On My Mind | Swing the pendulum back


Words from the publisher

A while ago I held a seminar for teachers and studio owners at a dance convention that included a competition. These awesome people were teachers for all the right reasons—everyone was excited about learning new approaches for the classroom and business.

Photo by Mim Adkins

At one point, a conversation started up about dance competitions and the importance of age-appropriate music and costuming, and of giving students movement that they were ready for instead of tricks or flashy steps. Everyone agreed—these were the standards that they lived by and that they wanted to see all dance educators practice.

Most of the time, I do my seminar and then I’m off to the next gig; I generally don’t have the opportunity to see much of the remainder of the event. But this time I had some time to watch the dance competition. After my conversation with the teachers, I was expecting to see happy young kids and age-appropriate everything.

After about three entries in the 7- to 8-year-old category, I began to feel uncomfortable. The choreography was very mature. Many competitors wore two-piece costumes; some danced to music that was sexually provocative. Many were attempting turns and leaps that were beyond their technical ability.

Please don’t get me wrong—I think the teachers believed they were doing the right thing. Yet the pendulum has swung so far in a provocative direction that the teachers perceived their work as appropriate because it wasn’t as bad as other work they had seen.

A 7-year-old can be 7 onstage; she can and should dance to relatable music with subject matter that the 7-year-old mind is mature enough to understand. It should not be the same music, subject matter, and costuming that a teacher would use for a 17-year-old student.

As we start to plan our choreography for next season, let’s all break free of the status quo and challenge ourselves to stay within the boundaries of what we know is right. Let’s not believe we can get away with more because others are worse. Let’s not choreograph fouettés for students unable to do clean, technically correct double pirouettes.

We must all take responsibility to live up to the standards that we claim to live by. Go out of your way to focus on giving your students concepts, choreography, and music appropriate for their age level. It’s time!