. I had plain ballet shoes of course.
So. Heart in mouth i decided I would just be slightly brazen and look alternative. Walked in to the girls as they were just about to start. I was wearing my fitted gym lycra top, my ubiquitous ladies knee-length running capris and for good measure and nailing my colours to the mast - 5denier glossy nude tights, and my ballet pumps - no socks.
Teacher introduced me. I introduced myself to the others. Youngest girl 'said' I like your shorts...they're nike? yes I said....and commented on here sheer wrap ballet skirt..nice i said..where from...expensive etc....
About half way through the classs the teacher asked me to do a particular position and my turnout wasn't quite right so with a 'may i' she took my calf and ankle and turned them a little and immediately said'
'Oh wow - you have got tights on after all...I never even could tell...careful - they look a bit sheer, wont you ladder them?
The other girls who were looking at the teacher demonstrate the pose almost in unison siad 'really??'
The older lady then said...you look very smooth in them - why i never noticed...but they don't ladder even when doing things like this...and its a little unusual!
I Just said - oh I wear them all the time..and she smiled and said with your skirts and things yes?
Yes I said. I wax my legs etc. And these are ladder resist and nice and cool!
Two of them wanted a look and a few 'oh yes...'
General consensus was well done for wearing that sheer.
'Well said the older lady (50+) I think you really ought to show us what you look like all done up sometime!'
We did our routines and cool down and it finished our short set with a bow or curtsey and the teacher said 'bow or curtsey, Nicky' Ohh..curtseying will be unique...
Well - what do yu reckon ladies - one of the girls now....and curtsey. Lots of giggles.
After the class we all go to get our kit and one of the ladies said - were you warm today..those shorts, tops and those tights too?
I said I was but I don't want to shock you all...see if you minded me in my tights showing up.
The younger lady then turned and said with a grin...oh crikey what were you going to shock us with..a tutu?
Giggled back. I used to just do a bit like you two mostly...Plain coloured leotard...but i prefer thinner tights.
'Do you really wear them all the time?' Asked the oldest lady.
Yes I said - habit, choice - with my jeans, running shorts and the rest of course!
So I asked teacher - happy for me to well...basically wear leotards, that sort of thing? Its my preference.
'We insist' said the youngest - show those legs off....wear a dress if you like babes!
So the Thursday class..(it was tuesday) I calmly was there - dark purple scoop back 3/4 leotard, glossy nude tights.
Only comment was from the youngest (Diane, btw) Good lass...bet you they ladder!
Lucy83 (author) on May 22, 2012:
Glad to hear that nigel.
Now practice hard and follow the instructions ;)
nigel on May 16, 2012:
Hi Lucy. Great news I've been at beginners ballet classes and enjoying ballet and women and teacher seem ok with me . Yes and I'm wearing the black Leo and white tights . Thanks for your message of surports Lucy .
_DANE_YOUSSEF_ from California on March 22, 2012:
BALLET FOR ANYONE by Dane Youssef
It's great that transgenders, transsexuals and people who are just plain confused are not only being accepted more, but finding brand-new ways to circumvent the standards of acceptable dress code.
But ballet shouldn't just be an excuse to wear a short skirt, pantyhose, house-slippers and make-up. Still, it's good and reassuring to know that ballet has finally become hip and trendy. And as the ladies would say... "Well, HOWEVER we can get boys in here... if it's working."
Clearly, everything IS evolving. Keep dancing, whatever the reason...
--For Every Male Ballet Dancer Ever There Was, Dane Youssef
driver8 on March 07, 2012:
I would love to take a ballet class -- my wife used to dance and I know that it gets you in amazing shape. I love women in leotards and tights, so that is a huge plus!
Lucy83 (author) on March 06, 2012:
John on February 29, 2012:
It's OK to want to wear tights and leotards, I do it quite often. But if your only goal in taking ballet lessons is only so you can wear tights and leotards, you'll quickly find that you will be required to work very hard. So be ready to sweat, stretch and strain like you've never done so before.
