End Racism in Dance Costumes

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It has become increasingly apparent through the ordering of costumes and the uncomfortable outries of my dancers of color, that we as a dance industry are still operating under a eurocentric and white-washed mindset. The specific issue at hand being the lack of multiple skin tones available in costuming and performance wear for dancers.

The lack of options of varying flesh colors within the costume, and the fact that many costume companies will not provide a solution. For example, many costumes are produced with a tan strap when they just as easily could attach a clear strap (to ensure the “no strap” look on everyone) or make the straps the same color as the costumes (to ensure inclusivity of all dancers) or include a brown strap option as well.

Not only does this lack of varying shades of skin tones cause issues for the teachers, such as them now having to dye certain pieces of costumes to make their dancers feel included and integrated in the same ways, but it also creates a feeling of not belonging and not being represented for dancers of color. 

The issue has taken on more problems in the sense that the newest “trend” in the dance world is illusion cutouts in costumes. If my dark skin dancer wears a leotard with mesh cutouts/illusion necklines or backs it no longer succeeds the desired look because of the inability for the flesh of the dancer and the “flesh” mesh to match.

 Representation is important in every aspect of life, but particularly for young girls growing up representation can have a direct effect on their self image and internal psyche. Representation means that they can see a reflection of themselves and how they see themselves in mainstream media. If adolescents grow up continuously and consistently seeing only young, thin, white, and able-bodied representations in the media, it will have a devastating impact on those who do not fit this mainstream normality. However, if adolescents are being exposed to varying skin tones, different cultural and racial identities, and various body types they can be influenced into appreciating the body and the skin tone that they have. These unrepresented adolescents, such as dancers of color, could grow up assuming that since they do not match the images presented in the mainstream projections and images, they do not fit into the societal perception of normal and accepted. They then believe that they are deemed “less than”, undesirable, or unworthy of feeling good about themselves. They will believe that they do not belong in this community.

It is 2018. Let's stop this idea that there are only white dancers. The end of racism in costuming starts with you. Enough is enough. Offer inclusive options for dancers of color and include equal representation amongst your costume models. 

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