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Changing the Culture: Celebrating Diversity in Synchro

Posted by Ashley Stout on
Changing the Culture: Celebrating Diversity in Synchro

Synchronized skating is all about matching – from dresses, to extensions, and even nail polish. Scores are partially based on precision and unison, so every movement must match perfectly. With this in mind, how do we embrace diversity within our sport? How do we honor and respect different body types, skin color, hair color, and even different genders and religions while still maintaining the matching, synchronized essence of the sport?

“What is today’s message in synchronized skating when all races are part of a team but only one race is represented in the ‘flesh’ tone tight color?” one synchronized skating parent asked recently.

“Whether from an artistic standpoint or a standpoint of racial equity, the break in line of flesh tone, from head to arm to leg, also creates a visual imbalance. With every passing year, this imbalance [between upper body flesh tone and lower body flesh tone due to tights] becomes more and more noticeable to skaters and spectators alike.”

This synchro parent is not the first to bring up the importance of seeing all races represented in flesh tones of tights and costumes. There are several recent articles in reputable news sources about the adoption of tights and ballet shoes to match a dancer’s skin tone. In one example, Garlia Cornelia wrote about her experience buying flesh colored tights for her daughter in Flesh-colored tights: Empowering my daughter through dance in The Washington Post.

“I was always acutely aware of my hair and skin color, wanting nothing more than to blend in with the pale complexions of my fellow mini-dancers,” Cornelia reveals her own experience as a black dancer in Birmingham, Michigan. She goes on to describe her feelings on putting her hair into a classic bun, a style all synchronized skaters are familiar with, and many have to wear on a regular basis.

“I was terrified of having my hair corn-rowed into a bun. When I wore braids with beads for band camp in middle school, I made it a point to let the girls in my cabin know I was not like the other black girls. I was afraid to stand out – to be outed as black…So I pulled my kinky coils straight into a bun and hair net, thinking that would do the trick. But assimilation does little to erase ignorance. Same goes for dressing my little girl in pink tights when the point is to create a seamless line with the dancer’s skin.”

From the experience of being able to buy tights that matched her daughter’s skin tone, she felt that “the foundation for her [daughter’s] identity outside the home was destined to be a solid one based on the celebration of the color of her skin.” She saw “young girls, from a multitude of ethnicities, were embracing at such a young age the color of their skin and celebrating their differences and similarities.”


This is an excerpt of an original blog posted on Get It Called. Written by Nicole Davies and Lee Anne Filosa.




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