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…..build 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!