By: Debra Jenkins/For Every Mom I have an open mind, particularly about the arts. But as the years have passed, I’ve watched kids’ dance costumes get smaller and smaller, and, dance teachers?? It’s not ok.
And Dance Parents, you shouldn’t allow your children to do this, even if your Dance Teacher thinks it’s okay.
I go to dance recitals and competitions and feel like I’m in “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” Surely I’m not the only adult among the hundreds in attendance who thinks it’s inappropriate to send kids on stage to dance in their knickers. Am I?
You may be wondering what qualifies me to state such an opinion, so here are my credentials:
- I’ve been involved in dance either as a student, a performer or a teacher since somewhere around 1963.
- I started my daughter’s dance training at a traditional ballet school but when she was lured by the showy world of competition dance, I was sucked into being a Dance Mom.
- I created an arts education program for kids with special needs and dance represents a significant chunk of what we do at Merrimack Hall.
Surely this sufficiently convinces you that I’m an expert on the topic of dance competitions…but I have been called an opinionated know-it-all before so feel free to disregard my impressive resume and chalk this up to me being obnoxious. It won’t be the first time I’ve stated a strong opinion that I was convinced was irrefutable only to have people tell me I’m being a jerk.
I am not a prude. If you know me, you know that I excel at cussing and have strong liberal leanings. I have an open mind about most things, particularly the arts. But as the years have rolled along, I’ve watched kids’ dance costumes get smaller and smaller and now…well, costumes seem to have disappeared altogether, replaced by what they call “hot shorts” or “bloomers” worn with what appear to be bras from Victoria Secret while they are performing for an audience, under the glare of stage lighting. I’m not sure what I find the most objectionable – sending 8-year-olds out onstage dressed like this or sending 17-year-olds in this attire.
Misty Copeland is not covered up in this photo or in the incredible commercial she filmed for the Under Armour campaign. But…
- She’s Misty Copeland.
- She’s a grown woman.
- This is an ad for base garments, otherwise known as UNDERWEAR and is not apparel that is advertised as a dance costume.
- Notice that both the photo and the video take place in a rehearsal space…not on stage in front of an audience.
And take Exhibit B:
I adore Beyonce and think she is a positive, empowering role model for girls. Obviously, she isn’t wearing much in this photo. But:
- She’s Beyonce.
- She’s a grown up woman.
- She’s Beyonce.
I’m guessing that even Mrs. Carter would Exhibit C objectionable:
I could go on and on about this picture and the dance these 6-years-old performed, which nearly blew up the internet when the video went viral a few years ago. This specific dance and the controversy around age-appropriateness was a hot topic back in 2010 on Dr.Phil, with Anderson Cooper and with many other reputable journalistic outlets.
But I’m just focusing on the costumes right now.
I’ve seen dozens of teenagers dancing in “costumes” like Exhibit D (which is featured in an online dancewear catalogue) at competitions and recitals:
See what I mean? She might as well be naked. But she’s a professional model, she is in a rehearsal space, there’s no one else in the photo and the catalogue calls this item “activewear,” perfect attire for dance class, yoga, pilates etc. It is important for dancers to be able to see their bodies, to check their turn out and lines while taking a class in front of unforgiving mirrors. Dance class is one thing but in front of an audience? I vote no.
This trend seemed to start when young dancers stopped wearing tights. But you can dance barefoot while wearing footless tights, you know. And at least tights would add a layer. I sat next to a man at a competition recently and he told me that he couldn’t watch dancers dressed like this – said it made him extremely uncomfortable so he scrolled through Facebook during these numbers. His daughter is only 7…by the time she’s a teenager, they may just be wearing a thong and pasties.
I thought costumes were supposed to enhance a dance piece or advance the story of the dance.
But I saw recently saw a performance where about 25 teenage girls were wearing sequined bikinis while dancing on scaffolding. What story could a dance teacher be telling that requires girls to wear bikinis while dancing on scaffolding? Maybe the dance teacher who chose to costume her students like this is actually preparing kids for careers as erotic dancers. I have nothing against erotic dancers and quite enjoy a well-done strip show…when the performer is over 21, everyone in the audience is over 21 and I’m enjoying a nice cocktail. At a “family friendly” dance competition…not so much.
Now, I realize that there are categories of people who perform in public wearing in very little clothing – like track and field stars or gymnasts. They are wearing garments that are aerodynamic and help improve their speed or they are wearing leotards because anything else would get tangled up on the uneven bars. Of course, dance teachers have to ensure that the costume they select won’t trip up their dancers or impede their movement. But there’s a line of good taste and I hate to be the one to tell you but Dance Teachers, you have crossed that line.
So, Dance Teachers, please rethink your costuming choices. And Dance Parents, please voice your objections to costumes like these, if you have them. Barely there costumes like these do not make a dance more competitive and parents shouldn’t be afraid to voice concerns over immodest attire.
Maybe I’m wrong or maybe I’m just being a jerk but I think our kids deserve better.
Stay tuned…in future posts, I will offer my expert opinion on tilts, leg extension, crotch shots, props, music selection and much, much more.