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Embracing Diversity in Dancewear

Our dancers can now step into class with confidence, knowing that their ethnicity is embraced and celebrated.

Dance is a universal platform for expression and creativity, breaking language barriers and uniting people. Despite this, the dance world faces inclusivity issues, notably concerning representation of diverse skin tones in the media and the industry.

One problem has been limited dancewear options for diverse skin tones, especially for children. Traditional dancewear typically catered to lighter skin tones, causing exclusion for those with darker skin. Additionally, uniform standards have traditionally favoured pink and white tights and footwear.

The BBO and ISTD have revised dancewear specifications across all genres, offering a variety of skin tone options for tights, socks, and shoes. Prioritising dancer comfort and performance, teachers should encourage students to embrace skin tone dancewear and help drive the positive change that is needed in the industry.

Addressing the challenge...

We’re delighted to announce Shades Dancewear as a partner with the BBO and the ISTD to be able to provide a member discount on high quality, comfortable and affordable products that compliment all skin tones.

Directors of Shades Dancewear, Stacey Green and Laura Grant explain how they have been trying to address the challenge by creating a dancewear brand that offers five products in four shades in all child and adult sizes that are named after Black pioneers of dance instead of naming them as food items or colourings, such as toffee, coffee, or mocha.

“Using our unique Colour Match Swatch, dancers can now choose any shade that reflects their skin tone, before purchasing any products. This means that global majority dancers from the age of two years old will now be able to step into their first ballet class with confidence, reassured that their ethnicity is respected and accepted.”

As a mixed race child growing up in Nottingham, Stacey never understood the reasons why her dancewear didn’t match her skin tone and why ballet tights and shoes were only available in pink for ballet. As the principal of a dance school (Freedom Dance & Performance, Nottingham) and with 30 years’ worth of experience as an ISTD qualified teacher, she realised how important it was for all dancers to feel comfortable in their own skin.

“Children only know what they see and hear. If they don’t see anyone that looks like them, then how do they aspire to be in those spaces? If they don’t hear from teachers and awarding bodies that it is ok to embrace your ethnicity, then how do they retain their identity in a majority white industry?”

In 2020 Stacey and Laura co-founded the TIRED Movement (Trying to Improve Racial Equality in Dance). After the tragic death of George Floyd, the social enterprise (not for profit) was on a mission to raise awareness about the racial injustice within the performing arts industry and the importance of representation in dance education. The movement has gained great momentum and support from the dance community and has made great strides towards implementing change across all sectors.

10% of the profits from all sales are reinvested back into the TIRED Movement, helping to support the long term campaign to improve racial equality in the dance industry.


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