Elevate Dance Center is a tights-wearing dance studio in spite of the fact that it’s become very trendy and “cool” to skip the stockings. The no-tights camp is quick to label the pro-tighters as “old school.” The issue can be such a point of contention, that we once had a parent petition to get Miss Janelle and I fired from Belliston Academy because we did not allow her daughter to dance barefoot and sans-tights at a dance convention like students from other studios were doing. It was our job to enforce the rules of the studio, and we told her she needed to take her classes in dress code. Her mother complained to the owner, Miss Jeannine, and although I don’t remember the exact language she used, it amounted to, “The other kids are doing it, and my daughter should be allowed to look like them if she wants. We pay a lot of money for dance.” Thankfully Miss J backed us up, and told the mother to go ahead and take her pick of those other studios. Phew! Bullet dodged. However, that crazy mommy’s reaction is just a microcosm example of the greater dance world’s hot-button feelings on the tights-or-no-tights issue. I asked our expert EDC instructors to weigh-in, and here’s what they had to say:
Miss Janelle (Hip Hop, Breakdancing, Jazz): I like for them to wear tights. It helps make their body lines look cleaner when on stage. It keeps their muscles warm. When I was judging [a regional dance competition in another state] last month I noticed three [different] teenage dancers that started menstruating [during different dances]. You can tell they were uncomfortable on stage. Tights add extra protection for young dancers. I am 100% in support of tights.
Mr. Keston (Ballet, Turns & Leaps): I mean, it’s ballet. You should always be wearing tights. I didn’t stop wearing full-length tights until I got my first professional contract. It is an extra layer of protection for guys as well- keeps everything in place.
Miss Sara (Predance, Ballet, Tap, Lyrical): I think wearing tights is important to keep muscles warm and I think it completes the body’s lines too.
Miss Harley (Jazz): Tights always made me feel confident and comfortable [while I was dancing].
Miss Shelli (Acro): They are fine right now with what tricks they are working on [but we may need to reconsider them for Acro as the kids progress in difficulty].
Let’s examine both sides of the coin from a broader perspective of the international dance community where this is an ongoing debate. (The following quotes are taken from dance instructors and studio owners across the country, however they were pulled from conversations from closed networking groups and are listed anonymously to protect privacy.)
“What would be a pretty step or trick otherwise looks sexual without adequate coverage. As an Acro teacher, I am very careful about putting kid on stage in just a leotard, hitting split lines and balances. It’s gets inappropriate quickly, and can have the potential to sexualize children. I just watched a community performance with teenagers wearing only leotards and doing balances and tilts, and the audience of adults were either very uncomfortable or watching intently…It’s a slippery slope.”
“As a teenager, it did make an impact on my emotional development feeling so exposed because that’s just ‘what you wear’ and my point is – shouldn’t we be making costuming choices for our children based on what is most modest and appropriate for them individually rather than on what everyone else is doing?”
“Once upon a time when I was training and going to college for dance…tights were a rule. The light compression helped improve circulation to your legs and feet (there have been studies where this is proven…same reason I wear compression socks as a runner). It was also thought to be part of the “uniform” and make class professional.”
“As a studio owner, dance teacher, and mom to three girls, it’s tights all the way. In a perfect world, we should all be able to appreciate the beauty of a dancer’s body, and if body parts happen to pop out, it should not be an issue because it’s all beautiful…. HOWEVER, we don’t live in that world. We live in a world loaded with sickos and perverts, and those out there ready to post pics and exploit a child.”
“When I was in high school I always said “no way” when an instructor brought up not wearing tights. I don’t know why, but tights were just a barrier from my body to the audience. I think part of it is that I never heard someone say “you’d look great without tights” or “you’ll still be beautiful.” Now, every time I bring up not wearing tights, or even wearing shorts instead of leggings, I have a lengthy conversation with my dancers about it and how they feel about wearing them (or not) on stage. The choreographer should be in tune to their dancers’ level of confidence and comfort. There is a difference between choreographing for professionals and choreographing for young girls who have very fragile ideas of their bodies.”
“This will be a conversation that will never end – can we agree it is up to the choreographer and hopefully based on costume and body types, they make the right choices. If you don’t use tights, please make sure your dancers are trimmed, glued and don’t show anything they don’t want us to see. I love seeing the muscles they work so hard on developing without tights, but I also use tights depending on the costume and dance genre. Let’s let everyone make their own choices and support each other.”
In summary, the list seems to go something like this:
- Clean body lines
- Warmer muscles
- Added layer of coverage/protection
- Builds confidence and comfort on stage
- Hygiene! Tights provide a light barrier between our skin and everything else in dance class. Besides the fact that we want to keep from spreading our sweat, open scratches and/or odors around the room, we also want to keep everything from touching us as well.
- Protects dancers’ modesty
- Finishes the look in a costume
- Looks more innocent, especially on curvy dancers
- Light compression improves circulation in legs
- Completes a dance school dress code, adding to the professionalism and uniformity of dancers in class
- Lessons the probability of a wardrobe malfunction
- Filters the look of the leg- hides distracting imperfections- bruises, ashy skin, body hair, cellulite, etc.
- Dancers who don’t wear tights typically must and/or choose to groom excessively- trimming, shaving, gluing, applying self tanner, using tanning beds- to look good and feel comfortable on stage. This is unnecessary for young dancers and can lead to greater questions about beauty and body image.
- Dancers in a dance school are still in training. They are not professionals and should not be subjected to the life of a professional dancer yet. There’s plenty of time for that later.
- Old school, outdated
- During certain lifts or Acro tricks and partner work tights can add slip and take away from grip.
- Modern, Contemporary and Acro dance styles should never use tights.
- Dance tights aren’t inclusive enough. Now the manufacturers are getting smarter and offering tights in several skin tones, but that has not been the case for long.
- Filters the look of the leg- there’s not a thing much more beautiful than a dancer’s muscular leg in motion. Dancers work very hard for their muscles, and seeing the engagement of the correct muscles while dancing highlights fabulous technique.
- Professional dancers rarely wear tights, and we should be preparing our kids for the “real world” of dance.
I believe there are valid reasons both for AND against tights, and I wholeheartedly agree with the inclusion argument. However, during my dance training I experienced the many benefits of using tights. As a dancer with a professional dance team, we still wore tights while performing. As a parent, I recognize the fact that nobody wants to see children who look remotely unclothed. And now as I come full circle as the owner of Elevate Dance Center, I strongly believe the pros to wearing tights absolutely outweigh the cons. EDC will continue to mandate tights as part of our uniform for Ballet, Jazz, Lyrical, Turns and Leaps and other classes as necessary, and hopefully now you feel educated and equipped on why tights matter for our school.
Thanks for reading, and never miss a chance to dance. -Miss Dena
What do you think? We’d love to hear your comments.