Oversexualizing young kids has been a hot topic among dance teachers in recent years. It's arguably the most controversial topic teachers and studio owners are faced with. Deciding which choreography, music or costumes are appropriate—or not—isn't always black and white and can be easily overlooked. Is showing the midriff too much for minis? Is this choreography too provocative? Is this popular song too suggestive for a competition piece? The questions can seem endless with no clear objective answers. Until now.
Founded by dance educator Leslie Scott in Los Angeles, The Youth Protection Advocates in Dance (YPAD) is attempting to raise the integrity of dance education. From costume and music selection to injury prevention, eating disorders and other emotional issues young dancers face, the organization is committed to tackling a huge range of topics through its certification program—the first-ever to educate dance studios, teachers, judges, competitions, conventions and parents on these sensitive issues.
Scott teaching. Photo courtesy of YPAD
Currently on faculty at EDGE Performing Arts and Millennium Dance Complex in Los Angeles, Scott has long understood the pressure from the business to oversexualize her appearance. As a young professional auditioning in Hollywood, she was told: "If you want more work, you have to show your body and dress more provocative." As a teacher, it was: "If you want packed classes, play more explicit music." In the adult-dance world, the recipe worked to book jobs and fill classes. But when it came to dance education, Scott saw the need to put an end to the objectification of young dancers. Hence, the seeds were planted for YPAD.
A YPAD seminar. Photo courtesy of YPAD
Up to this point, there has been no set industry standard or guidelines for what choreography, costumes, etc., are well-suited for young dancers. On the one hand, it's complicated because dance is an art, and every studio owner, teacher, choreographer and competition has their own set of guidelines. However, based on YPAD's research, if children aren't taught at a young age what's safe and appropriate regarding or not regarding their body agency, objectification and sexualization, the potential negative implications are real.
Here is a video featuring psychologist Tomi-Ann Roberts talking with YPAD about the sexualization of youth in dance.
For more about YPAD and how to become certified, visit here.