Booty Shaking & Sexy Costumes in Children's Dance: How to Find Healthy Studios That Won't Objectify Your Kid
This guest post was written by Mary Bawden of DA:NCE (Dance Awareness: No Child Exploited).
Is there anything more innocent than a child joyfully dancing? Every spring I’m over the moon with excitement while watching my grandchildren participate in their recitals.
Watching a child explore the art of movement through dance is precious. For anyone who knows me, you know I love dance to my core. I’ve devoted my life to it and on most days, I would go on and on about all the wonderful ways dance enhances the lives of those who participate in it, especially our young children.
But today, I’m here to sound the alarm.
Right now, in children’s dance classes around the nation, young children are being taught to dance with choreography that hypersexualizes them and their bodies.
Movement patterns that include booty pops and shaking, obscene gestures, suggestive grinding, seductive costumes, and sexualized music have invaded what used to be a safe place - the children’s dance studio.
How is this happening? Studios, dance teachers, and even parents often unknowingly model their movement choices on what they see in the media culture. Some don’t realize the consequences. Others consider this type of dance progressive. It’s anything but.
The hypersexualization of children in dance using adult costumes, choreography and music is not a theory. Like a cultural tidal wave, it has immersed our country and is affecting children everyday.
What does hypersexualized children’s dance look like?
It’s important to understand the type of dance we are talking about when we say ‘hypersexualized’. This video provides examples of unhealthy, hypersexualized children’s dance and is backed by expert opinion and research. Take 4-minutes to watch it. WARNING: This video contains explicit sexual information that could be triggering, please watch with care.
Some argue that sexy children’s costumes and a little booty shaking is cute and harmless. But that’s not reality. The American Psychological Association’s Report on the Sexualization of Girls shows that this type of sexualization can influence a child’s well-being. Ample evidence testing these theories indicates that sexualization has negative effects in a variety of ways, including cognitive functioning, physical and mental health, sexuality and attitudes and beliefs. Their report illustrates just how hypersexualization impacts our kids. The effects are widespread:
- Body Dysmorphia
- Eating Disorders
- Poor Academic Performance
- Promiscuity/Teen Pregnancy
- Higher Risk of Abusive Relationships
- Higher Risk of Pornography Use
- Unable to Identify Sexual Abuse
- Mismanagement of Social Networking
So what is a parent or concerned adult to do?
There are still wonderful dance studios available that teach children healthy dance. These studios do the obvious. They don’t focus on having a certain body type; they don’t compare children negatively. They don’t encourage booty shaking, promiscuous poses, or dance moves that distort children’s bodies. Their music selection is purposeful and tied to the art.
- Educate yourself. Understand what hypersexualized dance is and its consequences.
- Protect your own children by searching out dance studios that are committed to teaching healthy, age-appropriate dance.
- Educate others. Change will happen when enough parents, grandparents, and concerned adults put pressure on dance studios.
How to find a healthy dance studio
- As a start, I encourage all parents to go to a recital or competition of the dance studio they are considering and watch the choreography that is presented. Is it age appropriate? Are the songs and costumes wholesome?
- Visit the studio. What type of vibe do you get? If there are recital pictures on the walls, what types of costumes and poses are highlighted?
- Ask questions. One we love: “What is your philosophy about the use of adult costumes, choreography and music for children enrolled at your dance studio?”
- Ultimately, trust your gut. If something doesn’t look right, sound right, or feel right, it likely isn’t. Look for clear visual evidence of healthy, age-appropriate movement experiences.
Want to get involved in the movement for change?
DA:NCE (Dance Awareness: No Child Exploited) needs you to join our army! We have assembled a library of free resources to help you educate yourself and others to bring awareness to this trend. I invite you to utilize these resources to make informed decisions and share them with dance studios and other parents that need to see this information.
Action Item #1: Watch and share our 4-minute DA:NCE awareness video.
The video we mentioned earlier is a must-watch as it clearly illustrates the differences between healthy and harmful dance. The research and commentary included is eye-opening and alarming. Why should adults be concerned about this trend in children’s dance? This video covers it.
Action Item #2: Download our free eBook: Healthy or Harmful Children’s Dance and share it.
How can parents or concerned adults know if their child’s dance studio teaches healthy, educational dance or unhealthy, sexualized dance? With this eBook, you have the answers. We invite you to download the eBook and share it with a friend or family member who has a child in dance.
Action Item #3: Get involved in sharing this message
Have a dance studio owner in your community that could benefit from hearing this message? We have a toolkit for that! Have a friend with a child in dance that needs to see this message? Share our free resource library with him or her.
There are many ways to get involved and educate others. We need you to help us build awareness around this dangerous trend. Together, our collective voices and actions will make a difference in protecting children from the damaging effects of hypersexualized dance.
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"I really like the no-shame approach the author takes. It's so much more than just 'don't watch or look at porn.' It gave my children a real understanding about the brain and its natural response to pornography, how it can affect you if you look at it, and how to be prepared when you do come across it (since, let's face it... it's gonna happen at some point)." -Amazon Review by D.O.