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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Modesty Issues for recital

Sandy in St Louis

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My daughter (12) has modesty concerns about her upcoming recital. A few years ago she experienced some trauma that has made changing in front of others totally humiliating. Last year she wore a body liner and was happy as a clam. I can't see the liner in her individual pictures so I'm pretty sure it wasn't visible. She has a new instructor this year that has told the girls "Nothing under the leotard but tights." My daughter wants to talk to her instructor by herself first. I don't think M**** will want to discuss the reasons. Should I give the instructor some advance information or just let my daughter handle this one on her own? I'm hoping in time she will regain some of her confidence, but in the meantime I'm trying to protect her from further trauma.


Any thoughts?




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Modesty is always an issue at this age. At my daughter's last show, all of the 12 and 13 year olds had concerns about changing in front of others. Some teachers feel they should get used to it as dancers often share dressing rooms and, heaven knows, I've seen enough professional dancers walking around with barely anything on backstage but I think at that age the desire to be modest should be respected.


You can talk to the teacher about a changing leotard but sometimes that isn't practical. What I have done in the past is asked to chaperone backstage. When I do, I bring a clotheline and sheets. I find a place to put it up and have an instant changing area for the girls who are feeling modest.


I'm not sure how things work at your studio. Our performances are held at local high schools so the girls are housed in an empty classroom until its time to go on. That makes it easier. I have seen girls change behind white boards, hold up towels in front of each other, etc.


I also think modesty should be resepcted as we have had two issues with males in the productions who found "excuses" to be around the dressing areas when some of the younger dancers were changing - Not Cool.


My suggestion would be that if there needs to be a change of costume that the parents discuss having a changing area with the teacher. -It might be helpful if you found other parents with the same concern and went in as a group - or write a letter.


Just my 2 cents.

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I completely agree with Kandi. My DD attended a school where some of the same options were offered so that the students who felt that they needed more privacy could have it. Those handling costumes sometimes brought a folding screen if a backstage area did not allow for hanging a sheet, etc., as the screen was easily transported to and from most venues.


I think that you will find that teachers, classmates, and other parents are supportive of this issue, and Kandi had a good idea about approaching your DD's director as a group or in writing.

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My dd is the same age. Just this year, she went from changing almost anywhere (including the studio dressing room) to changing in a stall in the restroom. I've noticed that many of her classmates do the same thing. It is most definitely difficult at this age and even more difficult with a history of a trauma.


When we did the competition circuit, we saw a pop-up type tent structure that some used as a changing room. Discount Dance has one version on their website. It's quite a bit pricier than a sheet and clothesline, but it is another option.

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As both a parent to a 12-year-old student and a school director I would encourage you to let your daughter express her concerns to her instructor. I understand the awkwardness of the age and the issue of modesty, and your daughter's request seems reasonable if, as you say, the nudie is not visible under the costume. Let her know that a "no" is still possible and let her make the request. If she is turned down, then you can look into the changing screen. She has plenty of time to acclamate to the less than modest standards of professional ballet dressing rooms.

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As a mom of a modest little girl, I can agree with all the suggestions made. However, as a teacher I suggest complete honesty when speaking to her teacher/director (you can leave out the details of the trauma, but be upfront that there was trauma). The fact that it is more than *just* a modesty issue changes it for me. If a child came to me with a problem of changing in a room with other girls without a substantial reason (just the general...there are other kids there...) I would probably tell her 'rules are rules'.


There are ALWAYS ways to make the kids more comfortable changing or in a costume. Perhaps a thong underneath tights? Bunheads sell something that could go over her chest (I forget exactly what they are called...perhaps Petals?). Those are virtually invisible under costumes/leos.

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I don't see anything wrong with having two of her friends hold up a sheet for her, rules or no rules. I had the same issues with PE so I completely understand. The kids are not professional dancers, they are adolescents at a particularly tricky time in their development. Cut the kids some slack, they have years to get used to their bodies and be comfortable in them.

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Back when my dd was on the competition circuit, she was like the Houdini of changing without ever being completely undressed. We would bring one of her Dad's light weight wind breakers so that she could put it on, zip it all the way up, then take her arms out of the sleeves. (Think large potato sack.) She could slip off one costume and into a new one without anybody seeing a thing. It hung low enough for tight changes too. And since it zipped it didn't mess up her hair either. Worked like a charm for her.


We used to have a long commute to the studio too, so she would use this technique for those all too necessary changes in the car when traffic was bad and she wouldn't have time to change before class started.


We did try the sheet thing, but she didn't trust me to hold it up right and felt much more comfortable taking the matter into her own hands.

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On the simple end of things, is there not a restroom near the dressing room where she can just slip in? In the middle is the sheet with the help of mom or friends. On the extreme end of things, there is this: Portable dressing room In the middle is small attempts to get her used to being more comfortable in a dressing room where she and others will be changing quickly and likely not paying attention to each other doing it.


But the best thing is likely a one on one with the teacher explaining the situation and asking for support just as a parent with a dancer who needed additional bra support under a costume would ask for some help as well.

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Another costuming mom who is not a Parent of an under 13 asked that we mention that any conversation with the AD must also result in relaying that information to the Backstage Costumer/Parent in charge who is bound to follow the rules set by the AD in the first place. That way there are no misunderstandings of rule bending for a particular student. Any dancer asking for special privileges must also remember that time is of the essence backstage, so any special arrangements do not mean extra time can be given to the dancer to go find a bathroom, or use any of the other methods. As well, any garments allowed to be worn should not make any visible changes to the costumes for the group. One person wearing clear straps when the rest of the group wears nothing under costumes sticks out like a sore thumb. And the back of a liner showing over the back of a costume is in fact distracting when no one else is wearing one.


In my personal case, all of the dressing areas where I costume or where my DDs have danced do in fact have bathrooms in the dressing rooms so going to the bathroom is easy. For those of you performing in a high school, this may not be the case. One thing for sure, while the dancer may be uncomfortable now, as they progress up the dance ladder, they will have less and less time for those quick changes. Sometimes for the older dancers they are so quick they happen backstage instead of in the dressing room at all. So getting the dancer used to it is, in fact, an important thing to do.

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I applaud your daughter for wanting to speak to the AD herself, especially when you mentioned there is some history of trauma in her past (I'm really sorry to read that in your post, but was also so happy to hear the upbeat tone that she [and you] feel confident that she will regain confidence). This is an age of emerging modesty for all the girls, so I agree with other posters that they are likely to feel solidarity with her need for privacy (and, since many of them are feeling the same way, it won't seem "odd" to them, no need for embarrassments or explanations). Since your daughter wants to handle the situation herself (strong kid!), I'd just suggest to you to let her know that you're willing to talk to the AD afterward if (and only if) either/both want some more clarity.


I understand the "momma bear" need to protect...but I also want to support the child's need to speak up for herself. That's so empowering.


Good luck to you both. And I think I noticed you're new around here...so, welcome!!

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I as well applaud your daughter for wanting to speak to the AD herself. I think I would probably send the AD a quick email or a heads up that your dd will be speaking to her and that there are extenuating circumstances around the request. I find with my DD that sometimes when she does try to speak up for her self the busy adult (be it school teacher, dance teacher and sometime parent!) assumes they know where the conversation is going and cuts her off before she has all her reasons laid out. If she caught the AD at the wrong time the conversation could be VERY counterproductive :yucky:

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