Within minutes of entering a dance studio I can get a feel for its energy, its culture and values.
During a recent workshop, I couldn’t help but notice the two 9 nine-year old girls on the floor in front of me.
One girl held the ankles of another, who was lying on her back, counting her ab crunches: “23, 24, 25… Done! Now, let’s go check,” she said, a little out of breath.
They ran over to the mirror with such enthusiasm, I thought they might run right into it. The one who had just completed the crunches enthusiastically asked her friend, “Do you see a difference?”
“Yes, it’s almost there,” her friend replied. “I can almost see your six pack. Now, go do some more.”
Cute? Maybe… Some might call it cute, while others might be alarmed – they’re too young to be obsessing over body image.
In this case, it wasn’t just their behavior that gave me a clue about the culture of the studio, it was their two-piece bootie-bikini outfits. The tops were simply string bikini halters with two triangles covering about two inches of skin on each side.
I’ve done hundreds of in-studio workshops over the past several years. I can usually anticipate what my experience is going to be like based on the way students are dressed. Their attire gives me a clue about how attentive they’ll be to instruction.
This is my (unscientific) categorization of studios, according to dress code, or lack thereof:
Studio A dancers are all about their looks.
They have professionally manicured nails, recently arched eyebrows, trendy haircuts/color, full-on makeup, and their abs are constantly on display. These adolescents and young teens wear a lot of beachwear to class. The older teens are so ripped, they make me want to completely avoid looking at myself in the mirror.
Studio B dancers do their own thing.
Their hair is all over the place, they wear street clothes: baggy pants, oversized sweats, hats, trendy tee shirts and whatever jewelry that expresses their current mood. These clothes would be appropriate for hip-hop, but ballet class? No!
Studio C dancers keep it simple.
They wear pink tights, black leotards, and their hair is worn neatly in ballet buns, absolutely no jewelry – end of story. (Side note: They usually purchase everything directly from the dance studio, which translates into additional profits for the studio owner.)
Can you imagine how each environment affects the students? You can immediately tell where their focus is and isn’t.
I’ve noticed that when studio mirrors are used for correcting technique and not for comparing one pair of booty-shorts to another, kids and teens have less to worry about. They are more relaxed and joyful when distractions regarding clothing, accessories and hair are minimized.
Dancers who look and act like dancers take their classes seriously and they focus on dance – not on maintaining standards set by other students. Additionally, uniformity establishes a professional image for the studio, and adherence to standards for the students and the sublimation of family income.
My mom owned a dance studio and once a month, we could wear tights of a different color. Other than that, it was black leotards, pink tights. When we did sit ups it was simply part of our class warm-up and core training. Perhaps, my mom knew that it takes more than high kicks, flawless technique and trophies on display to make a good dance studio.
What’s it like at your dance studio? I’d love to hear from you.