I remember dancing in my mother’s kitchen as a child, scuffing up her laminate floors with my Sunday school shoes. I thought I was tap dancing. My mother knew I had energy – she saw how I wore my leg warmers, purple leotard and practiced the latest dance moves from Soul Train. Dancing was in my blood.
So, my mother signed my sisters and I up for dance. At the time we were the only black family enrolled. When it came to costumes, nude tights (nude = white person nude) were required. My mother asked the director if that was our only option. The director explained the goal was to keep everything uniform – especially for competitions. Uniform how? From the waist down?
In High School, my mother brought dark tights for me and I wore them out on stage. When I got off stage my director had “nude” tights waiting for me. I complied and changed. I looked up to all of my dance teachers and peers. They nurtured my love of dance and it played an important role into college – I danced for my college team.
Those dreaded nude tights, however, were a staple in my dance costumes for nearly 13 years. I still see this phenomenon in our country – dressing little black girls in “nude” tights for dance. Why are little black girls accepted in the dance world from the waist up? Why should we hide our dark legs? It may seem like a small thing, but the message is powerful.
My mom laughs and said “It didn’t kill you.” No it didn’t mom, but it sure made me look back at my hundreds of dance costumes and laugh – because nude tights looked so “natural” on my dark skinned legs leaping across the stage ☺. #brownballerinas