Anyone that knows me knows that I love dance. Whether it’s going to the ballet, prancing round the kitchen while I’m cooking, watching my daughter dance ballroom and Latin or even performing a Michael Jackson medley with her at a fun charity event. I believe dancing is one of the best forms of exercise there is. It’s fun, social, great for physical and mental health (or so it should be) and a way of expressing emotion.

However, lately I have had experiences that seem to go completely against the messages of body positivity, self-worth and acceptance that the world is now striving for. Of course, I understand that to be a good, watchable performance, the dancing must be of a certain standard. But at what point does it become OK to tell children and young women that their hair is not smooth enough, their ponytail is not straight enough, their skin is not dark enough, their make-up is not heavy enough or their overall look is not professional enough? If you choose dancing as a career, then I suppose you know the game and what is expected of you, but for a huge number of kids it is a hobby that they expected to be fun, not a dictatorship stifling any hint of individuality. And most of us who prepare our children for performances are parents, carers, relatives or friends who are not trained hairdressers or make-up artists. I can remove your sutures, immunise you or screen you for cervical cancer, but a slick bun glued down so severely that it no longer resembles human hair doesn’t come easily for me.

We have jobs to hold down, maybe other children to support in different hobbies, and while we love our kids taking part, our lives don’t revolve around the dance hall. And most of us don’t have an endless supply of money to spend on new dresses on a whim that cost several hundreds of pounds each. My daughter’s last dance school, where she grew up dancing from the age of three, understood this perfectly. We felt nothing but welcome and she loved every minute of her time there. Sadly, Covid forced the sudden closure of that school and we are still feeling the loss.

My daughter has beautiful, thick, auburn hair that isn’t easy to grease down into a style that resembles a shiny plastic coating on her head. She hates heavy makeup, so she does her own, to a level she is comfortable with, and her skin is creamy gold which I have no intention of painting a burnished orange. And she is perfect just the way she is. She is a joyful, easygoing girl who is very happy in her own skin and loves her individual qualities and I must protect that. She is becoming increasingly aware of comments made about her appearance and that I don’t do her hair ‘professionally enough’ and it is that word that bothers me. Enough. You are not enough. It is the exact reverse of what I want her to hear, and the message is unacceptable. Some places of dance seem to view uniqueness as a disadvantage and dancers are judged more on how much money they can throw at a dress or beauty appointment rather than celebrating their talent and enjoyment of dance. Well, the time has come for me to say enough. I am not putting my daughter’s confidence and mental health at risk, so we have decided we must walk away to find a safer route for her to continue her passion.


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