As a member of the ballet faculty at BYU, I have recently been part of a discussion about the dance dress code. At BYU there is quite a different dress standard for dancers than you will find most anywhere else. It is expected that BYU students will maintain a general standard of modest dress and cleanliness.
For anyone unfamiliar with BYU, or with the dance program, you can learn more HERE and HERE.
Anyway, as a student it was very hard for me to understand the guidelines. The term "modesty" is quite subjective. What is modesty? Who determines exactly what is modest and what is not? Is modestly only about what we put on our body? Are we always modest when we are covered?
With all of these questions going through my mind I decided that I needed to share some of my thoughts. Even now, as a faculty member, I still don't completely understand the reasons behind some of the dress code. However, I have learned the following valuable lesson.
(I wrote this as a contribution in a collaborative discussion.)
For some reason I feel like I need to share something I have learned recently, perhaps because there are probably some students who feel the same way as I have felt.
I will be the first to admit that I have always had difficulty understanding the reasons for some parts of the dance dress code. It has always bothered me that gymnasts don't wear tights, cheerleaders wear short shorts, and many other BYU athletes are able to wear things that BYU dancers are not allowed. Why can gymnasts dance in only a leotard, or why can cheerleaders wear really short shorts and dance within 15 feet of the crowd, or why can track athletes run around campus in very short shorts? Why is there such a huge discrepancy? If it is so immodest to show our legs then why are these athletes and cheerleaders able to do so (with much greater numbers of attendees than our dance patrons)?
The questions are endless....
I have finally come to the realization that perhaps I simply don't need to know. Even if it doesn't make sense, being obedient doesn't always mean that we understand the why or the why not. When we signed the honor code we agreed to live by the guidelines we were given. We had a choice in the matter. We can question, complain, and fight against it all we want, and we may still never understand. But I know that when we are obedient we are blessed. Our character and our integrity is greatly strengthened when we choose to be obedient.
I have no doubt that there are students who feel this way, and I think this issue is much, much more than an issue of what is "modest" or "immodest." I believe modesty is so much more than physical dress. It is so much more than showing an extra 1/2" of shoulder, or an extra 4" of the back, or whether or not halter tops and spaghetti straps are too revealing. Being modest is a mindset; it has everything to do with the desires of our hearts, and with the intentions of our actions.
My hope is that we can ultimately express to our students the blessings that will undoubtedly come to them by simply being obedient.