Dress Code

Leotard, Tights, Hair in a Bun; What's Up With The Ballet Dress Code?

8:57 AM

You may not be super excited about wearing only a leotard and tights in the studio. You may feel a little awkward, a little naked. And why do you have to wear this anyway? I mean, leggings are form-fitting, right? And can't I at least wear a skirt?

Some teachers are sticklers about dress code; others are pretty laid back. But no matter what kind of teacher you have or how serious a dancer you are, dress code is extremely important.

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1. Injury Prevention - I've got news for you. Your teacher wants you to be healthy and functioning. So the short, dress how she tells you to so you don't get broken.

Now here's the long answer.

You have two bony knobs on the front of your hips, and two knobs behind above your glutes (right inside the dimples). The front ones are called the Anterior Superior Iliac Spine (or ASIS) and the back ones are called Posterior Superior Iliac Spine (PSIS). These bones are essential in helping a dance teacher see if their student has proper hip alignment, which then will indicate whether everything else the student is doing is correct. If these bones are not lined up, there is a high chance the student will end up over-tucking, forcing rotation, and hurting themselves. Teachers can't see the bones if the student is not wearing correct tights and leotard. We also can't see the bones if the student is wearing shorts, a skirt, or a long shirt covering them.

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 Then there's the knees. If a student is wearing leg warmers or sweat pants, the teacher cannot see if the rectus femoris is activated properly (active without gripping). They can't see if the knee is over the toes, they can't see if the knee is straight or bent. Sometimes all it takes is one day of not paying close attention and BAM. blown knee-cap, dancer out, in a compression boot for a year.

I've seen it happen.

In my class these dancers would all be asked to change. I can't see anything.

As far as the ankles (again, leg warmers or long pants) your feet are the foundation of the rest of the body. If the ankles are pronated, supinated, domed, or if the toes are gripping the floor and the teacher can't see it, the dancer is at risk.

Before dancers wore leotards, they wore dresses. Full dresses in dance class! Can you imagine? Teachers could still see the knees and ankles, but not the hips and back clearly. As teachers and doctors started to notice how dangerous certain postures were, they started asking dancers to wear less and less so they could keep their bodies safe. Leotards were actually invented for the circus, but dancers started wearing them as an alternative to the dresses that hid the body.

Keep your body safe. Wear your dress code.

2 - Tradition. Ballet is one of the oldest forms of dance out there, and we've been wearing Leo/Tights for a while now. It's culturally accepted, and part of ballet is being part of the traditions of it. Respect the tradition and wear your dress code.

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3 - Respect. If your teacher wants you to wear leo and tights, wear it. If she wants you to wear leo, no tights, socks, and high bun (like RAD), do it. If she wants you to wear a tutu to class, wear it. Do what your teacher says. It's their studio, it's their rules. You don't question your school dress code, so why would you question your teacher's dress code?

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4 - Some teachers have a good reason besides all of the above. For instance, my teacher had picked out a specific leotard for the level 4 students.

Beginner level 4 dress code leotard (that I am proudly not wearing at the moment)

It had a strip of decor starting at the top of the shoulder strap and running down the body to the hip. It was a pink strip in black.

I liked it but didn't understand the specific need for that leo... until she was training me to teach, and pointed out that she could see if a student's hips or shoulders were twisted from far away just by looking at the strips on the leotard.

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5 - Uniformity helps the teacher notice mistakes. If everyone is wearing the same thing, the teacher is able to pick out little things (a hip too high, an elbow in the wrong spot, a wrist dropped, etc) because the eye isn't distracted by a bunch of little differences between every dancer.

In this photo, stuff like bent knees, flat feet, tummies not pulled in, etc are very noticeable... because all the students are wearing the same thing.

All in all, if a teacher has a dress code and they feel it is important, you should feel the same way and respect them by following their rules.

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Photo credit: Yellow Sky Photography via Visual hunt / CC BY-SA
Photo credit: gabrielsaldana via Visualhunt.com / CC BY-SA 
Photo credit: gabrielsaldana via Visual Hunt / CC BY-SA

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