Attire, Fit and Presence: Why is dancewear important?
Athletes expect their equipment and apparel to enhance and empower their performance. Selecting the right bat, glove, cleats, helmet, pads, golf clubs, tennis rackets, shoes, outfit, etc., can make a big difference in the achievement and development of the natural abilities of anyone pursuing physical and mental disciplines. Mix the rigor of athletic sports with the passion of art, and your result will be dance in all its forms, bringing out the potential of the human body and mind combined. When hampered by the wrong equipment and tools, however, underachievement and frustration can occur in any activity. If your child and you have chosen dance, keep in mind that it is a strenuous activity that requires the right outfitting, equipment and empowering accessories that will allow your child to build the confidence required to excel in competitions and performances.
In dance, as in all other intense disciplined physical activity, the outfit is carefully designed to assist the dancers in achieving their best. Dance is a discipline focused on ensuring grace and agility in posture and form, and class-wear usually is chosen to allow the instructor to clearly see the muscles, posture and movements of the dancer. Performance-wear enhances the ideas and showmanship of the choreographer and the aggregate grace of the dancers as well as that of the soloists.
For the young dancers in your family, it is important that you help them get the most out of their chosen activity. Dance enhances self-esteem, builds discipline, creates character and can bring out the best in your child. When your child has proper and well fitted attire, he or she will feel more comfortable and not be overly concerned about it, focusing then on the technique and routines being taught in class.
The dancer’s shoes are critical, as the feet do a large portion of the work. An oversized tap shoe will not allow the dancer to control the tap, and a poorly fitted Pointe shoe can result in injuries, premature arthritis or permanent deformities. The soft leather of a ballet slipper or a jazz shoe will form to the dancer’s foot when properly sized. If there is excess leather, the life of the shoe will shorten considerably, as it rubs against the floor and the dancer’s foot moves around in it, weakening the fabric and leather in the wrong spots. Depending on type, hours of class and age, shoes can be sized with some growth in mind, and an expert fitter should give you all the pros and cons as the fitting is done.
If the dance shoes do not get in the way, dancewear should not either. It is important to try on leotards before you buy them, as they are designed to be form fitting, and not everyone is shaped alike. You do not want your child to be concerned about a low cut in front or a high riding bottom. Classic uniforms usually do not have these types of problems, but fashion leotards can be very tricky. Often a catalog fashion buy is rationalized as “good enough to live with” even though it does no fit well, as the garment looked great on a model. But it truly shows, and is noticeable when a leotard fits poorly. At class time, the function of body wear is to allow the teacher to evaluate posture, position, grace and form. Poorly fitting leotards do not enhance the class experience.
Before, during and after class, good blood circulation in the limbs is required to avoid cramping and “Charlie horses”, so your dancer should be covered properly, especially around the legs. Pants or legwarmers can accomplish this, maintaining the blood flow required for the proper development of the muscles. A jacket, cardigan or wrap over the shoulders will also protect from exposure, as well as allowing for modesty to and from school. All the accessory dancewear, such as skirts, tees, etc., permits your dancer to express themselves individually, and reinforce their (and your) commitment in and out of class. It is very empowering to feel great as you do an activity, and that is what you are looking for in your child.
Even if you do not expect your dancer to pursue dance activity as a career, it does not mean you should have him or her ill equipped. Dance is competitive, and you want your dancer to have a chance to win and excel, as well as the opportunity to choose if they really like it. You would not expect a soccer match to be won by a player with bad shoes, or a tennis player to ace a serve with the wrong racquet. Of course this is possible but it is not likely, and for a child the extra effort required to overcome poor equipment can lead to frustration and a poor experience altogether, associated with guilt and inadequacy feelings.
Make sure your child is properly outfitted and equipped for any activity they do, be it dancing, basketball, swimming or any other, and the rewards will show. All after school activities represent an investment towards the future, bringing you rewards for years to come.
Next blog: Tips for Dancing from Home