What is Character Dance in Ballet class?


Have you ever seen or heard of Character Dance? Don’t worry if you haven’t! Believe it or not, lot’s of classical Ballets feature scenes of Character Dance such as Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty, Giselle & Don Quixote.

If your child is in Grade 1 & above, you might wonder why they have to go to class & wear the black skirt with ribbons & shoes with a small heel on! Let’s explore what Character Dance is & why it is important to Ballet.

What is Character Dance?

Character Dance infuses and hails from European national and folk dance traditions and styles. In classical Ballets, Character Dance is usually used to depict large scenes of gatherings, royal parties or festivals. More often than not, it can be a really joyous and celebratory part of a Ballet and is often rather lively. 

Did you know that each grade even studies character dance from a different country & that Character Dance represents a whopping ⅓ of the total syllabus the students learn! Each class, students are required to bring their character skirt and shoes. Their teacher will dedicate about 15-20 minutes worth of class time to Character Dance work. If a student is preparing for exams, it is essential that they get vital practice and rehearsal time in their skirt and shoes, as these are very different to the Ballet uniform and shoes they wear. 

Why is Character Dance important?

Not only does Character Dance provide students with exposure to different cultures & styles, but it also incorporates partner work & the use of props. If a student decides to continue with their dance studies, or even consider it professionally, these are all valuable and solid skills to have, particularly the partner work aspect. 

The Character Dance portion can be a wonderful chance for our more lively students to really thrive! Students are encouraged to express themselves even more than in the traditional Ballet portions of the syllabus and it can be a wonderful opportunity for any budding performer. Some of the grades have really quite sweet and funny Character Dance portions. A particular favorite is the ‘watering can’ dance from Grade 1. 

When will my child start learning Character Dance?

Character Dance is a fun & exciting addition to dance class, as students move up the grades. For the RAD syllabus which we follow & teach at Siegeris, Character Dance starts at Grade 1. As mentioned, each grade has a different ‘theme’ of Character Dance that they learn. 

In Grade 1 students study the Russian Style, Grade 2 is Hungarian, Grade 3 is Ukrainian and Grade 4 is Italian. Each dance has it’s own unique style, theme and use of props. Remember the watering can dance I mentioned? Headdresses and garlands are also used. 

What will my child need for Character Dance?

Apart from a big smile & lot’s of enthusiasm, there are a couple of uniform items that your child will need, in addition to their regular Ballet uniform. Girls wear a black character skirt with ribbons that are sewn along the bottom 3rd of the skirt (they are really very lovely!) and also a pair of Character ‘heel’s. These are usually black shoes, with an elasticated strap over the middle of the foot and have a slightly raised heel. Boys will wear a well fitted white T-shirt, navy shorts and black laced up character shoes.  It is important that students bring these items to each lesson, so they can practice with them. It is very different dancing in a skirt that moves & a slight heel, than flat Ballet shoes! 

Uniform card for Grades 1 & 2 Ballet

In conclusion, Character Dance is a wonderful addition to Ballet class for our students. We find that most students really enjoy the contrast to the classical Ballet portion of the class!

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