Reviewing Your Policies Before Chaos of Fall: How Are You Incorporating Gender Neutrality

For centuries dance has held various traditions that have been exclusively gender binary, recognizing just two genders: male and female. Audiences have seen examples of these roles in some dance genres like classical ballet and traditional partner dances. In more recent years, the gender neutrality movement has made strides in laws, policies, education, and even parenting. 

Our society is ever changing and so must our dance studios and policies. 

As a dance studio owner, one of my biggest mottos is that everyone can dance. This includes all ages, abilities, and genders. In the more recent years, I have encountered students that have helped me look into my practices as a dance teacher regarding gender and the role it plays in dance and the classroom. 

Policies

From the very first moment a student enters our program we need to note how welcoming we are to every student. For instance, our registration forms often ask students to select a choice between male or female. Public information trends are ahead of us. Some states offer choices such as X, gender-neutrality  or non-binary on officla documents. 

We have utilized the comment sections on our registration forms to note gender neutrality or other identifications to help students and parents who would benefit from more than two choices. 

Our dress code policies need to describe how every student should dress for class regardless of gender. Often asking for separate dress codes based on binary gender could deter a student from dressing in a way that feels more comfortable with their identity. 

Using descriptions like “Dancers need to wear clothing that allows an instructor to properly see alignment to prevent injuries and incorrect habits.” or “A dancer should be able to move freely without restriction” and “All hair should be pulled back and secured;” can help students make choices that align with their identity and adhere to the dress code. 

Costumes

The biggest hurdle that I have encountered has been costuming for performances. When choosing costumes for recital, I have had students who would like to have the choice of wearing the male costume or the female costume regardless of their gender at birth. 

Typically, costume companies offer traditional gender related costumes, for example tutus for girls and pants or shirts for boys. Often the newer styles of dance like hip-hop and modern have more gender-neutral choices, but I would love to see costume companies make gender-neutral costumes for all styles of dance to give us educators more options for students. 

Movements

Some dance styles have traditional movements that are specific for each gender, but as we evolve into a society that is non-binary, we need to re-think how to incorporate these movements to be all-encompassing. 

As inclusive educators, we need to offer movements to our students that stray away from the stereotypes of training men and women differently. 

We can create classroom environments to teach all dancers to be powerful and strong, as well as poised and delicate.

Communication

Learning the correct language to communicate with students who are gender neutral is also very important. To alleviate any questions, teachers should ask which pronouns the student is most comfortable with. We can change our language in the classroom to address students as “dancers” instead of “ladies and gentlemen.” I always refer to students by their name to avoid the use of “him” or “her” pronouns. 

It can be difficult to find the right way to include everyone while still preserving the traditions of classical dance styles. 

One of my biggest rules as a Dance Studio Owner is to be flexible and use my creative problem-solving skills to come up with a solution.  

Using continued education and research as our society changes, I can improve my job as an educator and offer a dance studio education for everyone.

Learn more about Emily Finch and Dance 101

Read more views on gender neutrality.

About the Author:

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Emily Finch is Owner and Artistic Director of Dance 101 in Tempe, Arizona. Emily, a native of Marshalltown, Iowa, began her dancing career at the age of three. Always knowing she wanted to be a dance teacher, Emily attended the University of New Mexico to study dance and transferred to Arizona State University where she earned her BFA in Dance Education. She was the Outstanding Dance Education Student for the ASU Department of Dance and the 2001 winner of the Arizona Choreography Competition.Following graduation, Emily danced with two Valley modern dance companies. Ms. Finch then moved to Iowa where she was an Instructor and Studio Director for her childhood studio in 4 neighboring communities. Emily was a core member of Des Moines’ only professional modern dance company and has performed in Canada and Minneapolis with them.Since moving back to the Valley in 2006, Emily has taught for local studios in Scottsdale, Chandler, Mesa, and Tempe. Ms. Finch has 17 years of experience instructing classes in pre-school dance, creative movement, ballet, modern, pointe, lyrical, jazz, tap, contemporary, pom/cheer, yoga and fitness. Emily is thrilled to be celebrating Dance 101’s 7th season. Ms Finch also shares her love of dance with her two beautiful daughters.

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