sexy and seven: the inappropriate side of dance competitions

Showstopper dance competitions inappropriate dance moves

It was bedazzled mayhem last weekend at Disneyland Hotel for the annual Showstopper dance competition. Being a newbie at this sort of event, I had no idea what to expect, though I envisioned it being similar to the big regional competition scenes from Bring it On that I helped cast many moons ago. And yes, it was similar, with the tension and the bumpits and the checking each other out, but, what I was not remotely prepared to see were the young 7-13 year old girls, wearing more make-up on their faces than clothing on their bodies, dancing their way into a Nicki Minaj video.

Oh how I adored watching my kids on that stage, but oh how I wish I could unsee some of the other routines; routines that put the scandalous seven year olds’ Single Ladies dance of 2010 to shame.

If you are not familiar with the scandalous Single Ladies dance of which I speak, then I will fill you in. In 2010, a video was posted to YouTube of 7-9 year olds performing provocative choreography to the Beyonce hit, Single Ladies. It quickly went viral, sending the Interwebs into a heated debate over the scantily clad little ladies shaking what their mama gave them in a very, um, mature manner.

Some responders didn’t see the big deal, being that the girls were supposedly too young to even know that they were being sexy, and particularly since they absolutely ROCKED the dance, and, honestly, back then, I didn’t see the big deal either. I thought, if they can dance like that, then they should go for it.

Fast forward to this past weekend, when I was surrounded by similarly barely-dressed young ladies, twerking it out, and pulling fish-lip faces, and Oh Lawd, my opinion drastically changed.

Seeing it all first hand, up close and WAY too personal, with my 5 and 7 year old daughters in tow, who were of course fascinated by everything they saw, made me realize just what all the fuss was about four years ago. It also made me sad that nothing has changed since then. It also made me want to pack up our Caboodle and skedaddle the hell out of there.

Clearly and rationally, I knew I couldn’t really walk out, so instead, I just sat their in horror, pulling my chin up off the floor and wondered, How does anyone think it’s okay for young girls, 7-14 years old, to wear these skimpy costumes and dance like they’re ready for the pole?  Honestly. I need to know. What purpose does it serve?

Who benefits from an inappropriate routine danced by young girls?

The only people it should benefit is the girls themselves, but I am still unclear as to how dance moves taken from a Gentleman’s Club and costumes that can fit in my right hand benefit them.

Not only is it not age appropriate, it’s uncomfortable for others to watch, including the judges (I heard them use the term “age appropriate” several times), and it also puts the girls at risk because there is absolutely no one regulating who is watching these performances and/or recording them for their own private, perverted use.

Regardless of whether or not the girls themselves know they are being sexy (which I think some of them do), there is no reason for their adult instructors to sexify adolescent/tween girls with such suggestive choreography, music and costumes, especially when there are myriad other ways to show off how talented and unique they are without making it a scene out of Cabaret.

Aside from wanting to vomit at the inappropriteness, the entire weekend was otherwise perfect. The kids absolutely LOVED competing. Like, “OMG, it was the best time ever,” according to them. And I did love seeing a lot of the other studios that had creative, clever routines.

So, since they’re hooked and can’t wait for the next one, I’m gonna have to find a way to keep my inner prude in check by reminding myself that I’m there for my girls and their studio, which thankfully chooses age appropriate costumes, songs, and choreography, and that what the other studios choose to do is none of my business.

And? I’m going to bleach my eyeballs.



  1. 1
    Jess says:

    This is one of the major reasons I knew it’d be hard for me if I’d had a girl. I loved, loved, loved growing up in the dance world, but in the 80s/90s/00s, adding a subtle pelvic thrust to a routine for competition or showcase was considered WAY risque. It’s tough to think that the dance world has grown so much and a lot of the provocateurs have trickled down to become instructors of the least age appropriate groups. ::sigh::

  2. 2

    Being “prudish” and keeping things “age appropriate” is not something you should put your head in the sand over! Girls should be showing, performing, and reflecting a side of their personality…..and obviously sex is not part of that equation yet. And even when it is, there are tasteful ways to do it and untasteful ways to do it. I am with you, Mary. My girls dance and I am very impressed and proud of how the director of the company chooses the music and costumes for all age levels.

