Our Responsibilities to Youth Dancers: Chapter 1-Appropriate Music
Chapter One- Appropriate music
I have been quiet for far too long and I would like to start spreading the word about youth dancers and how we, as educators, need to be more accountable for their training as well as keeping them safe; both their bodies and their spirits.
This series will touch on many different aspects about youth dancers in our dance world; mostly today’s competition world. It is my hope that it opens eyes to many dance instructors everywhere as well as the parents of these youth dancers.
All dancers look to their teachers for guidance as far as education, direction and as role models for so much more than just dance. Parents of dancers also look to their teachers for these things especially if they have had no prior experience with dance, they will trust the teacher to lead them to success. Sometimes the success is only seen as immediate competition success instead of thinking of long term success with the dancer, not only as a dancer but as a happy, healthy young human being.
Youth dancers, ages 12 and under, are of special importance as we are creating their foundations as dancers and young people. Our job is to train them as dancers while also preserving their childhood. Young dancers should be allowed to be young and we, as adults in their lives, are the ones responsible for maintaining that status for them.
Dance is a performing art. Dancers are expected to perform, tell stories and connect with their music on a personal level. When choosing music for youth dancers to dance to, we need to remember the following:
A young dancer has no experience with being ‘in love’, with being a woman/man or worse… anything related sexually! I am appalled at some of the song choices that we are expecting young dancers to dance to and connect with!!
Be cautious with lyrics… even if the audience cannot hear the exact words. The young dancer will be practicing to this song for months, they will know the words and they will be singing the lyrics as they practice. Our concern should be finding a song that we feel comfortable with the dancer knowing/understanding the words, instead of worrying about the language of the music only to avoid getting point deductions at competition, (which rarely happens anyways… but that is a whole different blog!)
When we take an 8 year old to a movie, we take them to 'The Secret Life of Pets’ not 'Fifty Shades of Gray’ or even something extremely violent! We give them age appropriate books to read instead of sexy romance novels! So why can’t we choose age appropriate music for them that they connect to that represents their age appropriately?
Examples below are not meant to point out any specific dance or studio, they are simply examples that I have seen many times over the past few years:
'Almost Lover’ A fine Frenzy- I love this song but what has a seven year old experienced that would allow them to connect to this song? Dancing to a song about a romantic relationship, or loss of, between a man and a woman is not appropriate. There are many songs about love that they can relate to when the lyrics are more general and not about romantic love. A young dancer can express love about their parent, friend, pet, their love of dance, etc…
'Anaconda’ Nicki Minaj - Anyone from Sir Mix-a-lot’s era knows what he means by 'Anaconda’ and this song is inspired by that. To have young dancers dance to a song that is about male genitals is beyond inappropriate and this is perfect example of a teacher needing to listen to the lyrics more and understanding what the song is about. If a teacher/choreographer still uses this song for youth dancers with that understanding, then the teacher should really take a look what I mentioned above about the need to preserve their childhood! (The same argument can be made for the song 'Milkshake’ Kelis)
'Camille, Collette, Fifi’ from the musical Seventh Heaven - This song sounds adorable and the urge to put the girls in cute little French outfits and do cutsy little movements while lip syncing is hard to resist. However if you do your research about the musical and listen to the lyrics, you will quickly learn that the song is about… PROSTITUTION! Need I say more? I don’t know about you but I want my young female dancers to grow up respecting themselves and their body and this song is a direct conflict with those ideals.
So dance teachers, let’s bond together and make a change! Studio owners, be cautious about what you allow your teachers to choreograph to as it represents your studio as well. Young teachers just starting out, please understand the impact that you have on young dancers and make sure to choose songs that represents them well instead of just choosing your favorite popular song.
We have a huge responsibility as dance teachers/choreographer and it can start with something simple as a better thought out song choice. It’s a small choice that will make a big difference in our youth dancers in the long run!
Thanks for listening and stand by for more thoughts about youth dancers and costuming!