Allison has been taking a ballet class at a local dance studio just down the street and around the corner from our house since last fall. She has loved every minute of it. She's been very excited about the idea of dancing on stage for an audience ever since I explained the recital concept to her.
Yesterday we got to see the girls' costumes and try them on for size. Luckily Allison's just fit, in spite of the growth spurt she seems to have had in the last six months. Unluckily, I don't think I'm very happy with the costume choice. Its cute, and its over the top, but I don't think its appropriate. The leotards they picked are halter top style. For three-year olds. And I just don't think its appropriate.
I think that dance studios very often over-sexualize little girls at very young ages in both costume and choreography. Last summer as I was looking for a dance studio for Allison I worried about making sure I found one that wouldn't do this to her, or any of the other little girls dancing with her. The world is harsh enough... dance studios don't need to be helping 3, 5, 8, or 10 year old girls feel like they have to grow up too fast or be "sexy" to have worth.
The choreography for Allison's class is very cute, and very 3-year-old appropriate. There's not a ton of real technique involved, but they're three... the think the fact that Allison knows what first position and plie are is pretty good I think. I wish the studio did as well at preserving/honoring the innocense of their 3 and 4 year olds in the costuming. I mean... I don't really expect her dance costumes to be sleeved, but a halter top?
So now, I'm thinking about looking for a different studio for Allison to dance at and it has me all sorts of worried. There are so many things that I want for her: I want her to enjoy dance. I want her to dance somewhere where she can be taught good technique so that she has options... so that she can be a "real" ballerina as long as she keeps wanting to dance.
I'd like her to be trained at a "serious" classical ballet studio, rather than a competition team driven dance studio. I want a studio that will preserve and protect the innocense of little girls. I feel like at classical ballet studio, I'd have to worry less about inappropriate costumes or choreography. But they bring with them a whole different worry. I don't want Allison dancing somewhere that will attack her body image from a young age or ever. And that is my worry about a serious classical ballet studio. I don't want Allison to ever be told that she can't or shouldn't dance because she doesn't have the right body. I don't want her to ever think that she needs to diet or look different to be good enough. It is hard enough to grow up with a healthy body image... I don't know a single woman who needs any help thinking up ways she'd like to change her body. And I want to sheild Allison from that as long as possible.
So where do I go? What do I do? Take her out of dance entirely because I'm so scared and worried? Stick with the current studio and alter her costumes until I start having problems with the choreography too? Find a serious studio and keep my eyes open for body image issues? Find a little not-so-serious ballet studio and hope for the best?
I'll tell you what I'd LIKE to do. I'd like to clone the director of the studio my sister danced at through high school and bring her out here to start a studio. It was excellent classical ballet (with tap & jazz instruction too) with beautiful choreography, lovely costuming (that parents got to see and "approve" before-hand!) and no pressure for dancers to have the "right" body. I want to find that studio here. But I feel like, if it exists, its a needle in a haystack. And now I'm so terrified of picking the wrong place. It feels so silly, and yet, with how these things I'm worried about could affect Allison, it feels like it matters so much.
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