Does the Trend by Some Dancers to Alter the Traditional Dance Attire (Tights) Affect the Aesthetic Experience?

By Gibbons, Elizabeth; Argent, Elesa et al. | JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, May-June 2005 | Go to article overview

Does the Trend by Some Dancers to Alter the Traditional Dance Attire (Tights) Affect the Aesthetic Experience?


Gibbons, Elizabeth, Argent, Elesa, Sanders, Gary E., Germain, Jenna, Crawford, Scott A. G. M., JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance


For class attire, the teacher sets the boundaries within which students may make certain choices. Pink tights and black leotards were long the standard uniform for ballet class; for students the choice may have consisted only of whether the leotard had long or short sleeves. For other teachers, as long as the student can move safely and fully, anything goes.

When facing a class of 30 students, having everyone in similar attire enables the teacher to quickly detect problems in alignment and position. A variety of pants, shorts, cut-offs, and T-shirts in all colors provides a confounding array of visual stimulation that makes it difficult to see the movements of each dancer. Baggy shirts and sweatpants hide the line of the dancer's body, so seeing the bend of a knee or the arch of a back becomes a guessing game.

How distracting is the clothing to the student? If the dancer is always pulling and tugging at midriff tops or hip-riding pants, these "shadow movements" distract the dancer, the teacher, and the other students.

Even if the teacher allows just about anything in class, the student also has to consider how certain attire makes him or her feel, and how that feeling translates to attitude and movement in class. The act of putting up one's hair very neatly and seeing one's reflection in a simple leotard in ballet class makes one feel, and thus move, very differently from a toss of loose hair and flare-leg pants in a jazz class; slouchy attire in a hip-hop class is appropriate for that style and mood.

--Elizabeth Gibbons, Chair and Dance Coordinator, Department of Movement Activities & Lifetime Fitness, East Stroudsburg University, East Stroudsburg, PA.

The fluidity, grace, and beauty of the classical dancer cannot be denied; the prima ballerina juxtaposes fragile femininity with exceptional physical strength to form an aesthetic unsurpassed by any other form of physical expression. When the body is the tool of artistic expression, the clear lines of the body allow a pure, clear expression of physical beauty to be communicated to the audience. The traditional uniform of classical dance--leotard, tutu, and tights--easily facilitates the communication of such fragile beauty and strength.

But how are we to interpret "traditional" in today's dynamic society, where each generation adopts new ways of interpreting and expressing their understanding of the world? Urban dance reflects to an extent the social, economic, and political realities of the world in which we live. Street dance attire may appear antithetic to the delicate beauty of the ballerina's tutu, but nevertheless communicates a unique grace and fragility of its own. Similarly, the aesthetic of the tuxedo, the dancing shoes, the flowing line of the ball gown heighten the beauty and artistry of ballroom dancing. Dance attire allows the true aesthetic of the physical form to be appreciated, so may be as unique as the dancer.

--Elesa Argent, doctoral student, Loughborough University, England, UK.

House lights down, curtain up, the music begins, stage lights up, dancers enter from every corner of the stage. What are they wearing? No tights in this dance. They had bare legs with a variety of colorful tops and shorts. Was the aesthetic experience of watching the performance lost? I don't think so. The title of another dance I observed was "Is it the dance or the costume?" The dancers wore tights in the first section, then returned and performed the same dance in super flashy outfits. The new outfits had sparkles and streamers. I remembered the second section much better. Then I saw some neat choreography in the studio with dancers in tights. Then I saw the same dance presented on stage. With the presentation on stage, the dancer's outfits were gaudy and covered up the wonderful movements and combinations. …

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