Often costume can help an observer interpret the meaning or message of the dance, by taking into consideration the certain points as to why dance costumes are worn. Costumes are part of the theatrical language spoken in a dance context, which also includes: set, lighting, sound, props, and movement. By piecing together the clues from these elements, an observer gains understanding about what he/she is watching, especially in dance where there is often no spoken script or narrator to explain the action.
Reasons for Wearing Dance Costume
- To differentiate the performers from the audience - denote that they are special .
- To heighten the sense of excitement the audience feels at watching - done through spectacular or extreme costumes .
- To show that the dancer represents a character or role .
- To unify a group of dancers, show that they belong together.
- To emphasise the theme or point of the dance.
- To increase the attractiveness of the dancer.
- To emphasise the movement qualities of the performance (eg., ballet dancers wear short tutus to show their legs, ballroom dancers wear long full skirts to emphasise their turns and movement across the floor, jazz dancers often wear slim or tight costumes to emphasise the sharp lines of the movement) .
- To complement the set, music and/or venue .
- To underline the culture or origins of the dance form (eg. line dancing or square dancing outfits often display their country/western roots, Javanese or Flamenco dancers wear the dress of their culture, Morris dancers wear distinctive outfits rooted in English folklore) .