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!