I get asked these two questions all the time - in short the answers are: whatever you can move comfortably in, and no you don’t have to get your belly out.
I’ll elaborate below; when explaining new moves in class I like to work from the feet up we’ll do the same here.
Feet: barefoot is most common, some dancers like to wear ballet flats or ‘foot thongs’, and if it is very cold you will find some dancers in socks, just mind you don’t slip if you take that option! Some dancers will also wear socks or foot thongs for practicing spins so as to reduce the friction of feet against the floor.
Legs: leggings or tights are ideal but anything that you can move freely in is fine, so while jeans or a tight fitting skirt won’t work that well sweat pants or other stretch pants are good.
Hips: we often wear a hip scarf or belt low across the hips in a flat line to accentuate the hip line so we can clearly see the directional movements we want to execute. It’s not necessary to purchase one to come along & generally in TribalDiva Belly Dance Company classes the teacher will have a few spare available to use.
Torso: as mentioned above it is not a requirement to show your belly at all in class – it can be useful to wear a top that is more close fitting rather than a baggy item as that will help the teacher see your hips and help point out any adjustments. I find in my classes it’s around 50/50 bellies in & bellies out. This may change depending on the weather & what we are working on at the time. When I’m teaching I’ll have my belly exposed 80% of the time so that any movements I’m demonstrating can be more clearly seen by the students.
General: it’s a great idea to wear a couple of layers up top so you can remove then as we warm up throughout the class. A sports bra or other comfortable bra with good support is a good idea – we won’t be running or jumping in class but more support than a normal bra may be useful.
For advanced dancers: many dancers will start to wear costume items to class which is a great idea to test them out before they go onstage so any adjustments can be made, but just bear in mind that if you always wear large skirts or pantaloons to class then the teacher can’t see your feet! That may mean that incorrect footwork doesn’t get picked up early by the teacher. That can make it more difficult to correct later. An easy compromise there would be to tuck up large costuming when learning new moves.
So in summary to come along to your first belly dance class you shouldn’t have to purchase any special clothing or equipment, just come along in comfortable clothing that doesn’t restrict your movement to try it out & see how you go from there!