Saturday, June 20, 2009

Dance Your Pants Off

Riddle me this: when did childrens' dance recitals turn into Prelude For A Striptease?

Yesterday, I happened to find myself at the end-of-year dance show for a fairly large Toronto dance school. Among the usual vignettes (four year olds skipping in a lopsided circle, manically grinning tapdancers, sequins), there was a huge amount of booty shaking, shoulder shimmying, and pelvic thrusting. One number had the girls start in pairs: one bent over at the waist, the other standing behind. I'm no prude, but like, seriously? That's a sexual position. A really sexual position.

Bitching about "young people today" always makes me feel like a crotchety old lady, but I don't recall this skill set from my own days as a dancer. Granted, I was hugely self-conscious and not blessed with any rhythmic sense whatsoever, but the eruption of sexualized dance moves seems to have happened after I wore a tragic leotard and danced to "It's Raining Men." When I asked my mom about it, she told me that she had actually taken my younger sister out of a dance class because, and I quote, "they were teaching the girls to dance like sluts," which was completely weird to hear my mom say. "The little girls?" asked my dad, and my mom was all, you better believe it.

Ten or fifteen years ago was before dance studios started offering hip-hop classes, which, aside from a truly strange number involving cowboy hats and a lot of shoulder shimmying, was the source of almost all the sexy moves. I am a hip-hop fan, and not just backpack hip-hop: I've shaken my ass to Usher like everyone else. But. I shook my ass in a club, which I got into because I was of age. It's never really all that appropriate to "bend over the floor and touch your toes," as Li'l Jon romantically suggests. At least I was doing it as God intended: drunk, with other drunk people, sans audience.

Hip-hop is sort of the inverse of musical theatre. It's kind of inappropriate when adults are really into musical theatre. It feels a little embarassing, because it's artificial and showy. Musical theatre is designed for thirteen year olds: it's colourful and melodramatic, and someone's always tipping over in a hoopskirt. When twenty-nine year old women are singing along, it's a little shameful. Hip-hop takes that formula and flips/reverses it: when kids are into it, it becomes necessary to point out how fake everything is...which kind of ruins the fun. The stakes are higher, because while very few people have every been the object of inappropriate sexual attention for belting out the words to Rent on the streetcar, the same isn't true for little girls who dance like hoochie mamas.

I'm not claiming that hip-hop is bad for kids; I'm just asking that instead of teaching fifteen year old girls how to grind like video hos, dance instructors might incorporate breakdancing into the mix. It's an athletic and impressive dance style, and it doesn't require anyone to present their hindquarters like a mate-ready baboon. (Oh, damn it, again with the crotchetiness.) It would also be helpful to recall that nine year old girls aren't reknowned for their critical thinking skills, and that incorporating sexualized dance moves into routines designed for people who have yet to take sex-ed might be overstepping the mark.

So yeah: keep it in the (dirty, filthy, adult, fun) clubs, where it belongs, make musical theatre illegal for anyone older than twenty, and burn my tragic leotard. Can we all sign off on that? Because I suspect that next year's recital is somehow going to be an interpretive dance about handjobs, and that makes me afraid.

1 comment:

  1. 100% agreed! When I went to the Rosedale dance show I had to sit right up front and on the floor... I spent a lot of time looking at my shoes while they girated 5 inches in front of me