Dance Teachers: Please Put Some Clothes On Your Students

Dance Teachers, we need to talk. You have got to stop sending children out to dance in public in their underwear. Maybe you’ve added some rhinestones to that underwear or maybe you’ve strategically placed a piece of chiffon somewhere but come on…underwear is underwear and we all know it.

And Dance Parents, you shouldn’t allow your children to do this, even if your Dance Teacher thinks its okay.

I go to dance recitals and competitions and feel like I’m in “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” Surely I’m not the only adult among the hundreds in attendance who thinks it’s inappropriate to send kids on stage to dance in their knickers. Am I?

You may be wondering what qualifies me to state such an opinion, so here are my credentials:

  • I’ve been involved in dance either as a student, a performer or a teacher since somewhere around 1963.
  • I started my daughter’s dance training at a traditional ballet school but when she was lured by the showy world of competition dance, I was sucked into being a Dance Mom.
  • I created an arts education program for kids with special needs and dance represents a significant chunk of what we do at Merrimack Hall.

Surely this sufficiently convinces you that I’m an expert on the topic of dance competitions…but I have been called an opinionated know-it-all before so feel free to disregard my impressive resume and chalk this up to me being obnoxious. It won’t be the first time I’ve stated a strong opinion that I was convinced was irrefutable only to have people tell me I’m being an asshole.

I am not a prude. If you know me, you know that I excel at cussing and have strong liberal leanings. I have an open mind about most things, particularly the arts. But as the years have rolled along, I’ve watched kids’ dance costumes get smaller and smaller and  now…well, costumes seem to have disappeared altogether, replaced by what they call “hot shorts” or “bloomers” worn with what appear to be bras from Victoria Secret while they are performing for an audience, under the glare of stage lighting. I’m not sure what I find the most objectionable – sending 8-year-olds out onstage dressed like this or sending 17-year-olds in this attire.

Maybe Dance Teachers think they are costuming their students like the people they aspire to be…perhaps Misty Copeland or Beyonce. So, I offer you Exhibit A:

MIsty Copeland

Misty Copeland is not covered up in this photo or in the incredible commercial she filmed for the Under Armour campaign. But…

  • She’s Misty Copeland.
  • She’s a grown woman.
  • This is an ad for base garments, otherwise known as UNDERWEAR and is not apparel that is advertised as a dance costume.
  • Notice that both the photo and the video take place in a rehearsal space…not on stage in front of an audience.

And take Exhibit B:


I adore Beyonce and think she is a positive, empowering role model for girls. Obviously, she isn’t wearing much in this photo. But:

  • She’s Beyonce.
  • She’s a grown woman.
  • She’s Beyonce.

I’m guessing that even Mrs. Carter would Exhibit C objectionable:

Single Ladies

I could go on and on about this picture and the dance these 6-years-olds performed, which nearly blew up the internet when the video went viral a few years ago. This specific dance and the controversy around age-appropriateness was a hot topic back in 2010 on Dr.Phil, with Anderson Cooper and with many other reputable journalistic outlets.

But I’m just focusing on the costumes right now.

I’ve seen dozens of teenagers dancing in “costumes” like Exhibit D (which is featured in an online dancewear catalogue) at competitions and recitals:


See what I mean? She might as well be naked. But she’s a professional model, she is in a rehearsal space, there’s no one else in the photo and the catalogue calls this item “activewear,” perfect attire for dance class, yoga, pilates etc. It is important for dancers to be able to see their bodies, to check their turn out and lines while taking class in front of unforgiving mirrors. Dance class is one thing but in front of an audience? I vote no.

This trend seemed to start when young dancers stopped wearing tights. But you can dance barefoot while wearing footless tights, you know. And at least tights would add a layer. I sat next to a man at a competition recently and he told me that he couldn’t watch dancers dressed like this – said it made him extremely uncomfortable so he scrolled through Facebook during these numbers. His daughter is only 7…by the time she’s a teenager, they may just be wearing a thong and pasties.

I thought costumes were supposed to enhance a dance piece or advance the story of the dance. Have a look at Exhibit E:

shutterstock_291046667 copy

This stock photo is representative of a photo I saw where about 25 teenage girls were wearing sequined bikinis while dancing on scaffolding. What story could a dance teacher be telling that requires girls to wear bikinis while dancing on scaffolding? Maybe the dance teacher who chose to costume her students like this is actually preparing kids for careers as erotic dancers. I have nothing against erotic dancers and quite enjoy a well-done strip show…when the performer is over 21, everyone in the audience is over 21 and I’m enjoying a nice cocktail. At a “family friendly” dance competition…not so much.

Now, I realize that there are categories of people who perform in public wearing in very little clothing – like track and field stars or gymnasts. They are wearing garments that are aerodynamic and help improve their speed or they are wearing leotards because anything else would get tangled up on the uneven bars. Of course, dance teachers have to insure that the costume they select won’t trip up their dancers or impede their movement. But there’s a line of good taste and I hate to be the one to tell you but Dance Teachers, you have crossed that line.

So, Dance Teachers, please rethink your costuming choices. And Dance Parents, please voice your objections to costumes like these, if you have them. Barely there costumes like these do not make a dance more competitive and parents shouldn’t be afraid to voice concerns over immodest attire.

Maybe I’m wrong or maybe I’m just being an asshole but I think our kids deserve better.

Stay tuned…in future posts, I will offer my expert opinion on tilts, leg extension, crotch shots, props, music selection and much, much more.


246 thoughts on “Dance Teachers: Please Put Some Clothes On Your Students

  1. My lil dancers have all grown up and are moms of boys…but it’s interesting to note that Mattel is changing its dolls soon to be less sexual and more like “real” people dolls with various body types…manufacturers of costumes make more with less fabric so soon the kids won’t have much to wear… a patch here and there or maybe just a string…it is too bad for young girls I would say…like the jeans with holes in them…my dad was so poor he was embarrassed to go to school because he had holes in his jeans back in the day…now the rich wear them and it’s stylish to look like a bum…holy cow!

  2. I danced for 10 years when I was younger. My dance studio started off as a small, family friendly studio who only competed as one competition per year. We had fun, and we’re very close knit. When I started getting older, this studio gained more recognition and dancers. Because of this, we competed more and wore more costumes like this. Might I remind you, I’m not the skinniest girl, I am pretty heavy set, but I was also good at what I did. And when these costumes came “into style”, I had low self esteem and didn’t want to perform of stage while wearing this. Some people might like showing it off, but I never did.

  3. As s dancer/teacher, and a mother of a 25 year old professional dancer/teacher WE WILL SECOND THIS. AMEN GIRL! Adults are one thing but anyone under 18 to me should be covered and IF there is a s small amount of tummy showing Ian’s they are under 14 they put on a body liner at least. But there will be no crop tops at my studio. Kids learn and get sexy on their own. No need to teach it to them as kids

  4. Your comment, ” I’m not sure what I find the most objectionable – sending 8-year-olds out onstage dressed like this or sending 17-year-olds in this attire.” summed up exactly how I have felt.. My daughter danced with a local studio,was in competition for 9 years, minored in dance in college, and now teaches dance. I have seen dance costumes get more and more skimpy through the years. It isn’t pretty. The sensual, sexy dance style seems to be the norm for the under 10 crowd at some studios. Fortunately, the studio where my daughter danced (and now teaches) believes in more modest costumes and age-appropriate dance content. I wish all dance teachers would take this article to heart!

  5. Amen! I have sat through many and thought that all they needed was a pole. They look like they want dollar bills shoved into their little panty-things!

    People would pay more attention to the actual dance if they were not astounded by the costumes! Go Girl!

    Sherrie >

    • Walking around in public could almost be safer…I’m definitely not suggesting it’s a good idea, but absolutely anyone can come watch a dance recital! These kids who are on stage don’t know who they’re performing for; they can’t see who is staring at them in the audience, taking pictures, etc. If you wouldn’t send your kid out in public wearing something like this, you definitely shouldn’t put them on stage wearing it!

  6. I haven’t heard one parent concerned that for every photo you take with your daughters holding there leg next to their head and wearing leotard or short Lycra shorts there is a pedofile downloading that photo and they go to these competitions to take photos . One Dateline they arrested a pedofile ring that shared over 5000 photos of girls 4-12 and they were titled hot crotches . The detective said he went home that day and told his wife no more if they can’t wear tights or leggings she’s not doing it any more . At some point common sense must speak out .

  7. Pingback: Dear Dance Teachers: Please Stop Sexualizing Your Students

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  9. I just celebrated my 80th Birthday, and am still actively teaching dance to my adult ladies. My Mother passed away in August of ’15 and she was still actively teaching until a few weeks before her 99th Birthday. We jointly owned and operated 2 studios with pupils from the age of 4 years to Adult. We opened out first studio in 1952. and the battle for age appropriate costuming has many times lost pupils for us. Instead of wearing a full skirted red with black spot lady bug costume, Mama wants her darling in a red sequin short and halter top costume. If the story line calls for a caterpillar, instead of a shiny green full length, body covering cocoon, again Mommy Dearest insists she wants a tiny green bikini style costume for her “dancer”. Those students we lose to parents with that mind set, are very welcome to go elsewhere. But even worse is when the teachers put racy costumes with the current style of hip hop or rap movements — I refuse to call that vulgarity :dance: Please keep pushing your observations out to the public. We need all the help we can get with this problem

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