Q: I’ve had a studio for more than 20 years, and I have always had a strict dress code. Lately, I’ve been getting a lot of pressure to open up the dress code to allow for more self-expression. What should I do?
A: I understand why your dress code has been working for you: You can see body alignment clearly in dancewear like bodysuits and leotards paired with tights. Similarly, at our studio, we have our junior- and intermediate-level dancers wear navy or black bodysuits with pink tights for ballet. The seniors can wear any solid-color bodysuit with pink tights for ballet. But for the other genres, bodysuits, crop tops, shorts and leggings in any color or design are acceptable, as long as the dancers don’t wear loose-fitting clothing. This way, we can see body lines, while allowing them some freedom of expression.
Well-fitted bodysuits and costumes with trunks work best for us onstage. When a costume requires tights, we opt for black fishnets. They give the dancers’ legs a long and elegant look and work for all skin tones and body types. In the same vein, if you need your dancers to wear shoes onstage, we recommend choosing ones that match their individual skin tones. Because we have a diverse group of dancers, we use foot undies or fabric jazz shoes and dye them with tea (make a pot of tea, and dunk the shoes in it until you get the right shade).
I think you have to look at what makes the most sense for your dancers. Whether in class or onstage, you want them to feel good in what they wear, so maybe giving them self-expression with limits is the best way to go.