A dress code lends a professional look to classes and sends the message to students and observers that the school’s staff takes the training they provide seriously. A dress code creates an added sense of discipline in the classroom and equality among the students. The focus stays on taking a good class rather than comparing dance wardrobes. Plus, baggy sweatshirts or sweatpants make it difficult to observe the dancers’ bodies well enough to offer the technical corrections needed to build strong dancers. Straight knees and proper body alignment are hard to see underneath layers of baggy clothing.
Another advantage to having a dress code is the additional profit for the school if it sells basics such as leotards and tights. If your school has one, say so in the brochure, on registration forms, and on the web site. But whether or not the school has a dress code, proper shoes should be required for all classes.
If your school has never had a dress code but you are considering implementing one, the place to start might be with the ballet classes. Often I hear teachers complain that their students don’t take ballet training seriously. If the teacher and students look like ballet dancers, they will probably take their classes more seriously.
There are legitimate reasons not to have a dress code. Teenage girls who are self-conscious about their bodies may feel inhibited in a leotard and tights; if they feel too uncomfortable, they may choose not to dance. And many boys struggle with our society’s negative stereotyping about males wearing tights. It’s OK to start the boys out in a pair of sweats and a solid-color T-shirt. However, once they move on to a more advanced level of training, they should be willing to wear a pair of black tights for ballet classes. Boys who take their dance training seriously need to understand the discipline of a dress code as well as its importance to their technical training. Those ages 10 and over should be encouraged to wear a dance belt.
Hip-hop and adult classes should be exempt from a dress code. Hip-hop dancers often come to the school expressing no interest in other dance forms, so a dress code might intimidate them. However, they frequently segue into other classes once they’ve been exposed to them, and they can be introduced to the idea of a dress code in those classes. Adults may feel the need to cover up more and variations in dress don’t distract them, so permissiveness in attire is generally the rule.