If you're getting ready for your first hip-hop class, you may be wondering what kind of shoes are good for hip hop, what hip-hop dancers wear to class, and what you need to bring with you. The good news is, it's pretty easy to dress for class, because dancers tend toward a casual and comfortable style!
The same kind of non-marking athletic shoe you'd wear to a fitness class is good for hip-hop class. There's no need for a split-soled dance sneaker or other specialty dance shoe; in fact, wearing one would cause you to stick out. There's nothing wrong with that, if you already own a pair; we just wouldn't suggest going out and buying these specifically for hip hop.
Your best bet is a sturdy pair of athletic sneakers. People wear a wide variety of them, so you don't need to get a certain style or brand to fit in with your fellow dancers in a beginning hip-hop class. Dancers may favor certain brands, but not to the point that anyone would look twice if you didn't have the "right" shoe. Some hip-hop dancers do wear very stylish sneakers, and if you'd like to do so, taking class may give you an opportunity to observe what's especially popular.
We don't recommend dancing in thin canvas "tennis shoes" or other sneakers intended for casual wear, as they don't have the appropriate cushioning and support to protect your feet and knees and also lack the stability features that will help keep you from twisting an ankle.
Some sneakers with black soles can leave marks on the floor, so they're not permitted at most studios and gyms.
If you find that you're dancing a lot, you may wish to invest in a good sneaker. While most any athletic sneaker will do for occasional classes, some sport-specific sneakers aren't ideal for dance.
For instance, running shoes are designed on the assumption that you'll be moving straight ahead. So most aren't built to stabilize your feet and ankles effectively during lateral movement. In hip-hop class, you'll do a lot of moving side to side. Some running shoes have great lateral stability features, and you can find one if you have time to research a shoe. But if you own just any pair of running shoes, it may be worth investing in a sneaker better suited to dance.
Many general-purpose athletic sneakers will be fine for hip hop. Sneakers designed for cross-training are also a good bet, as they're built to handle a wide variety of motion.
The main considerations are
Unless you've had foot problems in the past or don't own any athletic sneakers at all, you're probably best off wearing what you have until you're confident you know what your needs are.
If you have issues with past foot injuries, weak ankles, or other medical considerations, you may want to be especially selective in choosing a sneaker. Consider visiting a specialty athletic shoe store (check them out online to find one with a good reputation; not just any athletic goods chain store will give you quality advice).
If you've had significant past foot problems and you haven't been exercising in athletic sneakers at all (perhaps you swim for exercise), you may even want to seek the advice of a sports podiatrist or a certified pedorthist.
Some sports podiatry associations publish recommended athletic shoe lists. These make a good starting point, but fit varies. Don't buy a shoe that's uncomfortable just because it's recommended! Let your feet have the final say.
There's at least one shoe store in the Los Angeles area that specializes in shoes for people with foot problems and even has qualified medical specialists on staff (certified in the little-known field of pedorthics). They sell a wide range of exceptionally attractive shoes, including a small stock of athletic shoes.
A certified pedorthist (C. Ped.) has specialized training in the design, manufacture, modification, and/or fitting of shoes and orthotics to alleviate foot problems resulting from injury, disease, or birth defect. So if you have special concerns regarding the health of your feet and proper care of them during exercise, a certified pedorthist is a good person to consult in choosing an appropriate shoe.
Sweatpants or other loose-fitting athletic pants and a tank top or t-shirt are the usual attire for hip-hop class. If it's cold, wear a sweatshirt or some type of layer to make sure you get warmed up in class; this helps prevent injury.
Most dancers tend to dress down for class, wearing something easy to move in, casual, and fairly plain. (But clean and freshly washed! Don't get that casual.)
A smaller number of dancers dress up for class. Depending where you take class, you may see nice track suits, etc.
Unlike exercisers in gym fitness classes, dancers don't tend to wear shorts or pants above knee length. And hip-hop dancers in particular tend to wear normal to baggy pants, rather than anything extremely fitted.
