Thursday, May 13, 2010


If I showed you this YouTube video of these young dancers, what would be your first reaction? "Single Ladies" - Jazz Group

I had seen this video posted on Facebook by a friend about a month ago and I was the first to comment in return that I wanted to be in this dance! As a dance teacher and choreographer I was in shock of the skill level of these 7 & 8 year old kids. I know a lot of my 'dance teacher friends' might disagree with me on this one... but that's the beauty of this topic!

This morning I read a tweet by Gayle King (who is better known as Oprah's BFF!) posting this article about the same group and asking if it was too much? I'm going to assume this is a topic of interest on Oprah Radio and it seems to be getting a lot of web attention from many sources. I can't say that I'm really shocked that people may find this dance offensive, but I'm surprised that this video is the one to really threw everyone over the edge about appropriateness at dance competitions. So, I figured if Gayle King was talking about this dance, than I should be too!

Over the years I have seen countless routines at dance competitions where 'age appropriateness' should be in question. As much as people might be disgusted by a young group of kids "gyrating" on stage, so they call it, I am equally offended by a 13 year old dancer performing a "rape" lyrical solo in a black bra and underwear. I think it's literally the same thing! Disagree with me all you want, but it's not my choice if this group of kids performs to "Single Ladies" in bra tops and knee highs and wins at a competition. My students don't have routines like this, but that doesn't mean I can't appreciate it for what it is!

As a dance studio owner I spend a lot of time worrying about what I think is 'appropriate' in terms of routines, costumes and music at my studio in general. But the same part of me is also applauding the choreographer of this routine, as I don't know how she got this group of young dancers to perform like that. Now, whether or not it would be acceptable to the parents at my studio is another story... but I can't worry about that! How parents at any other studio feel about this dance is really only relative to what you're doing as a studio owner. If your parents feel strongly about the in-appropriateness of this routine then you should feel satisfied as a studio owner knowing that your parents are happy with what you are doing with their children and leave it at that. I know for a fact that this isn't the first time this studio has been in some YouTube controversy over age-appropriateness of one of their dances, but the reality is that their students keep coming back, they keep improving, and they keep producing really great routines year after year. Are the teachers at this studio just pushing the envelope? Or are they trying to be shocking? Either way, everything about this dance was the choice of the teacher/studio, who are probably loving all this attention!

Now if you attend a dance competition where they don't have rules about age-appropriateness or enforce their rules about it than that's your perogative. However, I know as an adjudicator I would not necessarily put up a stink about disqualifying this group for shaking their hips, but that is just my opinion. I would say that this routine would be a welcome change at a competition to the multiple jazz solos to "Paper Moon" that probably preceded it. Aren't we all just trying to make our kids stand out at competitions so that the judges are entertained and remember them? Maybe they went a bit too far in trying to do that, but they did try. If you are a studio owner or teacher who is completely put off by this routine winning at a competition... find a new competition to go to!

I know that my group of Mini competitive dancers will not be doing a routine like this on stage next year, neither will my Intermediate students for that matter, but it doesn't mean I look down on anybody who does. I think Dance Precision is an amazing studio, producing very talented dancers and thus I have a lot of respect for the teachers and choreographers at their studio. Sure, these costumes are a bit revealing, but I see kids this age in costumes just like this at competitions every weekend. The only difference normally being that the kids are doing skips and hitchy-coo ball changes, which I guess in turn makes leather bra tops and shorts more appropriate!


Suzanne Gerety said...

Hi Robin,

Thanks for taking on this topic, it surely gets opinions flying around. Which I'm glad for as it is a great conversation.

I've watched the video a few's where I get sort of 'stumped'. People who watch this and make a quick judgement are acting as if this video/performance was the first time the parents of these dancers ever would have seen this performance and choreography.

Clearly these kids have been in many rehearsals and classes leading up to this! It's not like the parents didn't know what these girls would be wearing or what the routine entailed!

Like you said, each studio owner's artistic direction and choreography choices happen long before those dancers set foot on to the stage.

Parents have choices to leave or stay at a studio and clearly these dancers and families are satisfied here or they wouldn't be at this point.

At 7 & 8 years old are we rushing them to grow up or are they truly just mastering the choreography? Does it really have any relevancy for them or are they just 'modeling' what they are taught.

Should 7 & 8 year old boys be allowed to play violent video games? Or is that encouraging them to be violent?

Thanks again for the post Robin.

Robin said...

I couldn't agree more!
I'm glad you got that I wasn't defending this routine... but I'm merely stating the facts about it. As a studio owner I choose to approach my work how I see fit, and parents can decide for themselves whether or not it's appropriate for their child. Same is true in every activity, or in every aspect of life.
Maybe it's just the bows on the knee highs that are throwing people here!!!

Alison said...

All I can say is these kids can dance!! Too be honest, I wasn't even thinking about their age versus what they were wearing etc. If i saw that at a comp, I would give it a standing O!

Anonymous said...

Don't get me started.....all I can say is that I may not be a studio owner, choreographer or teacher' Asst. BUT I am a parent (mother and grandmother) and usually pretty "hip"....I would prefer to see children who are enrolled in dance at an early age be getting as much technical instruction as possible in order for them to perform with control and precision. There is lots of time to bring on the enthusiatic performances in the years to come BUT no parent or teacher is doing any child any good by promoting and encouraging age inappropriateness......I totally feel with the sexual predators, child pornography enthusiasts, and whatever other morally deficient "people" that are out there we should be protecting these children who are not yet capable of making moral decisions for themselves....Am I delusional ?? Feel free to respond...
Dy McGrath

Rebecca C. said...

I agree wholeheartedly with the Anonymous mom who posted. While these kids are no doubt INCREDIBLY talented dancers, and can do more foutes than I can at age 23, they do not need to show off their talent in such a sexualized manner. I saw this on Anderson Cooper 360, and he interviewed Dr. Phil, whose opinion was...HEY PEDOPHILES, HERE IS THE RED LIGHT DISTRICT!! Truly, these girls don't even understand the nature of grinding, booty-shaking movements, but I can guarantee they will be attracting perverts out there, and will also probably feel ashamed of themselves when they too are some day mothers and want to protect their children from prey. Let kids be kids at 7, and let them retain their innocence until it is time, rather than thrusting it upon them before they can even spell "sex."

Here is the AC interview: