Monday, July 26, 2021

Everything You and Your Tiny Dancer Need for Ballet, Tap, and Jazz

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Olivia just completed year three of dance back in May, and I feel like I finally have a pretty good grip on dance and recital life.  If you’ve ever had a kiddo in dance, then you know exactly just how much stuff they need to get through the dance year and the crazy long recitals at the end of the season.

We are heading to Olivia’s dance studio today to get her registered for the new season, and classes start August 9, so I thought it’d be the perfect time to share all of our favorite items for ballet, tap, and jazz + a few bonus items that we love to have on hand for recitals and competition. 

1 – Garment Bag

Olivia only uses this garment bag one time per year – recital weekend – but it’s worth every single penny to be able to keep all of her stuff organized.  During recitals, the kids have lots of different outfits and accessories, and they often have to get changed SUPER fast in between acts.  Each class only has 1-2 room parents to help 7-8 kids get changed in between acts, so the kiddos need to be self-sufficient and be able to locate their own stuff quickly.  This garment bag is perfection because it holds costumes on hangers up top, and then it has five pockets to hold shoes (ballet, tap, jazz), extra tights, hair pieces, makeup, and other props and accessories.  It’s small enough so that Olivia can carry it herself, it has a nametag slot so she can locate her bag quickly, and the entire bag is clear so she can see everything at-a-glance.  At just $13.95 it might just be my favorite dance item we’ve ever purchased. 


2 – Ballet Shoes

Every ballerina needs a good pair of ballet shoes!  We’ve bought the Freestyle by Danskin ballet shoes from Target for the last three years and they’ve been great year after year.  Dance runs from the beginning of August until the end of May each year, and every pair we’ve purchased has lasted through the whole entire year.  We highly recommend them!  Once Olivia is a little older and even more serious about dance, we’ll probably start buying nicer ones, but for now, the ones from Target are perfect.  And so is the price.


3 – Dance Bag

Dance classes at our dance studio are combined, so Olivia takes ballet, tap, and jazz altogether in one long class.  That means she has to bring ballet shoes, tap shoes, and jazz shoes for each class.  We bought this backpack three years ago and it has been the perfect size to hold everything she needs.  She can toss her ballet shoes, tap shoes, and jazz shoes in and there is still room to spare for her leg warmers, her skirt, and a little cosmetic bag that holds a brush and elastics.  It also has two outside pockets (one on each side) to hold her thermos.  Olivia has been using this one for three years now and it still looks brand new!


4 – Leotard

Olivia’s dance studio requires girls to wear a leotard, tights, appropriate dance shoes for whichever particular class they’re taking, and then they have to have their hair up and out of their faces.  Girls 6+ have to wear royal blue leotards, and the littles wear ballet pink leotards, and we love these.  This one comes in lots of different colors including ballet pink and the royal blue shade that Olivia has to wear.


5 – Wide Hair Pins

Olivia is required to wear her hair in a bun for all recitals and performances  Buns have never been my forte, but I’ve learned some tricks of the trade from the other moms along the way, and one of the best tools to ever be recommended to us were these WIDE hair pins.  They’re not standard bobby pins… those are too thin to use in a bun, but these wide hair pins are perfect for sticking into the side of the bun as you weave the hair around the outside.  They work like a charm every single time and we are never without them during dance recitals.  You can never have too many on hand, so we always buy extras.


6 – Jazz Shoes

We purchased these jazz shoes for Olivia last year for her first year of jazz, and they held up beautifully the entire year.  Olivia said that they’re comfortable, too!  We’ll be buying another pair for the upcoming year.


7 – Smoothing Brush

This smoothing brush is a miracle-worker for creating a sleek ballet bun… regular brushes and combs just don’t work as well as these do!


8 – Thermos

Olivia carries a water bottle to class each week and she keeps one on hand during recital weekend.  We just recently started using these Yeti water bottles for kids and they are PERFECT.  They keep hot drinks hot and cold drinks cold for at least 12 hours, they’re leak-proof, and they’re dishwasher safe.  The best part is that they don’t have a bunch of little pieces like most kids’ water bottles have.  This one comes in six different colors and it’s under $25 which is great considering it’s a Yeti!


9 – Ballet Skirt

Olivia’s dance studio doesn’t require the girls to wear a skirt, but she wanted one for the first couple of years.  She doesn't wear one for class anymore, but she keeps this one in her bag in case we need to run errands after class.  It slips on quickly and acts as the perfect coverup.


10 – “Invisible” Plastic Earrings

Dancers aren’t allowed to wear any jewelry whatsoever during recitals and performances, so we bought some of these clear plastic earrings to slide in Olivia’s ears on those days.  She had her ears pierced nearly two years ago, but her holes are still very quick to close, so it makes me feel better to have something in them during those all-day recitals.  These are just $5.80 for 50 pairs.  This was another tip that one of the other dance moms taught me.


11 – Ouchless Hair Elastics

Olivia isn’t required to wear her hair in a bun for class, so instead, we typically pull it up in a ponytail.  Our very favorite elastics are these ouchless elastics by Goody.  They don’t have the metal pieces in them so they’re comfortable, and they have just the right amount of stretch.  These are always in her bag for class, and they are the only ones I use, too. 


12 – Tap Shoes

We’ve been using these Freestyle by Danskin tap shoes from Target for the last three years, and just like the ballet shoes, they hold up beautifully throughout the entire year.  They’re made very well, they’re comfortable, and best of all, they have a hook and loop Velcro closure, so Olivia doesn’t have to deal with laces coming untied during class. 


13 – Wrap Top

During fall and winter when it’s colder, this wrap top is perfect for Olivia to wear over her leotard to keep her warm.  Because it’s a wrap, she can take it on and off easily without messing up her hair… totally necessary during recital weekend when she has her fancy bun!


