Dance Studio Dress Codes: What’s the Point?
Many dance studios require students to show up looking alike in terms of clothing and hair. Color-level leotards indicating mastery of certain competencies (much like martial arts belts) are usually expected, and girls’ hair must be in tight buns. These standards follow the dress code of the American Ballet Theatre, a national company that is a flagship institution for dance studios.
Student dress codes offer many benefits to dancers, and understanding those benefits will help when you hear that call yet again from your child’s bedroom: “Have you seen my leotard?”
Safety—Hair must be tied away from the face so dancers can see instructors and each other at all times, allowing them to read cues. Jewelry is minimized because if something flies off during practice, another dancer may step or slip on it, causing injury. Dance uniforms must be fitted to the body so instructors can clearly see the dancer’s form and technique, making adjustments when necessary. Proper technique protects dancers from injury.
Identity—When students walk into the studio, they get to leave behind their other identities and reinvent themselves as dancers. There’s a whole body of psychology regarding how our clothing impacts our perception of ourselves—ask any police officer, cheerleader or nurse—and the dance studio is no different.
Community—Dancers who dress alike see themselves as part of something larger. Watch your favorite sports teams. Even in warm-ups, they are all dressed alike. Simple, standard practice uniforms create a sense of belonging and community among dancers. They don’t preclude individual contributions; all dancers are still invited to be uniquely themselves. They do contribute to a setting in which each dancer takes joy in seeing everyone succeed together.
Learning—Uniforms reduce distractions and facilitate learning. When they’re all dressed alike, dancers are not feeling the need to adjust their clothing or compare their outfits to others in class. Focus and discipline are enhanced, and dancers can move in unison more easily as they see everyone else looking the same.
If your dancer has class a few times a week, keeping track of uniform leotards and tights can be a challenge. Get to know other dance parents and share ideas and resources for keeping your dancer dressed for success. Most of all, understand that the purpose of dress codes goes far beyond just looking cute.