Friday, March 13, 2009

Stock Rant #1

Do you have stock rants? You know, on topics you that simply can't let go by without getting your two cents in? Arguments that you've carefully honed over years and years of being disgruntled?

I have several.

Today, I bring you: Chorus's Rant About Young Dancers

Ready? Here we go...

To begin, I started in ballet at the age of four. This was the age when my mother discovered me walking around the house on my toes. Not on my tippy-toes, but on my actual toe-knuckles, as it were. Even the thought of it makes me cringe now. Anyhoo, my mother took me to ballet class and my teacher told me that I was never to walk on my toes like that again, and I never did.

I danced ballet from the time I was four until I was about sixteen. After that, I did two years of modern dance. Intermittently, I dabbled in other things like tap and jazz and whatnot. I stopped dancing when I was 18 just because I was ready to do other things.

So here's what I believe. I believe that dance is one of the best and most powerful ways to teach young children about music, story-telling, creativity, rhythm and movement. I believe that dance makes a person very aware and very familiar with his/her own body. I believe that ballet is the best form of dance for building strength, teaching technique and laying foundations for a dance education. If pressed really hard, I would tell you that I don't believe children should be taking anything but ballet for the first 5 or 6 years of their dance education.

In short, I believe that my dancing had a wonderful and profound effect on my life.

I work on a campus that hosts, two or three times a year, different dance festivals. Our student association building becomes a teeming hive of little ones and their mothers carrying garment bags and makeup kits. (I saw a woman walking through the building the other day, surrounded by little girls, carrying a stuffed horse... I was sorry I was going to have to miss that routine.) These festivals have a wide variety of categories... tap, jazz, hip-hop, musical theatre, ballet, modern, solo, duet, trio, big groups, little groups, etc.

I remember these festivals well. But when I look at them unfolding in front of me now, I see a very different scene than the one that existed when I took part. I see an ocean of little girls who don't look like little girl dancers. They look like tiny imitations of big-girl dancers, with too much makeup on, belly-baring half-tops and hot pants in loud colours. I see choreography that is not designed to show off little girls dancing, but rather to intended to demonstrate how cute it is when 6 year olds act "sexy."

I see very little that is beautiful and even less that is artistic.

Now, granted, these are not my kids. And maybe if they were my kids I would feel all googly-eyed and thrilled about them. But I look around and all I feel is profoundly sad.

I know that dance, and ballet in particular, can be overtly and unapologetically harsh to little girls about their body images and self-esteem. I've seen it. And it's awful. But surely teaching little girls that there is entertainment value in a group of six-year olds slapping their rear-ends, thrusting their hips, and casting "come hither" looks at the audience is no better? It seems to me that Precious has replaced beauty and innocence in the way that little girls dance.

I look around and I ask, "Where is the Degas painting in THIS?"

The Rehearsal, Degas


Maureen said...

Hear hear!!!

My daughter has been in dance for 5 years now (she is 15) and one of the reasons we LOVE our small town dance studio is that they don't go the sexy 6-yr. old route. The bigger, more 'professional' dance studio in our neighboring town has no such standards. At their last recital (dd has a friend who dances there) not only were the young 'ladies' doing their best Brittany Spears imitation, but a large portion of the audience was making catcalls and woo woo noises while they were doing it. At one point, I actually said (loudly) "excuse me PEOPLE, these are 9yr. olds!" ....ick.

Crimson Rambler said...

there was some sort of toddler=pageant theme on Tyra (blush) the other day...and it was revolting.
did you ever read Graham Greene on what he thought of Shirley Temple? He got sued, I believe, and had to retract it, but I don't think he changed his mind.

Mandy said...

I hate the way kids just cant be kids anymore .... its as if we have lost all sense of right and wrong in the last few decades ... I wonder how many of these girls are going to grow to become single mothers as a result of awful relationships and never have a have a nonsexual view of themselves.

ps my word verif is CHOIR!!

Julie said...

Agreed! I love the fact that you have carefully composed rants. :)

Sue said...

I totally agree. A few years ago, a judge in the annual music festival here was dismissed and sent back to Toronto when she told a seven year old girl to stand up straight before she sang.

Not a bad instruction, except that the judge said, "Show off your girls." To a seven year old!

Awkward, yes? Inappropriate, you better believe it. That judge was practically run out of town.