All male ballet dancers wear dance belts. All of them. If you're a boy and you have a question about dance belts, you can turn to any male dancer you know and they will answer any questions you have. If you're shy - and there's no need to be on this topic because all male dancers wear dance belts (remember?) - then read on.
A dance belt is the underwear that male dancers wear. It serves three main purposes:
1. It keeps the family jewels out of the way when you're dancing. Think about it: male ballet is all about strong athletic jumps. There's lots of opening and closing of the legs at high speed like a giant pair of scissors (see clip below). You don't want bits getting caught in the way. Dance belts keep everything up out of danger.
Baryshnikov, one of the greatest dancers ever,
demonstrating a potentially hazardous move: the double cabriole.
Dance belts also offer protection from not very good ballerinas. When you start partnering, girls always get their feet in the wrong place. A dance belt will help stop you getting hurt by those stray donkey legs.
2. Male dancers often wear tights or lycra shorts (coming up next in the no-nonsense series). If you just wore tights with nothing underneath you might feel that everyone could see your vitals. You'd probably be right. The dance belt solves this problem by packaging everything up neatly so you don't feel exposed. After all, for men, tights aren't underwear - they're outerwear!
3. You might be thinking, 'Well, point 2 is a good point, but why can't I just wear my normal boxers under my tights/shorts?' Answer: if you wear normal underwear under tights it shows through - because tights are tight. You don't want people seeing your underwear, do you? Boxers/normal briefs bunch up under tights and the whole point of tights is to make your legs look smooth and show off your muscles. If your tights are all wrinkly it looks rubbish. Agreed?
So the solution to all your trouble is: a dance belt.
|Mr Nutcracker wearing his dance belt|
to stop the wrong nuts cracking
(see 1 above).
How does it work?
Dance belts are a bit like briefs. They hold your nuts and bolts in place at the front, but they have a thong back (shock!) which means nothing shows through when you're wearing tights. That's it. Clever but simple. And it really works: it takes everything you might be worried about - and makes it invisible.
Oh, and they often have a wide elastic waistband which helps support your abdominal muscles (like a weightlifter).
How can that be comfortable?
You won't believe us if we tell you dance belts are actually pretty comfortable. So you'll have to try for yourself. Remember, all male ballet dancers wear them! You need to make sure you:
- get one that fits properly. If you get one too large, it won't do what it's meant to. If you get one that's too small, you risk sawing yourself in half. The nasty way.
- put it on properly. Not necessarily as obvious as it sounds (see next question).
WARNING: the first time you wear a dance belt it will feel ODD. Of course - like anything new. Within 2 hours it will become the most normal thing in the world. So, probably best to spend those 2 hours wearing it at home and not in class for the first time.
How do I put it on?
This is the bit they don't normally tell you. It's rather important, though. You basically put on a dance belt like normal briefs. But:
- pull the belt up as far as it will go comfortably. The waistband is meant to sit up above your hips. You're not a gangster.
- once you've pulled it on, reach inside and scoop everything up in front so it all points skywards. That clears your equipment out of the way for moves like this:
And, yes, it's meant to be quite tight - it's designed to stop things moving around down there.
When do I need to start wearing one?
A dance belt is essentially just an athletic support for dance - so you don't really need one until you need an athletic support for other sports. Which is to say: when puberty strikes. Starting to wear a dance belt is a sign that you're growing up.
Another school of thought says that boys may as well start wearing dance belts from an earlier age. After all, they do make sense however old you are and it can be 'psychologically easier' to start young (although it's not really that big an issue for any boy who's serious about ballet). It is also quite a good idea for parents/teachers to pre-empt the dance belt issue because it's not the easiest thing to ask for. I know first hand. Are you Mum and not sure how to talk to your son? Get Dad to read this post and have the chat. Good bonding time.
Before then? Some boys just wear ordinary briefs - some wear nothing. The former psychologically helps the exposure issue mentioned - the latter helps the line issue.
As for the boys' dance briefs some suppliers peddle, the considered opinion is: no point. They're just briefs. With an almighty price tag.
When do I wear it?
Whenever you're dancing. Always. Even if you have a wardrobe malfunction and have to take a class in tracksuit bottoms, wear your dance belt underneath for reason 1 above.
If you are wearing a leotard of any kind, you still wear a dance belt underneath.
Dance belts normally come in black, white and beige. Black is a pretty safe bet for a first-timer.
Top tip: white dance belts are a waste of time. The idea is that you wear white dance belts under white tights. But white tights are usually ever so slightly, just a tiny bit transparent. If you wear a white dance-belt underneath it risks shining through like a beacon. Your best bet under white tights is a beige dance belt that is heading for skin colour. That one won't be seen.
(So you may as well just wear a beige dance belt for class, whatever colour your tights/shorts.)
not that scary after all.
PANIC: I need/want a dance belt but don't know who/how to ask. Help!
No need to panic. If we haven't made it clear enough, if you do ballet you will eventually need a dance belt. It's the same for all boys and the chances are your parents already know this. Needing a dance belt is a sign of growing up - so you have to be grown-up about it: the easiest way is just to ask your parents directly at a good moment. Try your Dad first: he's more likely to understand straight away without you having to explain. If he gives you a blank look, show him this post. And remember, a dance belt is just a piece of sports equipment.
If this thought is still too much - ask your teacher. You won't be the first.
PANIC: I've done everything you say but it's still uncomfortable!
No need to panic. There are many different brands of dance belt on the market. Just like shoes or tights or cars, everyone has their favourite. So if your dance belt makes your eyes water, you can't send it back - but you can get a different one that will be more comfortable. You might look for one with a thinner waistband or a different cut at the front, for example. And you might just need to spend a bit longer getting used to it. Don't worry - everyone does get used to it in the end because, remember, all male dancers wear them!
Here's a word from one of our dancing dads:
"Because dance belts are an accepted part of the dancers kit, it was not that embarrassing for our son, age 11 to talk about them. It was a bit of a rite of passage from childhood into young adolescence. The sizes in the online shops were pretty good in comparison to his normal dancewear. Now he wears them whenever he is dancing - ballet, tap or contemporary, although he prefers to wear full bottom belts for the non-ballet sessions. A supply of flesh and black coloured belts seems to be sufficient."
Any more questions? Fire away in the comments box. This is the place to ask.