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A Guide to Understanding Dance Exams and Uniforms

A Guide to Understanding Dance Exams and Uniforms

By Move Dance on 23rd Aug 2018

Has your little girl just told you she wants to try ballet classes and you’re now panicking that you don’t have a clue what she should wear? Dance uniforms can either refer to what you or your child must wear for class, or they denote what must be worn during exams (sometimes even both!). A dance exam uniform designates a certain colour of ballet leotard to be worn by a dancer entering their exams at a particular grade. For example, grade 5 ballet exam entrants might wear red leotards, but grade 1 will wear light pink. The most important thing with dance uniforms is quite frankly the uniformity! This means that everyone must look the same no matter what their personal preferences may be.

This guide is written with advice from Danceworks, an elite dance school who we work closely with, so be sure to check with your own dance school to learn what their dance uniform regulations may be. Danceworks teach under the following exam boards: RAD, ISTD, and IDTA. This guide explains the required uniform for RAD dance and ballet exams at each grade for UK examinations. You should then consult with the dance teacher to see which colours in particular are required by your dance school.

What Is a Dance Uniform?

A dance uniform is created from clothing guidelines by the exam board, which the dance school then sets in correspondence with those regulations. The same goes for shoes… all ballet shoes for example must be tight-fitting and the correct sole for your grade. Everyone entering an exam at the same grade must wear the same shoes.

What Is RAD?

RAD stands for The Royal Academy of Dance and operates internationally an as awarding organisation for dance. They were established in 1920 under a different name and granted a Royal Charter in 1936, so this gives you a snapshot of why the RAD is so prestigious. The RAD label on clothing means that the garment is RAD certified for dance exams, and is therefore the correct uniform. You can find a range of RAD approved uniform items on our website. For clarification on what you need to wear for your ballet exam in correspondence to the grade, please read the below guidelines.

Where Do I Buy a Dance Uniform?

You’ll find that most schools order the uniform on behalf of students and parents to ensure that everyone dresses the same. You can buy most of your uniform from us, and we’ll point you in the right direction for anything that you need that we don’t have.

Can I Wear Underwear for my Dance Exam?

Imagine how off-putting it is for an examiner to be assessing your lean, long legs, to be studying your posture and grading you really well to then see your knickers poking out on your hips. For this reason, Danceworks inform all their students to avoid wearing underwear during their exam. For class, however, you my include underwear as part of your dance uniform so long as it’s invisible. This means that underwear should be nude, seamless and preferably a thong, but of course we don’t want younger dancers wearing underwear that’s above their age bracket. For younger dancers, a nude leotard might be the most appropriate option. Check with your dance school on their underwear guidelines. RAD in particular advise that “underwear should not be visible”.

How Should I Wear my Hair for a Dance Exam?

During dance, your hair should never distract from your neckline and posture. That’s why it’s a requirement that for exams - and even class - your hair should be completely styled off your face. Long hair should be styled into a ballet bun for dance exams. Get your hairstyling kit here!

Can I Wear Makeup in my Dance Exam?

Ballet exams are all about classicism and respect. If you feel like you really can’t part with your makeup, try to wear as little as possible and create a natural look as opposed to heavy application like you’d do for stage. If you have any tattoos, cover them up as best you can with foundation and concealer.

What Do I Wear for my RAD Ballet Exam?

You will not be assessed on your uniform during your RAD ballet exam. When it comes to tights and socks for girls, RAD encourage you to wear either pink or a colour which matches your skin-tone, which we refer to as “nude”.

Keep reading to find out what you must specifically wear for each grade, for both boys and girls.

Pre-Primary in Dance / Primary in Dance

Girls must wear:

A short sleeved or skirted leotard, like Freed Chloe   

Matching georgette ballet wrap skirt   

Full sole satin or leather ballet shoes with elastics  

Matching ballet socks  

Boys must wear:

Well-fitted T-shirt  

Shorts  

Socks 

Full sole canvas or leather ballet shoes with elastics  

Girls Grades 1-3


Girls must wear:

Matching elasticated belt      

Socks  or tights  

Satin, leather or canvas ballet shoes with matching elastic or ribbons. Choice of full sole or split sole. Make sure to choose the same colour shoes as the socks or tights!  

Character skirt 3” below knee with ribbon colour matching leotard in either circular or gathered style. 

