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How to Set Up a Dance Practice Space at Home on a Budget
Wouldn’t it be nice? To be one of those people who has a whole dance studio in their basement? I’m talking marley floors, barres on the wall, floor-to-ceiling mirrors… *dreamy sigh*
I’d like to think if I had a room like that, I’d use it all the time. I’d warm up with a ballet barre every morning, post improv videos on my Instagram story, practice my tricks, and finally reach some of my dance goals. I’d like to think I’d do that.
But would I? Would you? Can’t you do all of those things without a fancy practice space that costs thousands of dollars?
In this post, I’m going to talk through what you really need for a dance practice space, and how to set one up in your home for little to no money.
See also: 15 Ways to Practice Dance at Home
Let’s start with the basics.
All You Really Need is Space.
When it comes down to it, dancing is just moving your body through space. If you have a body, and space to move it, you can practice dance at home.
How much space? It depends on what you’re doing. A stretching routine or workout requires less space than practicing a combo or a trick. In general, I like to say, “enough space to lie down and make a snow angel.” You can make do with a little less, but this is a good safe minimum that I like to go by. Another good gauge is to try doing a battement in each direction.
You can do so much with just enough space to make a snow angel:
- Work out
- Do a full ballet barre
- Practice stationary tricks like pirouettes
- Learn or review choreography (just mark any traveling sections)
See? You don’t need as much space as you think! Find enough space to make a snow angel, and you’re good to practice dance at home!
Space is the only must-have for your home dance practice space. But what are the would-be-nices?
- Wood or marley floor
- A section of wall that’s not covered by furniture
- Barre (or just something to hold on to)
- A way to play music
I’m going to cover all of those points below! I’ll also talk about some of these bonus items that can make your dance practice space extra fancy, if you have the budget for it:
- A setup to play or take videos (i.e. mini tripod with phone mount)
- Storage for all of your equipment and dance shoes
- Equipment such as resistance bands
How to Make Space When You Have None
This is my personal #1 excuse for not practicing dance at home. “Well, I can’t really dance full out so… meh, let’s watch TV.”
But unless you live in one of those “cardboard box” apartments in New York City, (in which case, you’re surrounded by dance studios – go take a class) not having enough space shouldn’t be an excuse. Yeah, you probably don’t have room to go across the floor in your living room, but you can find or make the space to do something.
Remember, you can do a lot with just enough space to make a snow angel.
Try these tips to clear up the space you need:
- Your practice space doesn’t need to be permanent. For a lightweight obstacle like a coffee table, you could just scooch it out of the way when you need to practice, then put it back when you’re done.
- Consider rearranging your bedroom. Push your bed into the corner, condense your storage, or just rearrange the layout so you have more floor space!
- Utilize your outdoor areas. Barre on the patio? Calypsos down the driveway? There’s lots of space outside!
- Pull your car out of the garage. When I was a competitive Irish dancer, I used to practice on a sheet of wood (they’re pretty cheap at Lowes or Home Depot!) in my family’s garage. The family car would be parked right on top of the wood, then they would just move it when I wanted to practice.
- Downstairs neighbors? Do what you can without jumping or stomping. Could be a good motivation to be light on your feet! You can also stretch, do a floor workout, or practice turns.
- Don’t forget hallways. If you live in a house with hallways, see if one can be used to practice travelling steps.
- Remember that dancing near (non-breakable) obstacles is good practice in and of itself. In an ensemble, you often have to dance very close to other people. Practicing very close to a wall or other obstacle isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as long as it won’t hurt you or break if you miss.
A Budget Barre for Your Home Dance Practice Space
Real barres can cost anywhere from $80-$200. If that’s in your budget, go for it. If not, you can make do with one of these budget barres!
Use a chair
The good old chair-as-a-barre trick. It’s a classic for a reason! Chairs are sturdy enough to provide support, but wobbly enough to encourage you to hold your own weight. My only issue with chair barres is that they can be painful on your achilles when doing a barre stretch. (Even more than normal barres)
Other furniture to use as a barre
- Footboards of some beds
- Low bookshelves
- Walls in a pinch
Dance Floor Options on a Budget
The expensive version: dot2dance Spots or interlocking dance floor squares. I’ve never tried either of these personally, but the dance floor squares linked above have very good reviews and they’re extremely portable and versatile. So as with the barre, go for it if you have the budget.
