December 2, 2010

Sexy Little Girls? UGH

This Sunday, my nine year old daughter has her big dance recital for the year, and I am nervous. Not because I'm worried she'll stuff up - quite frankly any performance not resembling a baby hippo will represent a huge victory over her genetic inheritance - but because I'm worried about the dance itself.

My daughter (in the grand tradition of her mother, aunt and all maternal relatives) does not have the aptitude for classical ballet (using 'aptitude' in the sense of 'patience and belief that it's not hideously dull'). So after a couple of terms of stiff pink tutus and white tights and hair-pulled-back-in-a-bun-and-covered-with-hairspray (a style favoured only by librarians and prima ballerinas, and not at all flattering to either) we decided to move on to Jazz.

Little Pinkela loved Jazz. And I loved it too, for the simple reason that I didn't have to wrestle my child into white tights once a week. Or put her hair in a bun. (I am completely hopeless at buns. Probably because I'm not a librarian.) And I continued to love Jazz for the entire year. Right up until the End Of Year dance recital. Or, what will be forever be known in my mind as 'The Disturbing Pom Pom Incident'.

It was December of 2009 and my husband, son and The Toddler were all seated on rickety chairs in the local school hall, watching Pinkela's dance school perform. Pinkela's class was up second, and their routine was terrific. Dressed in black flip skirts and sparkly tee shirts, the eight and nine year olds looked cute, and they danced with energy and enthusiasm to an innocuous pop song. We all clapped and cheered, the Toddler tried to run on stage to join her sister, and all was well with the world.

And then the 'older' group came on. The ten and eleven year olds. And boy, were we in for a surprise.

For a start, there was the issue of their outfits. Veering less towards 'cute' and more towards 'tart', the girls wore short short shorts, midriff tops, lots of makeup, and lots of flesh. It was disconcerting, to say the least.

And then the music started.

Of course, I wasn't surprised when music started. It was a dance concert, after all, and it's hard to dance without music. It was the nature of the song that shocked the hell out of me.

The song the dance teacher had chosen that hip hop classic 'Shake It Like A Pom Pom', by Missy Elliot. The song is focussed on the shaking of the buttock region, and contains such immortal lyrics as:

See the booty shake like an earthquake
there is no escape when I shake it in your face.
Now don't you wanna tape a booty shakin on your tape?
So show it to your boys and see the look on all they face.


Marvellous. How wonderfully... er... inclusive.

Now don't get me wrong. I love Missy Elliot. For those who are unaware, Missy 'Misdemeanor' Elliot is a black American hip hop artist who overcame an abused, impoverished background to become an international superstar. For this reason alone, she is an inspiration to females everywhere (oh, and she has a damn fine voice, too). I just don't believe that 'Shake It Like A Pom Pom' is the finest example of her work, at least not from a feminist point of view (though from a musical point of view, it's pretty catchy). More to the point, it's just not appropriate for little girls. It would be like a primary school putting on a stage version of 'The Rocky Horror Show' for their end of year play. May be a classic, but the context is all wrong.

All these thoughts and more ran through my head as the girls did the first steps of their dance routine. And what steps they were. Hip shakes here, butt wiggles there, hair tosses absolutely everywhere.

But they hadn't even got to the chorus. And when they did, that's when I started to shake my own pom poms. For the girls made a dance move that surely has a proper name, but which I could only think of as the 'filthy ho'. It went something like this:

- make fists with your hands, and place them to your chest;
- raise your elbows to the height of your fists;
- bring elbows out to the side rapidly whilst simultaneously thrusting one's chest forward and bending one's knees;
- repeat. Over and over again.

I was horrified. I turned to my husband in outrage, but as he had been playing games on his iPhone (he lost interest when Pinkela left the stage) he had missed the whole thing. Still, I knew what I'd seen.

When the concert was over, I approached the teacher. "Congratulations," I said. "The younger group did brilliantly."

She smiled. "They did! I'm very proud of them."

I hesitated. "The older group though.... Well, that was pretty out there."

"Wasn't it?" she said brightly.

