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What Do I Need for Ballet Character Work?

There can be a steep learning curve when it comes to dance and all of its components. In this post, we’ll break down what character skirts and character shoes are to make your life a little easier.

What’s Character Dance?

Character dance is an umbrella term used to describe a number of stylized versions of european classical dance. The Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) in Canada integrates character dance into their ballet exams. As such, many students across the country are required to learn character dance as part of their ballet training.

Ballet Character Dance Uniform

What’s a Character Skirt?

A character skirt is a cotton skirt that hits just below the knee, typically worn by dancers who are practicing character dance, whether in a character class or preparing for a character component in a ballet exam. Character skirts will often have specifically-coloured ribbons sewn onto them depending on studio requirements.

When Should I Order a Character Skirt?

In general, character skirts must be special ordered from a dance store or a specialized seamstress or tailor. Depending on the time of year, a character skirt can take anywhere from 1-3 weeks to be made, so make sure you leave enough time before any exams. The appropriate ribbons must also be ordered and sewn onto the skirt before the exam. Your requirements will be issued by your studio.

What are Character Shoes?

Ballet Exam Character Shoes

A character shoe can be more than one thing. In line with the ballet exams and character skirts, a character shoe is usually a short-heeled shoe made of black canvas that wearers use for exams and character work in class. For earlier levels, dancers typically wear the ¾ inch heel, and for the more advanced levels, a higher heel (1 ¼ inch). In the musical theatre world, a character shoe is a basic heel made out of leather with an ankle strap to keep the shoe on the foot. These come in multiple heel sizes and are usually black or tan.


Hopefully that post cleared up some confusion about character dance and what to wear when practicing it. If you have further questions, don’t hesitate to contact our professionals for help!

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