The pant preference may be partly because in some hip-hop classes you go down on the floor, and exposed knees could be scraped or bruised more easily. However, you'll rarely or never dance on the floor in most beginning hip-hop classes. (Unless it's a breakdancing class, in which case unless the class is strictly top rock, you'll want to keep comfort on the floor in mind.)
You may prefer to opt for loose pants simply to blend in with your fellow dancers, at least until you get a sense for how people dress at your class or studio. Short shorts or spandex/running shorts will stick out, as will fitted leggings you may be used to wearing for modern, contemporary, or other dance styles. Dress will vary more at a gym than a dance studio, and more at a standard gym than one with a strong dance program.
A few hip-hop dancers wear a cap to class all the time, or once in a while. The great majority do not. So you definitely don't need a cap to look the part.
While not essential, a cap can be an interesting accessory to your dancing! Sometimes it allows you to add an extra flourish to a move. And once in a while choreography specifically calls for a gesture such as touching the brim of your cap (real or imaginary). So if you like caps, knock yourself out!
Just remember that if you're not used to wearing a cap, it may prove distracting trying to keep it on your head, and see your teacher from under the brim when leaning at various angles during class. Also, in a hot studio it may be more comfortable to keep your head bare.
In dance classes in general, the less jewelry, the better. You can easily lose or break jewelry items while dancing, and possibly even injure yourself or someone else.
In hip-hop class, you're going to be moving around a lot and you're likely to be running your hands over your head, gesturing near your head, or gesturing with your head. There's just a lot of potential for earrings to get caught on something, fly off, etc. And any type of bracelet or necklace that shifts around when you move may be distracting.
Rings are generally fine, but hip hop calls for large arm gestures, and on occasion people do bump each other by accident in class. So it would be kind to remove any large or textured rings with the potential to scrape skin or get tangled in hair.
One thing that's not often mentioned: as a new dancer, you may find you feel less noticeable, and hence less inhibited and better able to dance and concentrate in class, if you dress down a little and strive to blend in.
For some personalities this isn't an issue. But if you're shy, nervous about taking dance class, or prone to stage fright, you may be surprised what a difference your feelings of being highly visible or inconspicuous can make in your class experience and even your learning ability.
Last but not least, while putting on that dance outfit, remember that in hip-hop class you're never fully dressed without deodorant.
Yes, we said it!
You'll probably want water during or after class. Some studios have water fountains, but many don't. At those that do, in most classes you won't have time to leave the room and get a drink.
Keep that bottle shut tight while you're not drinking, though! Water spills rarely happen, but they're a safety hazard and a nuisance when they do.
Food, gum, and beverages other than water are almost universally banned from dance studios. If you think you'll be hungry before or after class, remember to bring something with you. (Or check in advance whether food is available.) Many studios don't sell any type of snacks.
The water-only policy applies to the rooms with dance floors and mirrors, where you take class. Most studios have expensive, specially installed floors designed for safety and comfort while dancing. It's important to take good care of them! Eating in the studio lobby is usually fine.
If it's really hot out or you tend to sweat, you may want to bring a small towel. Most people most of the time won't need one.
If you're new to dance class and wondering how to start off on a positive note, you may find our Dance Etiquette guide a useful reference.
Studios that cater to adult beginners are welcoming places. Staff may hesitate to communicate guidelines, lest they seem strict. But for the well-meaning but inexperienced dancer, it's common to find that one or more fairly universal basics of dance etiquette take some time to pick up on. By sharing a little info in advance, we hope to contribute to the smooth entry of newcomers into the dance community!
A glance over our Dance-Speak guide will familiarize you with some common terms. And if you hear something in class that you don't understand, you may be able to look it up later.
Perhaps more important is to understand some of the types of communication most likely to take place in a dance class. Our Dance Communication guide covers
Being corrected by a teacher or being unable to get a question answered are often sources of dismay for new dancers. We hope a quick read will help our readers navigate these very common dance class situations.
For the person who likes to know what they're about to get themselves into, you can find out the details in our Taking Hip-Hop Class guide.