Little Miss Sunshine is Alive and Well

Just got back from spending almost my entire weekend at a dance convention in a nearby suburban hotel. My older daughter has been taking dance lessons since she was three, and attending dance conventions with her dance studio has been an annual ritual for awhile. For the uninitiated, here’s what a dance convention is in a nutshell: Hip faculty featuring top dancers from across the country travel to dance conventions each weekend, teaching classes to both dance students and teachers for two days, with one or two evenings devoted to competitions, where afore-mentioned hip faculty are the judges.  Trophies are given out, and scholarships to future dance conventions and Hollywood classes are awarded on the last day. Usually the faculty performs in a grand finale on the last day as well as the competition dances deemed “Judges Choice”.  Even a ragtag bunch of parents performs at the finale, thanks to groovy hip-hop moves they learn in a “parents class” earlier in the day (I’ve done that before– what a hoot!).  Dancewear and professional photos snapped just about every minute of the convention are on sale in the hallways.  It’s pretty much the same drill at every convention, dubbed LA Dance Force, Company Dance, and Dance Olympus, to name a few.  In the Dallas area alone, there are hotel conventions and other dance competitions (at high school gyms, civic auditoriums) going on all over the city each weekend, sometimes two in one weekend (and some dance studios try to take their students to as many as they can!). The hotel ones are a lot of fun, albeit expensive, and the faculty is always top-notch and friendly.  It’s good mother-daughter time for Allison and me.  We both love dance, and we get to see some outstanding, creative dances. 

What I dread at these things is what I call the “hootchie mama” contingency.

This past weekend, I saw more pelvic thrusts than at a Tom Jones concert, and enough fast butt shaking going on that I was thinking, “You could strap on a Martini mixer to each of their behinds and serve drinks to the whole crowd.”  Seriously.  In a number called “Shake Your Shimmy”, one group of over-rouged girls danced just like the women in the old 2 Live Crew music videos (didn’t that group get arrested back in the day for lewd behavior??)  And these dancers weren’t women– they were nine years old.  In fact, after the convention was over, I realized that the most overtly sexual moves in the whole competition came from the Petite and Junior divisions, not from the Teens and Seniors. 

What’s wrong with this picture? Am I too much of a prude? As the little hootchie mamas kept winning top award after top award, I seriously began to wonder– then I heard a total stranger next to me say, in disgust, “That was that hootchie studio.”  Ahhh- a kindred spirit! Upon striking up a conversation with her, I learned that even more of her thoughts echoed mine exactly.  “They might as well just put a pole up there and let them have at it,” she added.  I suddenly flashed back to a past convention where I watched girls, who couldn’t even fill out a training bra, dance to “Lady Marmalade” dressed like hookers. (Remember– that song means “Will you F—- Me” in French.)

In this already sex-saturated culture, where girls use drugs and die of eating disorders because they feel they can’t live up to the stereotypes and pressures put on them– why do some dance teachers, most of them women themselves, feed the fire by putting very young girls in this position?  And, the girls are not only being given the message that sex sells, but also that it’s okay, when you’re age 6 or 7 or 8 or 9, to act sexy in front of men.  The audience at competitions and recitals is not made up of just moms.  It’s also Dads, grandfathers, little brothers, big brothers, uncles, and that teenage boy I saw this weekend with a T-shirt emblazoned on the front with the words “Amateur Porn Star”. All these dudes are getting a big dose of come-ons by lipsticked pre-pubescents.   (I half expected Chris Hanson from MSNBC’s “To Catch a Predator” to come strolling in with his camera crew.)  Again, there is something wrong with this picture…

Our studio owner, who abhors sleazy dancing and costumes, told me she thinks the tendency to teach and perform in that way is a  “small town thing”– if that’s the case, I couldn’t help but think that most of the small-town hootchie dancers probably come from very conservative religious backgrounds….  so it’s okay to grab your crotch in a performance on Saturday night in the dance show, as long as you’re grabbin’ your Bible come Sunday morning. 

