Glittering tiaras and tutus. A screaming crowd at a basketball half-time show. Choreographing dance pieces in my driveway, my bedroom.
These are just a few of the fond memories I have of my dance career.
There are other memories though. Staying up late to sew and modify costumes. Advocating for my dance team about why certain costumes needed to be a certain way. Carrying large amounts of clothing around so I could be covered up to and from the studio.
The principle of modesty has always been important to me as a covenant child of God and I have done my best to work with the Lord on remaining true to my belief system as I enjoy a talent he has given me. However, I have been disappointed around some of the misconceptions about dancing and modesty, especially as it relates to LDS influencers.
For example, LDS violinist Lindsey Stirling is competing on the hit reality show “Dancing with the Stars.” As she has advanced through the competition, multiple members have taken to social media to criticize her costumes and performance.
However, this article isn’t to villainize those people or make any final judgments about what is wrong or right when it comes to dancewear. Rather, my goal today is to shed some light on the world of dance, which will hopefully help both dancers and those who watch dancers understand why certain costumes are necessary.
One of the most important reasons for bare shoulders, backs, and legs in multiple forms of dance has roots in the art form itself. Dancers spend years perfecting their lines, or the way their bodies are aligned. For example, take an arabesque in ballet.
While it seems like a simple lift of the leg, the ballerina has perfected aligning her hips properly, pointing her toes, and straightening her leg muscles. Part of the joy of dance is displaying proper technique and having that technique appreciated. Even those who don’t fully understand the nuances of each dance would likely be able to tell a difference between the trained dancer and the untrained one.
Showing offlines is not just for a dazzling performance; many dancers take classes in “skimpy” clothes so teachers can see if they are displaying proper technique which would be impossible to see in loose-fitting clothes. This also ensures the safety of each dancer. Performing moves incorrectly or having improper alignment can cause damage and injury.
Speaking of safety, it is so important for partners to be able to grip each other when performing or practicing together. Bulky or heavy costumes make it more difficult for partners to hold onto each other. This is especially crucial for lifts and swings. The partners need to be able to have a firm grip so no falls or spills occur. Bare skin is one of the best things to grab, rather than slippery fabric.
Ease of Movement
All forms of dance are about expression through movement. It is thus important for a dancer to be able to move. Long skirts, even those down to the knees, can restrict movement of the legs, and any extra fabric on the arms, unless it is skin tight, can slow down your aerodynamics when turning.
As with any form of exercise, dance causes the body to heat up exponentially. Dancers can keep their energy up by wearing lighter costumes or less clothing, which helps them not become overheated. They are then able to dance for longer periods of time with a higher energy level. Even a three to five minute performance can cause a dancer to become dangerously overheated and lightheaded if they are not careful.
Vulgar and immodest costumes definitely exist. However, we hope some of these thoughts will help members understand the art form of dance (and the costumes dancers wear) just a little bit better.
Aleah is a graduate of Southern Virginia University, where she studied English, Creative Writing, and Dance. She now works full time as a marketing and product manager, writer, and editor. Aleah served a mission in California and loves baking, Lang Leav poetry, Gaynor Minden pointe shoes, and Bollywood movies.