Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Why a Dress Code is a Good Thing

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Wow, it's been a while since I've blogged. Sorry about that. My only excuse is that teaching small children roughly equates to teaching adorable petri dishes full of highly contagious germs.

Anyway, I love having a dress code. I have a friend who thinks that ballet is just a ridiculous collection of rules. Okay, I can see his point, but a lot of those rules serve a purpose. And a dress code serves many purposes at once.

I like uncluttered dress codes (think the opposite of Fame) because, as a teacher, I get a clear view of what's happening on a body. I don't know if you're really stretching your knees if they're always hidden under baggy sweats; I don't know how your posture is if you're wearing a giant shirt stolen from your dad's closet; and those wide-necked shirts that make you stand just a little off-kilter to keep it on your shoulders make you look like maybe you should be evaluated by a medical professional for scoliosis/kyphosis, etc.

Asking students to secure their hair (and I do love a nice bun) is not me being all control-freaky. Little kids especially, but everyone to a degree, have a hard time concentrating if their hair is always falling into their eyes. Hair in a ponytail can whip around and smack you in your eyes when you turn--and it hurts. Hair that falls out halfway through class is a huge distraction to everyone, mostly because I am expected to put it back up again when what I'd really like to do is teach the class. (Also, I am awful at doing hair. I should be your very last resort ever. EVER.)

Don't even get me started on why big jewelry in class is a very bad idea.

Right. Those are very practical reasons. But there's another reason I love having a dress code. These clothes are a uniform. Wearing the clothes designates to everyone that what we're doing in class is not by accident. We came to the studio to do something specific. The dress code helps everyone focus.

These clothes are also a costume. We don't wear them to school, or church, or to the movies, or to the park. (Okay, some little kids do and I think that's adorable, but you get my point.) When we put on the clothes we transform. Instead of being "a person taking a ballet class" we put on the costume and become "a dancer". We all genuinely dance better when we dress the part. It's as if we have set an expectation for ourselves and then live up to it.

Dress codes transform class. 

P. S. The very best way I ever heard to get your reluctant dancer to wear her ballet clothes is to blame "ballet". As in, "Ballet says you have to wear tights." This way mom and dad aren't the bad guys, and neither is the teacher. This nebulous, centuries-old "ballet" has set the rules and we all have to follow them. Many thanks to my friend Mary for the tip!

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