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  • 1.  Dance Belts Advice

    Posted 12-16-2021 08:59

    Greetings from a community theatre afterschool program. 

    First let me say I am a female director/producer so I bring my only my limited knowledge of the subject matter to the table.

    Can be anyone speak to the need for dance belts for high school aged young men? In my college theatre program I remember them being the norm in musical theatre class, dance technique and performances for my male friends. There were snickers and giggles when we(the young women) learned what was going on, but then we accepted the idea as part of what the boys had to do.

    Now as director/choreographer for Newsies I think I want to broach the topic for safety sake of the performers. 

    How do I bring it up? Do I need a male/dad/etc to take the lead here? 

    Will a full seat dance brief be better for the kids than the thong dance belt? I am not worried about the line of the undergarment like you might be in ballet, but I do want make sure the students can move. 

    It has been my experience that teenage boys or non-binary students have just as many body issues as their female/non binary peers.

    Am I going down a path I should not when I say "now you have to wear this skimpy thing." One of my peers said he describes the dance belt as the dancers equivalent of a jock strap- for protection and uniformity. Is this an appropriate comparison?

    any advice would be appreciated 

    first time posting!

    Jules Washington
    New York

    Jules Washington

  • 2.  RE: Dance Belts Advice

    Posted 12-16-2021 13:06

    In 22 years I have never heard this a requirement for a college or high school musical theatre production. Certainly in traditional dance performance, but never have I even heard of it mentioned in musical theatre (unless the performer was wearing a ballet type costume). I do not see a need for them unless there is a revealing costume concern. 


    David Simpson
    Performing Arts Center Manager

  • 3.  RE: Dance Belts Advice

    Posted 12-16-2021 16:05

    I wouldn't approach the topic by talking about dance belts at all. Dance belts are utilized for safety, yes, but the reason they're built the way they are is because of the aesthetic lines that ballet choreography presents to the audience. The costumes are designed to show off the human form because so much of what ballet dancers do is designed to create certain shapes with the human form, and the audience is meant to see and appreciate it.

    In a high school production of Newsies, your costumes aren't going to be that form-fitting, so asking your boys to wear a dance belt isn't necessary. 

    I would approach the topic by saying that due to the athleticism of the choreography, your male cast members should wear undergarments that offer maximum support. Discourage boxers. Encourage UnderArmour or something similar (which is incredibly common and popular amongst athletes, and easy to find) or at the very least, a brief. Make it about safety and not about what particular thing they choose to wear under their costume.

    Best of luck navigating this always giggle-inducing topic!

    Matt Curtis
    Content & Marketing Director
    Educational Theatre Association

  • 4.  RE: Dance Belts Advice

    Posted 12-17-2021 06:26

    Great question. I wore them when I performed and have been teaching/staging dance in all forms, including ballet. At no time have dance belts been necessary for my student performers.

    Formfitting briefs or boxer briefs are fine. I've even had some boys who run track use their tight fitting runners pants underneath costumes.

    On occasion, I hire professional choreographers and they've agreed that unless the guys are wearing ballet tights and doing rigorous leaps and acrobatic moves, dance belts are not necessary. 

    Break a leg!

    Josh Ruben, M. Ed.
    Fine Arts Head
    Northwest Whitfield HS (dba, The Northwest Theatre Co.)
    Tunnel Hill, GA

  • 5.  RE: Dance Belts Advice

    Posted 12-17-2021 10:30
    I would touch it with a ten foot pole! (Couldn't resist!) But seriously, when I directed PIPPIN and ONCE UPON A MATTRESS (in which many young men wore tights) I put all specific requests on their individual costume plots. Most went with a pair of Speedos. No issues.

    Garry Tiller
    Theatre Arts Teaching Artist
    Sidwell Friends
    Washington, DC

  • 6.  RE: Dance Belts Advice

    Posted 12-17-2021 13:03


    If your dancing is going to be intense and your costumes not revealing, tight, etc then I think what you want is a dance brief. It provides fuller coverage and while similar to plain briefs or compression shorts or a speedo(hadn't thought of that but good) the design of the dance belt/brief gets everything up and out of the way.  Just look at the design of a pair of briefs compared to a dance brief and you will see what I mean.

    This has become part of our standard for musicals. Just like the choreographer will put a sports bra on the list of rehearsal items for people with that body type, we put dance brief on the list for that body type(and direct them where to find).   

    --years ago a male student was injured because of a small jump he navigated. He didn't hit a prop or set piece, he didn't fall, he just landed poorly and felt it.  Mom and dad away on business so I take him to hospital.  He simply landed wrong and I thought we needed to address what to wear in rehearsal just as much as what we wear for performance. 
    -- my students auditioning  for college programs(and their parents) kept coming to me and asking "what's a dance belt" when they saw it on lists for auditions, summer programs etc. 
    - we really stepped up our dance game. Not that there is anything wrong with sticking to grapevines and jazz squares, but if you want the boys to really move- treat them like dancers. Again not talking belts, but the brief. 

    Now 10 years later it isn't a discussion I have to have.  The older male students in the program and parents help the younger ones know the expectations and help interpret the rehearsal supplies list. But I do remember those first few years of giggles. Now if I want to have a kid in a morph suit to play a statue or a pair of tights to play in MATTRESS,  I don't have to make a special note. I know they are all following the protocol. 

    Again, I'll say if your dancing calls for it, it's an easier thing to navigate than you might think. And my choreographer and I feel comfortable with the guys stretching their limits safely and supported. 

    One need only bring back a male student from an intense college program to see that at least a brief is the norm and a look at lists for Musical Theatre summer programs will have a brief or a belt on the list.

    This could all be easier because I am a male and as a husband and wife team, my wife and I can tackle lots of gender specific things(though admittedly these days the kids are helping us rewrite the book on gender too).


    Kenneth Ware
    Springer Theatre