Canvas or leather character shoes   with elastics   (Grade 3 should raise the heel height to Cuban heel)

Girls Grades 4-5



Matte sleeveless leotard or short sleeved scooped neck leotard         

Matching elasticated belt          

Socks  or tights  

Satin, leather or canvas ballet shoes with matching elastic or ribbons. Choice of full sole or split sole. Make sure to choose the same colour shoes as the socks or tights!  

Character skirt 3” below knee with ribbon colour matching leotard. Choose either circular or gathered style.  

Canvas or leather character shoes with Cuban heel  with elastics 

Boys Grades 1-5

Short sleeved leotard or well-fitted T-shirt

Shorts or stirrup tights

Socks 

Canvas or leather ballet shoes with matching elastic 

Swap these for lace-up character shoes  

Girls Grades 6-8



Classic leotard like Freed Jane in cotton Lycra in any colour, or these recommended ones     

   

  • Georgette or chiffon mid-calf length, or shorter for Grade 8. Choose either circular or gathered style. Colour match or complement leotard.

Footed tights, or choose convertible for Free Movement exercises  

Full sole or split sole satin, leather or canvas ballet shoes with matching ribbons/elastics. Colour match to tights.  

Character skirt 3” below knee with ribbon colour matching leotard. Choose either circular or gathered style.  

Canvas or leather character shoes with Cuban heel    with elastics  

Boys Grades 6-8

Short sleeved leotard, sleeveless leotard or well-fitted t-shirt

Stirrup tights

Socks over tights 

Canvas or leather ballet shoes with matching elastic

Lace-up character shoes, tap shoes without taps attached, or ballroom shoes

Girls Discovering Repertoire L2, 3, 4

Capped sleeve scoop neck leotard like Freed Maddie, or a camisole leotard like Freed Jane or Freed Alice  

Matching asymmetrical knee length chiffon skirt (optional)  

All level Variations: romantic or classical tutu with/without ribbons  

Tights  

Full sole or split sole ballet shoes in satin, canvas or leather with matching elastics/ribbons to tights  

For Variation 1 and 2: pointe shoes, demi-pointes, or split-soles   Make sure your pointes have the correct satin ribbons  

Boys Discovering Repertoire L2, 3, 4

Short sleeved leotard    or well-fitted t-shirt

Short socks  with stirrup tights   OR short socks with stirrup tights

Canvas or leather ballet shoes with matching elastic and socks  

Girls Intermediate Foundation / Intermediate & Advanced: Foundation, 1 & 2

Capped sleeve scoop neck leotard like Freed Maddie or a sleeveless leotard like Freed Bethany    

Variation 1: ½ tutu matched to leotard  

Variation 2: Knee length skirt matching leotard    

Optional 2cm elastic waistband matching leotard    

Tights  

Split sole ballet shoes or demi-pointes, then pointe shoes for pointe work section. Any ribbons or elastics must match tights  

Velvet head ribbons matching leotard (optional)    

Boys Intermediate Foundation / Intermediate

Leotard or well-fitted T-shirt tucked into tights 

Stirrup tights   

Socks over tights 

Canvas or leather full sole or split sole ballet shoes   with elastics  

Boys Advanced: Foundation, 1 & 2

Leotard   

Short socks  with stirrup tights   OR short socks with stirrup tight 

Canvas or leather full sole or split sole ballet shoes   with elastics  (wear black socks if you choose black shoes!)

Girls Solo Seal

Capped sleeve scoop neck leotard like Freed Maddie or sleeveless leotard like Freed Faith (in any colour, like these faves)      

Skirts (match or tone with leotard):

  • Port de bras: a soft chiffon circular or wrap around mid-calf length skirt
  • 21st century variation: soft short chiffon wrap around skirt
  • Classical variation and Finale: tutu skirt

Tights  

Split or full sole pointe shoes to same colour as tights with matching ribbons  

Boys Solo Seal

Leotard (try a thong leotard!), unitard or well-fitted T-shirt (in any colour, like these faves)     For Largo, Classical, Variation and Finale, tuck into your tights. 

Socks ONLY for Largo, Classical Variation and Finale (in any colour, or)    

Full length tights (or ¾ for 21st Century variation ONLY) for Largo, Classical Variation and Finale (in any colour, or)    

Split sole ballet shoes for Largo, Classical Variation and Finale   or 21st Century   

Good luck with your exam!