Is a Dress Code Really Necessary?

 “The Dress Code is intended to allow dancers to work free of distracting or inhibiting help teachers see and correct the students' bodies, and to train students in how to present themselves in dance in a professional-level manner.” – Peabody Institute

            As the dance school year begins in the United States, dancers and their parents descend upon dance supply stores to purchase shoes and appropriate dance attire.  Many schools have specific dress code requirements, and often parents and dancers question if this is a necessary part of dance training.

            Healthy dancing relies on the correct alignment and placement of the body and the ability to engage specific muscle groups for specific exercises. Fitted leotards, tights and dance pants allow teachers the see students’ bodies and properly evaluate their technique.

            Wearing proper dance attire also encourages dancers to work harder and stand taller.  Without baggy clothing to hide behind, dancers begin to take more pride in how they present themselves and work at optimal levels.  Bad alignment habits cannot be hidden, and it is obvious if certain muscles are not engaged.

            Dance is a field steeped in discipline, and a dress code adds to this discipline that each dancer must develop if he or she is going to improve and grow in the dance world.  Leotards and tights are expected attire in classes, rehearsals and auditions around the world, and dancers are recognized by their attire.

            Some schools also require specific colors of tights or leotards that should be worn to class.  This requirement creates a uniform look in class that reinforces the idea of unity that dancers will need when performing together, and it is helpful to the dance educator.  Without the distraction of differently colored or styled leotards, it is easier to determine which dancer in a group may be performing the exercise incorrectly.

            Dress codes discourage students concerns or pressure about what to wear to class.  They allow those from higher socio-economic groups and those from lower socioeconomic groups to dance together equally.  A dress code eliminates the need to purchase a new trendy leotard and reminds everyone that the important element is the art of dance and not how the dancer is dressed.

            Additionally, when differently colored leotards correspond to different class levels, a teacher or choreographer can easily determine the skill level of a dancer with a quick glance, and the colors begin to create a hierarchy within a school.  As dancers strive to reach the next level, they will eventually be rewarded with the opportunity to wear the coveted leotard color of the next level and have their achievements easily recognized by others.

            The goal of a dress code is not to discourage self-expression or imply strict training.  Dress codes promote hard work, healthy training, required discipline, a sense of unity, classroom focus, psychological health and a sense of pride.  A dance educator that requires specific classroom attire is not trying to be overly strict or elitist, but is simply doing his or her job.