Lucy83 (author) on February 14, 2012:
normally, the men wear black or navy blue tights with a white leotard but I've not been active for a while so perhaps some schools have different colors.
You absolutely don't have to be nervous. While there will probably be a lot more women than men, you won't be something unwelcome or unwanted.
nigel on February 11, 2012:
Hi I'm about to go to ballet class for first time will there be more females than males ?
nigel on February 09, 2012:
hi I'm about to take on ballet classes wearing black sleeve leotard and white tights I'm a straight male but love to try ballet but I'm nervous what females will say in class .
Tom on January 06, 2012:
I just got done taking my first pointe class with the girls. The girls sewed the ribbons on pointe shoes and tied the ribbons on my pointe shoes for the first class. The girls were very excited that I took my first class wearing pointe shoes.
Tom on December 22, 2011:
I am a male and will starting taking begineers pointe classes in the new year. I also will be dress female: black leotard, pink footless tights, and pink point shoes. I will be wearing the pointe shoes barefooted for class for comfort and so that I can feel the floor. All the girls are very excited about me wearing pointe shoes for class
rachael17 on December 19, 2011:
as a gay sissy i dress as a girl in my ballet class and i find it wonderfull to be allowed to wear a leotard,short skirt,tights.i also only learn steps that girls do and they [teacher and other girls] dont mind at all
michael on December 12, 2011:
unfortunately as a ballet loving cross dresser I have to atke ballet class in regulation black tights and white t shirt. I look enviously at the females in their leotards, pink tights and ballet cardigans. I can only wear my favourite pink tights and black leotard in private
katrina on October 12, 2010:
I used to go to ballet classes, wearing black tights a black leotard, charcoal grey short shorts with black leg warmers. And a cut-off T-shirt draped over my shoulders. Never felt more comfortable. Nobody cared. I even wore ballet pink shoes. I miss that.
While smoking cigarettes after class my female classmates would give me pointers on female posture. SO MUCH FUN!
epigramman on August 11, 2010:
Les ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo (or the Trocks) - that my dear was one of the greatest nights for me in the theatre - surely you are aware of this fine ballet company of only men ... if not go to You Tube and see if you can find them - and I found you - so there can't be anything better than that!!!!! Bravo to you and keep following your dreams ......
Jen on May 18, 2010:
My first interest in ballet came in the 5th grade when I found a book my sister had titled "On Your Toes Susie". I fell in love with the main character Sue Peters and the cover pic was what got me excited about ballet. But sadly I never took lessons! Now I wish I had!
Today I love to go to see local Nutcracker performances performed by students at local dance schools because when I watch them I dream I am back as a child dancing along with them!
I own my own pair of point shoes, several pink leotards and one or two practice tutus. I love dressing up, pretending I am at ballet school dancing with the girls there.
Recently I ordered online my very first more professional tutu. It is what is known as a "pancake" tutu, as it is short, stiff, sticking out approx 14 inches from the waist. Along with it I ordered the matching leotard. I can't wait for them to arrive!!!!!!!!
Even though I have never taken ballet lessons, and at my age I think it's a bit too late to try now, I still feel so special when I dress up! It makes me feel so happy!
If you do take lessons I am very happy for you. But if you just want to feel special, go buy yourself a tutu, practice ones are just fine, a pair of tights and a pair of ballet slippers, or maybe even a pair of real point shoes! Dress up and I can assure you you will feel so special and happy!
tactilicious on April 17, 2010:
great post by maggied. I , too had the older and younger sister deal, but the younger was 5 years on. Older took lessons, some days I'd have to sit at the school and wait for her, I fell in love with girls in leotards then. Being a boy, I was torn, we boys generally were encouraged to sneer at dancing. It is too bad I didn't have the gumption to ask to be in class also. I did try their leotards and tights, and still love the feel of closefitting stretchy clothing. The modern leos and tights are so much nicer than they were 50 years ago. I use them for yoga and general stretching, they do allow your form to been seen so much better.
