Op-Ed: Why There Is No Dress Code

Dance has become a regular part of the Salvation Army’s approach to mission in the USA. Great! But, let’s not get stuck wearing these long white dresses for eternity! They have grown to be a staple at the corps… but really are only appropriate for playing angels, and even then, they are not flattering!

Those dresses have some sort of magic ability to both cover and expose the entire body.  I understand, budgets are tight. I’m not saying we need to break the bank here. I’m simply saying, let’s be open.

Costuming should be an asset to your dance, it should enhance the piece adding to its effectiveness. Ill-fitting, or inappropriate costumes are a distraction.

It’s a fine line between too much, and too little. Both are a distraction. Dance is a visual art form, so If we can not see the body, we can not see the dance. BUT, if we take that too far and expose too much…. well, we’ve all witnessed how distracting that can be.

It is not the ‘covering of the body’ that makes the dance effective, or a costume appropriate. Costumes are there to enhance the story, create an atmosphere or endow a character. Costumes are an extension of the choreography. If we keep putting our dancers in a white spandex box, we will restrict the possibilities of what can be accomplished and who can be reached.

So, time to buy some new dresses for the dance troupe? Don’t let the ‘Worship Wear’ Collection on Discount Dancewear be your only stop.

Why don’t we just have a dress code? If we did, we would be making the focus something it’s not. Official guide lines about necklines and hem-lengths would turn the body into something to be covered and monitored. The body is the dancer’s medium. It’s time for our audience to get on board and stop sexualizing commonly accepted dance-wear.

So, I challenge you to think about your audience, just as you do when selecting your song. Ask yourself:  Who is this for? How can I best get this message across? Would this add to the effectiveness of the piece, or be a distraction? Ask a friend or your corps officer to take a look and make an informed decision together. Ask your dancers if they’re comfortable.

At the end of the day, it has to be God-breathed, so allow Him to take part in your decision making. He is the ultimate creator, and likely has some ideas you’ve never considered!

By Kathryn Higgins
Dance Ministries Specialist/Kroc Center Creative Arts Liaison
USA  Eastern Territory

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