Whilst the stereotypical uniform for dance is much the same, different uniform is required for different dance schools, different exam boards and even different dance grades. For a non-dancer, the assumption of pink ballet tights and a leotard for ballet is not so far from the truth, the stereotypes also formed for tap and modern jazz. Contemporary and lyrical classes tend to be a little more free and liberal in terms of what the dancer dons, and can range from anything to short shorts and tights tops to tracksuit bottoms and baggy pyjama-style tops, known on the whole as ‘baggies’, often used in any dance class for warming up.
Despite the stereotypes, dance teachers all employ certain uniform and dance wear standards for their students. Some prefer their dancers to be comfortable with what they are wearing, whereas others maintain that a dancewear uniform enforces discipline and technique as the teachers are able to see the dancers’ bodies easily. For those who like to see their dance school uniform worn, or neat dance wear purchased, their dancers are more likely to adhere to the standards required during dance exams too. Some dance examination boards define each grade through different coloured leotards, waist elastics or style of ballet shoe.
Aside from ballet, jazz dance and modern jazz is also sometimes subject to requirements such as these. Some exam classes, or even individual teaches, will ask that no split sole jazz shoes be worn, for example, or alternatively that split sole jazz shoes are preferable. Some argue that split sole shoes – be it jazz, ballet, jazz trainers or even tap shoes – offer no support and a full sole provides more for the technique. However, dance shoes, like the rest of the catalogues and wardrobes full of dance wear, are usually dictated by teachers and dancers grow up with these views instilled.
With the now mainstream TV entertainment programmes such as So You Think You Can Dance and Got To Dance, dance culture has shifted in the UK.
Before the emergence of programmes of this type and of this popularity, contemporary dance and lyrical jazz techniques were less ‘discovered’: ruling the day was ballet, tap and modern jazz, with the increasing growth of hip hop and street dance.
Large performing arts institutions offering dance classes on a huge scale, such as Pineapple, Danceworks and Studio 68, offered and continue to offer an abundance of daily classes to all ages and abilities. Whilst lyrical and contemporary classes were on offer to the attendees of the classes, it seems the growth of the dance television programmes has increased their popularity. Moreover, the style of lyrical, lyrical jazz, contemporary and contemporary jazz has shifted completely, with classes now offering both the technical side of these styles as well as the steering the performance qualities seen on the programmes.
Despite the technical side of dance, the television programmes convey a prominent sense of intention behind the movement in addition to a ‘jazzy’ narrative. Telling a story through dance is not a pre-requisite yet it seems for television this is desirable in order to appeal to the entertainment of the mass audiences. This is in addition to relating the movement through screen and making it desirable for its environment, namely a competition. As a result, the dazzling leaps, high kicks and multiple turns have made their way into mainstream, everyday classes; not necessarily a good or bad thing, simply an observation that these movements and choreographies are becoming increasingly popular.
Purely technical classes, however, have not disappeared, just added to by this increase in popularity of the dramatic and heartfelt movement portrayals on television. Dancers who look for both sides of the lyrical dance coin now have the added benefit of a certain sense of performance behind the class.
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Urban Strides, the renowned street dance specialists, pride themselves providing the ultimate street dance experience for every dance ability level from the age of 7 to adult. Urban Strides aims to fulfil this through creating the most exciting, inspirational and authentic street dance experience possible, delivered with passion, positivity and fun, and possibly some knee pads!
Founder Andy Instone’s sheer passion and commitment, emotionally, physically and mentally, launched Urban Strides on the road to success. Originally self taught, Instone has since studied mainstream forms of dance – Ballet, Jazz, Contemporary and Tap – and has travelled around the globe to learn from the pioneers of original street dance and hip hop styles, taking authentic dance, movement and expression to as many people as possible. Instone fuses funk movement with classical training techniques and choreographic conventions in order to add quality and dynamics to Urban Strides’ ethos and work.
Urban Strides offers classes, workshops, community work and performances, having also branched out into creating “streetwear” dance clothes and DVDs of their work. A variety of street dance styles are practised by Urban Strides, in order to provide a whole and comprehensive experience for those involved in the Urban Strides t-shirt clan. Additionally, Urban Strides has extensive experience and understanding of the education sector, regularly providing workshops for A Level and GCSE students, as well as inspirational workshops for beginners. Performances conducted by Urban Strides are additionally produced to be as accessible as possible for audiences, opening up the dance sector to everyone with their vibrant and exciting choreography.
The philosophy of Urban Strides means it aims to provide the highest quality possible at an affordable price, be it classes, workshops or performances. The accessibility of Urban Strides too means that if it’s your first day stepping into your urban dance sneakers, or you fifth year of pulling on your favourite street dance hoodie, Urban Strides is for you.