Kudos to you!
Lady Undies on April 13, 2010:
Great article Lucy. I've always wanted to take ballet classes and wear tights and leotards, but I was afraid of what people might think. But now, because of this article I'm inspired to sign up for ballet lessons. People may call me a sissy but I don't care, I don't mind being the only male in leotards and tights. Thank you Lucy.
Lucy83 (author) on April 01, 2010:
Thanks for the great comment Maggied. Yes there are many reasons to take ballet. Also the male dancer's physique is just the most beautiful and aesthetic ever.
maggied on April 01, 2010:
Both my older and younger sisters, one about 18 months older and the other 18 months younger were enrolled in ballet class. When mom signed them up she was faced with the enigma or what to do with me while they were in class. I was only six so the answer was simple to enroll me too. She never really asked me if I wanted to take lessons but after all as a six year old in kindergarten you really don't have a voice in things. This only left one obstacle to overcome, the woman who gave the lessons in her house didn't normally take young men. But mom was pretty persuasive and and the woman really needed the extra income from my two sisters so to my delight I was soon in a pair of leotards dancing alongside all the other girls.
I was so excited that I wanted to wear my new leotards to school to show off but of course mom wouldn't let me but I told everyone. I think that's the first time I ever encountered gender discrimination, one of the girls in my class said that guys couldn't take ballet so if I did I must be a sissy. I didn't know what a sissy was but whatever it was I didn't want to be one. So when mom picked me up that afternoon I told mom I announced that I wasn't going to take lessons anymore. Mom asked me why and when I told her what the girl had said she told me she was full of pooey, that lots of men danced in the ballet including famous actors and that the girl was just jealous.
I guess I must have been pacified because why I changed schools several times I continued my ballet lessons well into my senior year. The only time I ever remember wearing a tutu, though it wouldn't have bothered me was for a couple of recitals when I first started like everyone else the woman taught, though about the time I was 15 I think mom bought me a wrap (sort of like a skirt) that I could throw on between sets so my legs didn't freeze up.
I never really spent a lot of time in pointe shoes though I did own a couple of pairs but most of our practice was done in regular ballet slippers and most of my onstage experience was in support roles. There were not all that many male parts in a lot of the performances I did so I just tried to blend in but lets face it leotards are leotards.
You noted that you would find mostly women in ballet classes and estimated the ratios of straight and gay men. I would have to agree with you, as I matured and moved up most of the other male dances I came in contact with were gay but that was never an issue. It was all about the dancing not the sexuality of the dancers.
I think a lot of people much like that little girl in my kindergarten class assume when they see a man in tights that he is somewhat feminine. But let me assure you while I might have taken a little ribbing from the few macho males I knew but while they were sitting at home weekends I had my pick of dozens of beautiful girls I could call. These girls were my friends, the people I spent hours practicing with day in and day out and to be honest my so called dates were more about hanging with friends then anything else. It was other people who tried to read things into it.
Also you mentioned that at the RAD they required the males to wear their hair short. I wore mine longer, it was the early sixties, the Beatles were the hottest thing in music and young men were experimenting with long hair. Out of practicality I would wear it up in a ponytail during practice with a headband to keep sweat from rolling in my eyes and mom would help me put it up in a bun for recitals.
I never really gave it much thought, a couple of times she even put it up in french braids for me. It was more about the culture of ballet then cross-dressing or anything else. The beauty of ballet is that if you can find a class most of the instructors are pretty open and accepting as long as you have the desire to learn and practice. I think the overall acceptance you find is one of the things I liked most about ballet. The sad part is a lot of the women who have never taken ballet who enroll in these classes today aren't quite as accepting. But don't let that stop you from signing up.
Ballet is great exercise and it's never to late to learn to dance.