"No, I mean, they were kind of... sexy."

"I know! They're really something, aren't they?"

I nodded. "We'll see you next year," I said. But I knew I was lying.

So I moved Pinkela to a different dance school, one in which, hopefully, 'sexy ho' will not be the theme of the end of year performance. But as I haven't been allowed to watch the routine, I'm only going to find out on Sunday.

So wish me luck. I certainly don't want to be seeing my little Pinkela shaking her pom poms. And quite frankly, I'm too tired to be shaking mine.

37 comments:

  1. The sexualisation of little girls is getting beyond ridiculous. Some of the outfits I have seen in kids clothing stores makes me skin crawl.. mini skirts, midrif tops, knee high boots, heels, little bras... wth?? Not to mention make up etc. And parents let them wear these things!!! Im so glad I have boys!

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  2. I have been horrified hearing similar stories around the place. Best one I'd heard (before hearing yours.... congratulations, that one now tops the Skanky Dance School list for mine!) was a group of 7yo'd dancing to Roxanne. Apparently they no longer needed to sell their bodies to the night(???). Seriously, do the dance teachers check the lyrics at ALL?! Insanity.

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  3. Spot on, it's all about context. I went to Oktoberfest a couple of years ago and they had some kids performing dance routines. At first it was the little kids, which was cute, but as the older girls (aged 10-14) started dancing it just screamed of wrongness. The outfits and the dance moves did not match the age of the girls and I couldn't wait for it to be over!

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  4. Being Me: Thank GOD they no longer had to sell their bodies to the night. That's a huge relief. Let's just hope that next year they don't get into difficulties for standing too close to their male teacher at wet bus stops, because temptation and frustration will be so bad it might make him cry.

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  5. I confess I just stood up and followed your instructions to work out what the "sexy ho" move was. The cat leaned over from his recline on the lounge and tucked fifty dollars in my pants.

    Once again I am glad my daughter never showed any interest in dancing. I'm still reeling from a dance routine some of the girls at her school did for the end of year concert.

    To "these boots are made for walking" (JSimpson version, natch) - picture 10 and 11 yos, in Simpson's Daisy Duke outfit - shortest of denim shorts and kneehigh boots. To do the move you have to sort of bend your legs with your knees apart and lean forward and slap your thighs, then roll back up again. I think it must be called the "sexy cowgirl ho".

    Noice.

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  6. i think thats why mum started me on non-competitive ballroom dancing - fitness, strength and a level of deportment without the buns, flesh or inappropriate routines!

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  7. Actually the worst I've seen wasn't little girls at all. Our local primary school had year 2s dancing to Thriller. They showed 7 year olds that clip with blood dribbling from mouths, I know of two who are still having nightmares.

    It really makes you wonder how many of these people have children themselves. Although when you look at the clothes in shops, you realise there are parents doing this too.

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  8. Hi there,

    My mum runs a dance school in western Sydney and has done for 40+ years. It's a family business and my sister and I work there on the weekends. Our girls range in age from 3-18 and we work very hard to give them age-appropriate routines and costumes but still keep the song choices up-to-date, especially for jazz.

    It's really disheartening when you see little girls get up at competitions and the like and perform inappropriate moves wearing little more than underwear but worse yet is when they are rewarded for it.

    The other thing that disappoints me is that the media seem to tar all dance schools with the same brush. There are some of us out here who really do care about the 'image' that is portrayed.

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  9. I had a similar experience at my friend's daughter's dance concert years ago. The 10-11 year olds danced to christina aguilara's "Dirty". My friend and i gave each other a WTF look. It was hysterical in a sort of sad, inappropriate way. Like watching little girls play acting being sexy. Reminded me of that dance scene in Little Miss Sunshine.

    My miss 3.5 wants to start dancing next year. hopefully i have a few good years of cute stuff before i have to worry.
    I hope Pinkela has a ball at her "non pom pom" dance concert

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  10. Lauren Finn said.......
    Singing contests are not safe ground either. Case in point, this year's IPSHAA concert. A prominent North Shore girls school (who shall remain nameless)had the whole "cowgirl ho" thing going on. And the men play on their mobiles because they are too embarassed to watch.