I’m proud our tiny, traditional dance studio won some nice awards without wearing sequined midriff-baring bra tops and hip-hugging “booty shorts”, without perfect Barbie shapes, spray-on tans, diamond earrings and matching, perfectly pinned-up hair with a “poof” on top, and without bumping and grinding. Our girls looked like real girls up there on stage, some with braces, some with acne, some big boned, others stick skinny.  They may not have gotten the Judges’ Choice award, but I think they’re going to be big winners in the long run, in the more important dance of life.   I just hope that they can see that, too.

19 thoughts on “Little Miss Sunshine is Alive and Well”

  1. So glad to see someone speak out on this. Years ago when I was in the newspaper business the stories I liked least to cover were the little missy pageants and this kind of dancing was making inroads. My philosophy is that childhood is precious and fleeting so why push your kids into growing up too soon. Maybe this world needs more childhood innocence to rub off on more adults.

  2. Patty, I love this entry! I totally agree with you on this. I hadn’t thought much about it but you’re right, the dance world is pretty skanky! I love that you and Allison had a great bonding experience. I can’t wait to share some great memories with Jetta. I’m enrolling her in dance this fall… I am so excited I can hardly stand it! I’ll be sure and keep a prude eye out for her.

  3. I just stumbled on your blog via fb.
    Great, now I have something else to worry about! I have a 4 year old who I was thinking about enrolling in dance classes in the fall. Hmmm, gonna have to rethink that… I couldn’t agree with you more, it is just gross to have little girls turned into hookers-in-training. And the t-shirt that kid had on… eewww. I guess I am a prude too.

  4. Thank you so much for reading and responding! I wouldn’t toss out the whole idea of dance classes– I’d just “shop around” if that’s possible where you live.  In May, a lot of dance studios have recitals (most are free to the public) so I’d find out when they are and go check them out– it’s a great way to get a “feel” for a place.  Your daughter might even like to watch, too.  Another way to check out a dance studio is at a “dance day camp”– a lot of studios do this over Spring Break or for one week during the summer, even for the little ones (would probably work better with a child a little older than 4– depends on how “independent” the child is).  The camps let dance students and non-students attend 3-4 classes, broken down into age group, every day for a week– they usually also have a brown bag lunch and watch movies, color in dance coloring books, etc. The problem with being a non-dance student at one of those is that a lot of times you have to have the shoes required, but some studios have a huge selection of loaners if one doesn’t want to invest in “equipment” just yet! If you can’t do either of those, you might ask the studio if they have a DVD of their last recital that you can borrow to watch– I know ours has the DVD playing in their waiting area all the time.

    You know, when I first saw that gross T-shirt on that kid, my first instinct was to say something like, “Do your parents let you wear that?” or “Do you realize that’s really offensive to a lot of people here?” but I held my tongue.  I was afraid he was going to say something like,”Yeah, my mom thinks it’s funny– and she’s my dance teacher, too!!”

  5. Hi there “uncool” (and I don’t know about that), I found you through FB, and this was a great post. The convention sounds like such a fun time!
    My 4 year old just started kinderdance (they’re all in their cute little tutus and pink leotards) but there were a couple of moves that a few other moms and I were noticing could be more “flashdance” than anything else. I guess it’s a certain style?

    I myself LOVE to hip hop/ shake my booty, but then I’m 43 (well, maybe I shouldn’t be LOL!); I think I would also take exception to those young girls hootchie-ing.

  6. Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment. And that’s great that you love to dance!  So do I. Have you ever taken an adult dance class? It was hard finding one (even in a big metro area like Dallas) but I finally found one that’s an adult-only studio (otherwise, i’d have to take at a kids’ studio and then usually there are only 4 or 5 adults in the class…). At the place I found, you just pay for a 10-class or 20-class pass and show up for whatever class you want to try– it  has hip-hop (wow, what a workout), jazz (much harder than I thought), cardio latin (fun!), Nia (lots of fun), and something called Dance Fusion (a combo of just about everything).  One time they had a class called “Bollywood Funk”-  they should probably bring that back now that Slumdog Millionaire is taking the country by storm.  Wish I had time to go more often– I’m lucky if I make it there once a week!

  7. Patricia,

    I observed this phenomenon at V’s tap recitals
    (though to a lesser extent.) It’s one of the reasons we switched studios and to ballet.


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