Budget dance floor alternatives
- OSB board. When I looked it up, you could get a 4×8 foot sheet for $17 at Home Depot. They come in smaller cuts too, or the people at the store can cut it to the size you need.
- Plywood. Same story as above, just a tad more expensive.
- Dance socks (for carpet). These socks fit over your sneakers so you can dance on carpet!
- Dance socks (for wood floors). If your home has hardwood floors (lucky!), these socks will give you the right amount of traction for dancing!
Playing music for dance practice doesn’t have to cost a cent. Your phone probably has enough volume all by itself. If it doesn’t, try the speakers on your computer or tablet.
With a pair of simple earbuds (which you probably already have) and a pocket, you can practice dance at home without disturbing your family, neighbors, or roommates with your tunes! Just be careful of getting tangled in the cords or dropping your phone. (Get wireless headphones to solve the cords problem!)
Want a bit more of a dance studio experience? Consider investing in a Bluetooth speaker. Here’s my favorite speaker from Oontz:
The Oontz Angle 3 Ultra is…
- Loud enough to fill a full-size dance studio, OR
- Quiet enough for a small, intimate space
- Easy to set up
- Small enough to carry in a dance bag
I love mine and use it all the time for practice, teaching, and pre-show warmups!
They have a cheaper version too, which also has excellent reviews:
I don’t have to tell you the importance of an online presence in today’s dance world. Knowing this, you might want a video setup in your home dance practice space. Even if you’re not filming for your Insta story, video can be a useful tool for self-critiquing!
If you don’t have a friend to film you, balancing your phone at just the right angle can be a pain. I highly recommend spending a few dollars and getting a flexible tripod with a phone mount. I’ve been using my Gorillapod for years and it’s come in handy so many times.
(The above isn’t the exact one I use, because I’ve had mine for so long that they don’t seem to make that model anymore.)
With a flexible tripod like this one, you can…
- Film your dance practice at home from the best angle
- Play a follow-along workout video without constantly fixing your phone as it slips around
- Mount your phone or camera on a barre to film in a dance studio
- Vlog or take outdoor photos pretty much anywhere
- Carry it around in your dance bag so it’s always there just in case
- Be the go-to person to film your class combos and rehearsals 😉
Other Useful Items
With enough space to make a snow angel, a simple dance floor, a chair barre, and a way to play music and take video, you’re all set to have some great dance practice sessions at home. The following are little bonuses that you might consider if you have the budget for it, or think your space needs something extra special.
Installing a full floor-to-ceiling mirror in your home would probably be more inconvenient than practical, unless you have a dedicated dance room. (Mirrors are overrated anyway.) But if you want the option to watch yourself dance, go shopping at Target (or a similar store) during back-to-school time. Long wall-mounted mirrors are often on sale in the college dorm section.
These mirror tiles might work well for a home dance practice space as well. I’ve never used them, but I’d imagine you could arrange the tiles low to the ground so you could watch your feet.
If your home practice space is set up permanently, you might enjoy storing all of your dance shoes and equipment in the same area! A simple basket or box will do. I used to store my dance shoes in fabric drawers like these:
A yoga mat is always useful to have around for stretching sessions and floor work. And for yoga, of course! A rug or even a fluffy bath towel will suffice if you don’t have one.
Resistance Bands and Workout Equipment
A resistance band is a dancer’s best friend for practicing at home! Honestly, if you’re going to invest money in one aspect of your dance practice, I recommend getting a resistance band. The one linked above is by Bloch, which I personally prefer over the standard TheraBand.
I’m planning to do a review post soon where I test different brands of resistance bands and share my thoughts!
The foam roller: a dancer’s other best friend! These are great to have at home so you can roll out those sore muscles after a long day of dancing.
Remember, all you really need is space.
Wow, that was a lot of stuff. I want to emphasize again that all you really need is space. You can dance on carpet. You can use a chair for a barre. You can play music from your phone’s speakers. You can wear your pajamas. Don’t break the bank. Just. Dance.
See also: 15 Ways to Practice Dance at Home