/Dear Dance Teachers, Please Stop Sexualizing Your Child Students

Dear Dance Teachers, Please Stop Sexualizing Your Child Students

We need to talk. You have got to stop sending children out to dance in public in their underwear.  Maybe you’ve added some rhinestones to that underwear or maybe you’ve strategically placed a piece of chiffon somewhere but come on…underwear is underwear and we all know it.

I do think that prepubescent girls need to dressed asexually and that the current approach caters to who? I personally find it disturbing rather than attractive and most certainly not enticing. Perhaps women find this attractive but then i will wonder about them.

The battle regarding fashion and sexually aware teens and adults is certainly greyer, but that has historically been handled conservatively simply because of age variation. Yet even that gets pushed somewhat and recently over a cliff.

The claim that dance is an art form is deeply damaged when it is exploited to peddle fashion aimed who? Certainly not the oblivious dancers desperately attempting to fit in. The reality is that sexuality is best reserved for willing adults and never with children in any form whatsoever.

Converting dance into a fashion show is nonsense and always a problem. Perhaps there is no legitimate audience anyway which would be sad. Imagine our Olympic athletes needing to mostly wear bikinis and the like?

Dear Dance Teachers, Please Stop Sexualizing Your Child Students

by Debra Jenkins

Dance Teachers,

We need to talk. You have got to stop sending children out to dance in public in their underwear.

Maybe you’ve added some rhinestones to that underwear or maybe you’ve strategically placed a piece of chiffon somewhere but come on…underwear is underwear and we all know it.

And Dance Parents, you shouldn’t allow your children to do this, even if your Dance Teacher thinks its okay.

I go to dance recitals and competitions and feel like I’m in “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” Surely I’m not the only adult among the hundreds in attendance who thinks it’s inappropriate to send kids on stage to dance in their knickers. Am I?

You may be wondering what qualifies me to state such an opinion, so here are my credentials:
http://www.entertainmentearth.com/pjdoorway.asp?source=pjn&subid={subid}&url=prodinfo.asp?number=HSC1688B

  • I’ve been involved in dance either as a student, a performer or a teacher since somewhere around 1963.
  • I started my daughter’s dance training at a traditional ballet school but when she was lured by the showy world of competition dance, I was sucked into being a Dance Mom.
  • I created an arts education program for kids with special needs and dance represents a significant chunk of what we do at Merrimack Hall.

Surely this sufficiently convinces you that I’m an expert on the topic of dance competitions…but I have been called an opinionated know-it-all before so feel free to disregard my impressive resume and chalk this up to me being obnoxious.

It won’t be the first time I’ve stated a strong opinion that I was convinced was irrefutable only to have people tell me I’m being an jerk.

I am not a prude. If you know me, you know that I excel at cussing and have strong liberal leanings. I have an open mind about most things, particularly the arts.

But as the years have rolled along, I’ve watched kids’ dance costumes get smaller and smaller and now… well, costumes seem to have disappeared altogether, replaced by what they call “hot shorts” or “bloomers” worn with what appear to be bras from Victoria Secret while they are performing for an audience, under the glare of stage lighting.

I’m not sure what I find the most objectionable – sending 8-year-olds out onstage dressed like this or sending 17-year-olds in this attire.

Maybe Dance Teachers think they are costuming their students like the people they aspire to be…perhaps Misty Copeland or Beyonce.

So, I offer you Exhibit A:

Dance Teachers
Photo: Screenshot, Under Armour on YouTube

Misty Copeland is not covered up in this photo or in the incredible commercial she filmed for the Under Armour campaign. But…
She’s Misty Copeland.
She’s a grown woman.

This is an ad for base garments, otherwise known as UNDERWEAR and is not apparel that is advertised as a dance costume.

Notice that both the photo and the video take place in a rehearsal space… not on stage in front of an audience.

And take Exhibit B:

Beyonce Dance
Photo: Beyonce Vevo on YouTube

[Beyonce]… isn’t wearing much in this photo. But:
She’s Beyonce.
She’s a grown woman.
She’s Beyonce [a celebrity that sells her image].
I’m guessing that even Mrs. Carter would Exhibit C objectionable:

Girls Dance Team

I could go on and on about this picture and the dance these 6-years-olds performed, which nearly blew up the internet when the video went viral a few years ago.

This specific dance and the controversy around age-appropriateness was a hot topic back in 2010 on Dr. Phil, with Anderson Cooper and with many other reputable journalistic outlets.

But I’m just focusing on the costumes right now.

I’ve seen dozens of teenagers dancing in “costumes” like Exhibit D (which is featured in an online dancewear catalogue) at competitions and recitals:

Dance wear catalogue photo
Autumn Miller – KTRNA Activ Wear

See what I mean? She might as well be naked. But she’s a professional model, she is in a rehearsal space, there’s no one else in the photo and the catalogue calls this item “activewear,” perfect attire for dance class, yoga, pilates etc.

300x250newIt is important for dancers to be able to see their bodies, to check their turn out and lines while taking class in front of unforgiving mirrors. Dance class is one thing but in front of an audience? I vote no.

This trend seemed to start when young dancers stopped wearing tights. But you can dance barefoot while wearing footless tights, you know. And at least tights would add a layer.

I sat next to a man at a competition recently and he told me that he couldn’t watch dancers dressed like this – said it made him extremely uncomfortable so he scrolled through Facebook during these numbers. His daughter is only 7…by the time she’s a teenager, they may just be wearing a thong and pasties.

I thought costumes were supposed to enhance a dance piece or advance the story of the dance.

But I saw recently saw a performance where about 25 teenage girls were wearing sequined bikinis while dancing on scaffolding. What story could a dance teacher be telling that requires girls to wear bikinis while dancing on scaffolding?

Maybe the dance teacher who chose to costume her students like this is actually preparing kids for careers as erotic dancers.

I have nothing against erotic dancers and quite enjoy a well-done strip show…when the performer is over 21, everyone in the audience is over 21 and I’m enjoying a nice cocktail. At a “family friendly” dance competition… not so much.

Now, I realize that there are categories of people who perform in public wearing in very little clothing – like track and field stars or gymnasts. They are wearing garments that are aerodynamic and help improve their speed or they are wearing leotards because anything else would get tangled up on the uneven bars.

Of course, dance teachers have to insure that the costume they select won’t trip up their dancers or impede their movement. But there’s a line of good taste and I hate to be the one to tell you but Dance Teachers, you have crossed that line.

So, Dance Teachers, please rethink your costuming choices. And Dance Parents, please voice your objections to costumes like these, if you have them.

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