Your browser is out-of-date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly.






Dance Studio Owners

OK…call me old-school but in recent years I have seen a trend developing that has me wondering what has happened to “professional appearance” being one of the important lessons we are taught in a dance class. Isn’t presentation still something to aspire to? It seems everywhere I go, the “dress code” for dance class has gotten more and more lax and it’s really disheartening. Now just because I came from the perfectly neat, slicked back bun, no pins showing or fly-away’s anywhere school of thought doesn’t mean I’m not up with the times. But, I am still a firm believer that how you look in dance class and present yourself is a direct reflection on how you are going to dance in that class. All I see lately are messy top-knots, belly’s exposed, sports bras, sweatpants ten-times too big, bare legs, booty shorts, oversized sweatshirts and paws worn in every class.

First of all, I love a beautifully extended bare leg with perfectly stretched feet in a contemporary class and a good, comfy sweatpant and top knot more than anyone, but there is a time and place. It is my belief that yes, leotards are still a dance necessity and you do need to still wear clean, pink tights with no tears or holes to ballet class with the appropriate ballet slipper, with elastics sewn correctly. Jazz class should still require the appropriate jazz shoes (I’m on a personal mission myself to bring back the jazz boot and make it trendy again…a la Ann Reinking) and modern dance should still be barefoot. No more, “I can’t turn barefoot without my paws.” What is this? Come on dancers… those callouses like the rest of us used to!

As teachers and studio owners, it is our responsibility to implement this. Loosening up the dress codes for an all-day Sunday rehearsal is one thing, but we need to implement certain class etiquette. This new trend is getting more and more away from the standards of what looking and feeling like a dancer was built upon. With all that is available for students to see on TV nowadays in regards to dance shows, they are taking this as their dance-fashion inspiration and think this is a good thing! It’s not….trust me…. It’s messy and slovenly. Here’s my tough love- If you’re going to be a dancer, look like a dancer. Respect yourself, your teacher, the studio, the space and the art- form by presenting yourself in a neat and professional manner. Students shouldn’t be dressing for class like they’ve been pulling an all-nighter to study for a math final. And it’s up to you teachers and studio owners to be clear on these expectations from Day #1 of class; setting the precedence and repercussions if dancers do not comply. Think about this, how do you want your studio and dancers to be perceived by others when you do go to competition or at other performance engagements in the outside world? Trust me when I tell you the dance studios that come in and always present themselves in a polished, professional manner are the ones that get noticed. They sparkle and they stand out….in a positive way. And the studio directors will be thanked for their mindfulness in teaching dancers that appearance and presentation are still an integral part of the training process and becoming what is a professional dancer!

Food for thought! Good luck!

See you in the dance studio!




Jessica Rizzo Stafford

Jessica Rizzo Stafford

Jessica Rizzo Stafford is a native New Yorker and graduate of NYU Steinhardt's Dance Education Master’s Program; with a PK-12 New York State Teaching Certification. Her double-concentration Master’s Degree includes PK-12 pedagogy and dance education within the higher-education discipline. She also holds a BFA in dance performance from the UMASS Amherst 5 College Dance Program where she was a Chancellor's Talent Award recipient. Jess now works extensively with children, adolescents and professionals as choreographer and teacher and conducts national and international master-classes specializing in the genres of modern, contemporary, musical theatre and choreography-composition. Jess’ national and international performance career includes works such as: The National Tour of Guys & Dolls, The European Tour of Grease, West Side Story, Cabaret, Sweet Charity, Salute to Dudley Moore at Carnegie Hall, guest-dancer with the World Famous Pontani Sisters and IMPULSE Modern Dance Company. Jess has been a faculty member for the Perichild Program & Peridance Youth Ensemble & taught contemporary and jazz at the historic New Dance Group and 92nd Street Y in NYC. She was Company Director at the historic Steffi Nossen School of Dance/Dance in Education Fund and in 2008 traveled to Uganda where she taught creative-movement to misplaced children. The experience culminated with Jess being selected as a featured instructor at the Queen's Kampala Ballet & Modern Dance School. She has conducted workshops for the cast of LA REVE at the Wynn, Las Vegas and recently taught at the 2011 IDS International Dance Teacher Conference at The Royal Ballet in London, UK. She is also on faculty for the annual Dance Teacher Web Conferences in Las Vegas, NV. Currently, Jess is a faculty member at the D'Valda & Sirico Dance & Music Centre and master teacher & adjudicator for various national and international dance competitions. Recently, she has finished her NYU Master’s thesis research on the choreographic process of technically advanced adolescent dancers and is the creator of “PROJECT C;” a choreography-composition curriculum for the private studio sector. Jess is also faculty member, contributing writer and presenter in the choreography and “how to” teaching segments on the celebrated For more info, visit her website at

1580 Post Road Fairfield, CT © Copyright 2020 by