What has the world come to? When little girls perform in provocative outfits, would you not agree this is a bit too much? When dancing is not an art, but another form of instructive subject, have we not gone too far?
A couple of weeks ago, Ronit and I went to the local shopping center on the weekend. As we came in, we were happy to discover a dance performance just in front of the food court. Our mall is typically a pretty boring place, you see, so this was a rare delight.
We had some time on our hands, so we decided to stay and watch. Better yet, since Noff is a very keen dancer, we thought this would be a great opportunity to check out some of the dance schools in the area and find some more dancing action for Noff.
Each dance school featured several routines, starting with the youngest and going up in age to the young adult group. There were a few schools there, each with its own announcer, its own music and its own costumes, but very quickly, some things became clear:
- The school-aged dancers were all girls. There was not a boy in sight
- The dancing was done in rows and other formations, with dancers attempting to dance in unison, but hardly ever doing a good job of it
- The announcers talked about how well their dancers did at competitions and about how their school prepared dancers well for grading
- The costumes were very tight and very short dresses, sometimes showing a shoulder, sometimes showing the back and sometimes featuring additional features and fluff
- The dancing involved a lot of “sensual” gestures, rolling on the floor, bum wiggling and leg spreading
- Most of the dancers seemed to be preoccupied with keeping up and doing their moves right. There was very little eye contact with the audience and most of the bright wide smiles were coupled with anxious eyes
I was shocked, to tell you the truth. Absolutely shocked.
It was clear to me those girls thought what they were doing was cute. They did not understand the meaning of the way they were being presented and choreographed.
It also seemed like they were dancing someone else’s moves and doing their best to please that someone, rather than expressing themselves and enjoying the dance.
There, in front of us, was a parade of well-oiled machines producing externally-motivated, insecure, objectified and unexpressed women, who will live their life trying to please others by dressing attractively, performing like everybody else and pretending to be happy and upbeat. How horrible!
Noff, mind you, has been doing her own dance moves since she could walk. She is a strong and energetic girl, who picks up dance moves quickly and enjoys coming up with new moves on her own in front of our very large dining room mirror.
When we first took her to a dance class, she came back saying it was exciting. The second time, she said she felt bad about not doing all the moves right. Get it? It took 2 sessions of 45 minutes to turn a dance enthusiast into a teacher-pleasing, self-critical, anxious little creature, who was not sure about going next week.
But wait, there is more (unfortunately). Dance schools are, after all, commercial businesses, and they need to be profitable. So besides paying for classes (ahead of time for a whole term), there is a special outfit for practice (only sold by the school) and a special costume for each performance (only sold by the school and typically only good for one performance). The end-of-term and end-of-year shows are essentially attended by the dancers’ families, who must pay for a ticket to see their own daughter or sister performing. Because the shows involve all the classes in the school, they can be large and profitable events indeed.
I think this is a classical case of “divide and conquer”. When you come as a parent to inquire about dancing lessons for your daughter, you are presented with “the way things are done”. Looking around, you see many parents who seem to be comfortable with that way and who drop their daughters off, chat with the administration staff and the dance instructors and make you feel like you are the only one not getting it. If you decide to join, you have just been conquered and will be promptly used to conquer new parents.
Ronit and I tried several dance schools already for Noff and they were all very similar. Talking to other parents (in confidence), they told us they were unhappy about the way these school were treating them and their daughters, “But what can you do?”
Well, I say let us all get together and demand that dance schools (and music schools and art schools) focus on the expressive aspect of art and use it to develop the creativity and character of our kids. I say we nag those schools and take our kids out of them until they give in. Being businesses, they cannot exist without paying parents. It is that simple.
The world of today and the world of tomorrow require open-minded, creative people, who value themselves and others and live a balanced life. Let this be our contribution to that.
United we stand, divided we fall
– Brotherhood of Man