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  11. I too have been through this experience but I think the main problem is that most of the popular music (and what these little girls love listening to) has those images and lyrics. I am not defending the Missy Elliot choice but it kind of limits the music choices for the dance teachers.
    "Wanna take a ride on your disco stick" anyone??

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  12. Oh, forgot to say - last year a Year 4 girl at my friend's daughter's school got up at the end of year singing contest and sang Lily Allen's "Not Fair"!!!

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  13. "Not Fair"???????
    Are you KIDDING me?????
    *mind boggles*....

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  14. I've been dancing (ballroom, latin, theatrical) for 20 years now. When little girls take up competition dancing, they have to wear a standard dress (although they get to choose the colour) so there's no low cut, midriff action happening. But some parents are making their little girls wear flesh-coloured g-strings under their dresses instead of the usual bloomers. So when a little girl does a spin, guess what you get to see. It's pretty bloody sickening!

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  15. Okay, whoa! I'm a librarian, and I have to say, in complete honesty, that I've never seen a librarian with a bun! Never. Those short, wash n wear, no use of styling product styles, on the other hand...yeh, they're pretty common. But most librarians under 40 are not at all what you'd expect these days; it's a very technological industry now. We didn't even ENTER a old-style library with books during my studies.

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  16. Oh! My apologies Niki. Perhaps that was a little stereotypical and outdated. Or very stereotypical and outdated? Or ridiculously so? Thanks for setting me straight. K x

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  17. My career as a dance mum ended three years ago when my daugther decided after EIGHT years of dancing (and end-of-year concerts) that she preferred surfing. I now have my life (semi) back at this time of year. Concert time took over everything else - and my husband would have killed for an iphone to play with!

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  18. I have another one for you... at Cam's dance concert in 2008 the 8-10 group (thank GOD Cam was the 6-8 group) did Christina Aguliera's "Candyman"... "He's a one stop shop, he makes my panties drop"

    PANTIES DROP? These are girls who still remember toilet training. And don't start me on the next chorus: "he makes my cherry pop". Cam watched the older girls rehearse about 8 times and wanted to know where we could buy some exploding fruit.

    She took up gymnastics next year.

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  19. OMG - I'm wavering on starting my daughter in dancing but think we will try gymnastics.

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  20. Now when I was little and my best friend did Jazz (I was only ever allowed Ballet - blegh) she had cool leotards in hot pink with blue rick rack sewn on.
    Fast Forward ten years and I was watching my 5 year old cousin in a crop top and hot pants with WAY too much make up for even an adult to wear.
    Thus I was prepared to avoid any dance school that required an 'end of year recital' anywhere except in the room where the classes where held.
    Turned out not to be an issue though as daughter dislikes dancing and son loves it :) and he is safe from any crop top action at all.
    *hopes for a fun dance recital for you*

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  21. Although I never did actual dance classes as a kid (5 year old Irish dancing doesn't count, even thought I still have my third place sash!) but I did force my parents to watch us dance to John Farnham. It was all about Two Strong Hearts and The Age of Reason. Such simpler times! I demand we force kids these days to do the same!
    Perhaps some Neil Diamond can be chucked in as well?

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  22. As I have no kids, can't dance, and barely have any idea who Kanye West is, {No relation to John West, is he?} I feel I'm not qualified to offer an opinion. Hi ,anyway...... :-D

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  23. its crazy how people and kids themselves want to grow up so quick

    its just so wrong in so many ways

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  24. My son did jazz and tap and I had exactly the same experience as you. Horrified me. I have not taken my daughter to dance classes because of this Instead they go to gymnastics. So far, it's been great. The moves are not sexy, just hard! Oh and no end-of-year concert!

