Ask Rhee Gold | A passion for dance, at any size

Advice for dance teachers

Q: Dear Rhee,

I have a student who has sized out of all the costume companies’ charts. She has been with me since she was a baby and is only 13 years old. She loves to dance, but I don’t know what to do if she registers again this year. Should I tell her mom that we can’t order her a costume? Should I encourage her to pick up a different activity? The kids in her class make fun of her, and I’m uncomfortable knowing that everyone notices her at the recital (and probably not in a good way). What would you do in this situation? —Anna


A: Dear Anna,

If we, or audience members attending our recital, are uncomfortable because of a student’s size, that is our problem, not the student’s. Don’t say a word to the mom or the child. Instead, call the costume companies to see if a larger costume might be available. I’m sure that if you order early enough, you will find a costume company that will make a costume for this child. If that doesn’t work, order two costumes and bring them to a seamstress who can sew them into one beautiful costume.

Just like any child, a heavy child can develop a passion for dance and should be given the opportunity to do so. Have you ever wondered how many kids and adults this student may be inspiring when she performs in the recital? Perhaps kids who didn’t think they could dance will be encouraged to join your school.

Let me address another concern—if students in this child’s class are making fun of her, you must stop it. A dance school should be a judgment-free zone. The world is filled with bullies who hurt others with their comments and physical abuse. You could use team building exercises, discussions about acceptance, or message choreography to change the attitude within your classroom.

Finally, never forget that this student loves to dance. Encourage her, teach her, and be the best mentor you can be. She is a gift! —Rhee