14 – Warmup Boots

These warmup boots slide on over ballet shoes to protect the shoes and keep feet warm.  We haven’t bought a pair of these yet so I can’t speak to the quality, but they have 4.8 out of 5 stars with 870 ratings.  I’ve had these in my wish list for Olivia and will likely buy a pair for this coming year… it’ll be so much easier for her to just slide these on over her ballet shoes rather than to change in and out of tennis shoes.  Most of the time she just walks through the parking lot in her ballet shoes, but I’m pretty sure that’s frowned upon.  Haha.  When we start buying nicer ballet shoes, we certainly won’t be doing that anymore as they could get damaged.


15 – Giant Bag for Mom for Recital Weekends

This Barrington bag isn’t something that your tiny dancer needs, but it’s something you’ll definitely need for recital weekends.  I don’t know about y’all, but recital weekends are hard-core here, and I’m usually at the venue with Olivia for 20+ hours any given recital weekend for rehearsals, dress-rehearsals, and performances.  That means I have to carry a LOT of stuff with me, so I need something big to put it all in.  Brian bought this Barrington bag for me for Mother’s Day this year and, y’all, it is the best thing ever.  It’s HUGE, it opens super wide, it has a few pockets inside, and the entire things zips closed.  I’m able to fit all of my normal purse stuff in there like my wallet, phone, keys, etc. plus I still have ample room for an iPad, a book, my 32 oz. Yeti thermos, snacks, and a sweater since it’s always freezing in the venue.  It has become my main purse and I could not love it more.  The best part is that you can customize your bag… they have tons and tons of colors and patterns to choose from, you can choose your own leather color, you can customize your monogram in lots of different ways, and by the time you’re done, you’ll have a one-of-a-kind bag.  They’re pricey, but everyone I know who has one says they hold up forever, so they’re worth the money.  And actually, just for today until midnight, everything is15% off with the code HOHOHO as they're running their Christmas in July sale!


16 – Tights

I always buy this two-pack of tights at the beginning of the year, and it usually gets us through the entire year.  They are thick and sturdy so they hold up well.  Olivia is really rough on everything (she is known to break/destroy things constantly) so the fact that she’s able to rotate the same two pairs for ten months really says something about the durability of these tights.  We highly recommend!


17 – Bun Making Set

And finally, this bun making set is going to be your very best friend if you don’t know how to do hair!  I am terrible at doing any kind of hairdo, so the first time I had to make a ballet bun for Olivia’s recital I was so nervous.  I bought this bun-making kit on Amazon and watched a two-minute YouTube video, and y’all, I’ll be darned if it didn’t end up being the easiest thing ever!!  This kit comes with everything you need – bun donuts (four different sizes so you can decide how large you want yours to be), thick elastics, wide hair pins (similar to the ones I already mentioned earlier in this post), and hairnets to go over your bun.  With this kit, the smoothing brush, and a can of hairspray, you can easily create the perfect ballet bun in ten minutes or less!  The bun donuts are everything, y’all.  Everything.  Makes things so much simpler!


In addition to all of these things, your tiny dancer may also want to have a good pair of leg warmers during the colder months, and it’s also good to keep some of these no-iron labels and a Sharpie permanent marker on hand.  During recital weekends, all of the kids are in dressing rooms and there’s an explosion of stuff everywhere, so we are required to label every single thing in case items get mixed up among the girls. 

These Avery no-iron labels are AMAZING and I use them for everything.  (You can read how we used them to label the kids’ masks for school last year here.)  As I already mentioned, you don’t have to iron these on… you just stick them straight on to shirts, pants, jackets, shoes, etc. and they’re washing machine and dryer safe.  You can wash them over and over and they never fall off.  They are awesome. 

And that’s it, y’all… everything you need for your tiny dancer to have a successful year of ballet, tap, and jazz!

*Linking up with My Glittery HeartThe Other Side of the Road, and The Sirois Family for Hello Monday.


  1. Ahhh this post makes me miss dance! So many good things! That garment bag is so neat - definitely would be handy, and I think those 'over the shoes' boots are also so neat. So clever! I am so glad you are happy with your Barrington bag. I don't need a new purse one bit, but if I did, one of those bags would be at the top of the list!

  2. Haha, I should write a post like this about my much bigger dancer! Although we did just get those clear earrings because Gabbie got a second ear piercing and needs to keep something in there!

  3. What a perfect post!! Saving for later when Sophia decides if she wants to do dance. We did a random class with her earlier in the Spring and she wasnt too into it, but I think it was because it was virtual!! You're the perfect dance mom! xo, Biana BlovedBoston

  4. This makes me miss my dancing days so much, and I'm excited for Lil' Miss to get started soon. It still boggles my mind how school starts SO early in the south (up north we went back to school around Labor Day and about a week or so later was when fall sports and dance classes resumed as well) The month of August was still summer vacation. Can't wait to hear more about Olivia's next year of dance <3

    Green Fashionista

  5. This is such a great list. And those bun makers are a game
    Changer. Love them. I can’t wait to get the girls back on dance!

  6. These look like such practical things to have! Hope your daughter enjoys all her upcoming dancing :) Makes me glad my boys sports don't require as many things, haha! Just a uniform and they are set!

    Hope your week is off to a good start :)

    Away From The Blue

  7. These are such great tips. I bet it's tricky to get the ballet bun perfect! Have a wonderful week!

  8. Two girls in my small group have daughters in dance and I am amazed at how much goes in to dance! Love all of the pink :)
    Sarah at MeetTheShaneyfelts

  9. Aw, we have an Olivia that is about to start her second year of dance, and I took notes because these are such good suggestions! What a great post!

    1. Aw yay! I'm so glad I could help! I hope your sweet Olivia enjoys her second year! <3


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