Many dance schools ask their students to not wear panties under their dance class leotards and costumes. But why do they ask this? And what do teenagers and adults then do when they are menstruating?
Dance teachers ask dance students to not wear underwear or panties under leotards or costumes because dancing is all about aesthetics, which means pleasing to the eye. Underwear that can be seen or is bunched up distracts from the aesthetics of the movement being created.
Another reason for going commando is because underwear can be distracting to the dancer. Leotards and tights are well….. tight and this can lead to uncomfortable underwear bunching up the crotch, or if the underwear is old and the elastic worn it can start to slide pulling down on leotards or tights. On the other hand, if the underwear is too tight, or pulled up to high the wearer can constantly be trying to pick an uncomfortable wedgie from their bum.
But isn’t wearing no underwear unhygienic?
If your child is wearing a pair of tights they are essentially their underwear. Tights generally have a reinforced gusset which substitutes for panties and covers the feet which are a substitute for socks. Your child’s tights should be washed after each wear just like underwear is.
Even if your child is not wearing a pair of tights think of it as if they are wearing a swimsuit. Their leotard in the first place should be tight and fit well, and many leotards will usually include an extra layer of material over the crotch area at the seam for this exact purpose. Unfortunately as leotards have begun to be mass-produced and made by non-dancers for stores such as Walmart or Kmart, this kind of add-in to a general all-purpose leotard might not be included so consider this when buying your child’s next leotard.
My child is wearing a rented costume, should they wear underwear under that?
As long as your child is wearing a pair of tights they should not have to wear underwear. If you are really uncomfortable with this you can buy your child a pair of flesh-colored dance underwear from a dancewear store or a dancer’s full brief bodysuit, which is similar to a leotard only made from a thinner breathable material, that is higher cut in the legs and lower cut around the top so a costume or leotard can generally but not always hide it.
All the options we mention in the guide are generally good because they are tight and well-fitting and do not create extra lines or creases under the costume or leotard, but this doesn’t mean they can’t be seen or won’t slip down during a performance. Therefore, if you believe it will cause an issue, please consult your dance teacher before buying.
Examiners, adjudicators, and judges will take off points if underwear can be seen during an exam or on stage!
Why does my child’s teacher insist on no underwear for dance classes and not just for performances or exams?
If your school is insisting students do not wear underwear under their leotards for classes this could be because they are trying to set a high standard of appearance and a certain image for their school. Another reason is that they are training your child to become a professional and so may want to get your child comfortable with not wearing underwear as this is what many (not all) professional ballerinas do.
My teen has just started menstruating, wearing no underwear just isn’t realistic for her now?
Many would agree that it is absolutely unrealistic to ask any teen or senior dancer, especially one who is menstruating to not wear underwear. This might be realistic for younger students, but for older students, especially during menstruation this might be unachievable and other options should be spoken about, shared and discussed, rather than just insisting senior students go without underwear.
Options for dancers on their period.
The following are great options, but they are not full proof (meaning there is no guarantee they won’t be seen) – which is why your teacher is requesting no underwear. These options might seem great when your child puts them on or is warming up, but may slip down and be seen under the leotard during class or performance so it is always best to consult with your dance teacher about what their preferred options are.
- A new option and recent development for dancers are period panties or period-proof underwear. These briefs are made to stay in place and replace the wearing of pads or can be worn as extra protection on heavy days with a tampon. There are various manufacturers of these briefs, but we like Thinx in particular as they make a beige colored thong which can be worn for lighter flow days without a tampon or pad. You can see our review of the Thinx range here as they come in a variety of colors and fits.
- Another suggestion is buying flesh-colored dancer underwear from any specialty dance supply shop (check out our dance underwear guide here). These will usually be made of lycra or spandex rather than cotton and are high cut so they fit snuggly and hide under a leotard or costume. Your child could wear a tampon or pad whichever they were more comfortable with.
- As well as wearing flesh-colored underwear or as an alternative to them your dancer could wear a flesh-colored full brief bodysuit which looks like a leotard but is made from a much thinner and breathable material.
- There are some schools that provide a streamlined booty short option for students needing some extra coverage, that is made from the same material and color as the school leotard creating a seamless but comfortable look.
- Another option is to use a tampon and wear a flesh-colored thong or g-string. As a full-time dance student and then a professional dancer, this is what I chose to do, but I wish the Thinx period thong had been available as I definitely would have felt more covered during my period wearing that! The wearing of a thong, even when not on my period was the best option especially when I was in full-time performing arts training as I had to get changed quickly from my ballet attire into my jazz or contemporary uniform and it protected my modesty.
Great! So how do I explain this to my teen?
Some parents have open relationships with their kids about puberty, menstruating, hygiene and other things our teenagers can feel slightly embarrassed talking to us about. But in any case, don’t assume that your child will know what to do or what is best for them.
Firstly, you could get them to read this article to develop an understanding of what their options might be.
Secondly, they could talk to other dancers at their school about what they do.
Thirdly, you could speak with your teacher about what they recommend seeing that they are the ones who have requested underwear not be worn.
Also, talk to your teen about what their dance teacher expects and how they feel about that. Develop a plan and go shopping for supplies as needed. I know several mothers who although slightly nervous gave their dancer daughters the advice they needed and clear instructions on how to use tampons, but also on how to use pads so they could make up their own minds on what was most comfortable for them.
If you have found any of this info interesting or useful we would love you to share it with other dance parents or even your dance school.
Dance Teachers if you found this article helpful we encourage you to send parents here to read it by linking to our article on your website, facebook or instagram pages etc. – Please do not copy the article and paste on your website.