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  25. I was a child who did Irish Dancing. FOR YEARS. In fact, my family claim to fame is that my brother who is now a respected surgeon, was the state Irish champion dancer in the under 11 age group. (There were 2 of them in the category and the other boy had an ear infection which meant he kept losing his balance) So dance schools were largely foreign to me until recent years.
    I think it's the ex English teacher in me that makes me cringe at modern dance. Mainly because I can't help but listen to and be repulsed at the song lyrics as well. And no I don't want my daughter "shaking her ass" to lyrics like "ain't like your neighbourhood whore" etc etc.
    Right now Miss Medium is doing ballet, which seems to involve a great deal of scarf twirling and the occasional leap across the stage.
    Old fashioned maybe, but there's plenty of time for all the inappropriate lyrics and skanky ho clothing when she's 35 or something.
    GREAT POST.

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  26. I have a 3.5yo daughter who loves to dance and, reading this, I'm now horrified by the prospect of classes!
    Ballet and gymnastics will be her only options.

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  27. That post was both mesmerizing... And horrifying. Thank god my son is addicted to ballet ( no buns or tights involved) love your words Ms Sackville xo

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  28. I've heard this complaint so many times from parents at dabnce concerts and competitions. It's sickening really. I wish that more people who ran these events were given some guidance about age-appropriate performances and costumes. I think you were restrained, just not returning to the House of Pinkela - I would have given Ms Pinkela some Advice - ela.

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  29. So so true! We sat through our six year old dancing in red sequins to "sucking to hard on your lollipop my love wont let you down".

    Dance is a killer, the make-up, the hair and the outfits that some over zelous mother decides to update in the week leading up to the concert. I was so pleased when the change to gymnastics came.

    Great post (thanks for making me sit at the computer and do my best filthy ho.

    K

    Kx

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  30. mattie loves to readDecember 6, 2010 at 2:17 AM

    At an eisteddford this year, a dance school in our area (not my daughter's school) had 8 year olds wearing what was essentially a bikini, performing what was basically a lapdance to Voulez Vous Couchez Avec Moi. I had to collect my jaw from the ground.

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  31. mattie loves to readApril 21, 2011 at 12:03 PM

    At an eisteddford this year, a dance school in our area (not my daughter's school) had 8 year olds wearing what was essentially a bikini, performing what was basically a lapdance to Voulez Vous Couchez Avec Moi. I had to collect my jaw from the ground.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Although I never did actual dance classes as a kid (5 year old Irish dancing doesn't count, even thought I still have my third place sash!) but I did force my parents to watch us dance to John Farnham. It was all about Two Strong Hearts and The Age of Reason. Such simpler times! I demand we force kids these days to do the same!
    Perhaps some Neil Diamond can be chucked in as well?

    ReplyDelete
  33. That post was both mesmerizing... And horrifying. Thank god my son is addicted to ballet ( no buns or tights involved) love your words Ms Sackville xo

    ReplyDelete
  34. Okay, whoa! I'm a librarian, and I have to say, in complete honesty, that I've never seen a librarian with a bun! Never. Those short, wash n wear, no use of styling product styles, on the other hand...yeh, they're pretty common. But most librarians under 40 are not at all what you'd expect these days; it's a very technological industry now. We didn't even ENTER a old-style library with books during my studies.

    ReplyDelete
  35. Oh, forgot to say - last year a Year 4 girl at my friend's daughter's school got up at the end of year singing contest and sang Lily Allen's "Not Fair"!!!

    ReplyDelete
  36. Hi there,

    My mum runs a dance school in western Sydney and has done for 40+ years. It's a family business and my sister and I work there on the weekends. Our girls range in age from 3-18 and we work very hard to give them age-appropriate routines and costumes but still keep the song choices up-to-date, especially for jazz.

    It's really disheartening when you see little girls get up at competitions and the like and perform inappropriate moves wearing little more than underwear but worse yet is when they are rewarded for it.

    The other thing that disappoints me is that the media seem to tar all dance schools with the same brush. There are some of us out here who really do care about the 'image' that is portrayed.

    ReplyDelete
  37. i think thats why mum started me on non-competitive ballroom dancing - fitness, strength and a level of deportment without the buns, flesh or inappropriate routines!

    ReplyDelete

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