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.