  3. 3

    Thank you Mary! For real what is up with all of that?! We have only taken dance lessons with schools that say right on their websites that they don’t allow suggestive costumes or dance routines. The only people who want to see that are pedophiles! It scares the crap out of me that so many people think nothing of it =( – I shared your post too – I see way too many pics of friend’s kids looking way too sexy (IMHO) in my facebook feed.

  4. 4
    Sherri says:

    I know exactly what you mean…my daughter doesn’t take dance, but we traveled to Vegas with my girlfriend last summer for a competition her daughters were in. OMG. Their studio in particular does a good job of staying clear of the hootchie-mama stuff…but wow, did I get an education.

  5. 5

    I vividly remember the Single Ladies dance video four years ago, and all I could think then, like I do now: is the girls were having a wonderful time expressing themselves and that was beautiful to watch; but also that the expression seemed to be an adult definition of what the dance should be. I don’t see any reason to choreograph such mature moves for young girls. The same outcome can be achieved without the trappings of the makeup and the hip thrusts and the booty shorts: the love of healthy competition and dance.

  6. 6
    DeNae says:

    Hi Mary! Long time no chat! Just wanted to say that not wanting your child sexualized hardly makes you a prude. Stand your ground. You’re right. xoxo

  7. 7
    Kat says:

    Oh my gosh, I remember writing about that video of 7 year olds back when it was viral and I was really beside myself. I see how crazy talented they are, but there are certain moves that I think are just over the top (happy to demonstrate those for you sometime!).

    • Mary says:

      Now there’s our next Mama Kat/Mama Mary collab! Love that idea. Because THAT would be something people would want to watch. I’ll bring the Bumpits and fake eyelashes if you bring the AquaNet and the Fishnets.

  8. 8

    I grew up in the dance world, and it’s weird seeing it now as a mother. Our moves were nothing like those of that Single Ladies dance, but we didn’t wear, um, a lot of clothes.
    I wonder how much of the sexual overtones are placed on it by us grown ups. I don’t remember feeling sexualized when during “isolations” we had to gyrate our pelvis over and over. I remember having fun. Now, as a mom though – my hairs raise when I see little girls doing those same moves.

  9. 9
    Stephanie says:

    I’m so glad you posted this! I wanted to scream at those crazy moms who cheered for their half-naked, exploited daughters on stage. We should form a club for “Classy Dance Moms” who care about sharing the love of dance and performing arts with their daughters. I am incredibly grateful that CPAA is a classy studio that protects our “minis”. CDM’s = CPAA

  10. 10
    Ali says:

    This is my daughter’s first year competing. We YouTubed some videos so she can see what competition was like. This was the FIRST video we saw… 8 year-olds. WTF??? Her studio doesn’t promote the bra tops and booty shorts for competition, but some of the girls wear it to class. Holy Cow.

  11. 11
    Chelsea says:

    Very well timed! I have the twins in a recital coming up in June… and then saw the outfits… I immediately said we will be switching to soccer after this!

  12. 12
    KM says:

    I’m sorry to say this isn’t a new phenomenon. I was dancing at those competitions (have a trophy from the very one you’re talking about) in the 80s and we loved thinking of ourselves as “sexy.” I’m not sure we knew what that meant, but in those days big hair and costumes cut high on the leg were de rigeur. We shook our hips, did “body rolls,” and pulled faces that we had seen on MTV.

    I turned out all right (i.e. I’m a college educated non-stripper) but I do wonder sometimes what that experience did for us. We enjoyed performing, gained confidence and poise… but were plagued with body image issues as we grew up… one of my dance friends once lived on Saltine crackers for two weeks in high school because she wanted to lose weight.

  13. 13
    Rachel says:

    Great post Mary! Well said!

  14. 14
    Erica Cook says:

    If I were a parent of one of these girls I would petition the people in charge of these competitions for regulations on appropriate clothing and choreography. Otherwise I would consider legal action as this seems to be a case of child pornography.

  15. 15
    Mr. Dad says:

    I pulled my 5yr old from her dance class for stuff like this (and worse). She was the youngest of the group but none the less when bikers were getting off their bikes and elbowing one another with a grin watching the older girls during our parade, in which there was WAY too much booty shaking going on, I knew it was time to call it. Unfortunately this type of thing is the norm, washed up dance moms feel like they have to live vicariously through their kids and modesty is thrown out. Kids act out suggestive lines and in effect miss out on just being kids. Sure conservative dances may not get as much attention but do you really want the lesson to your girls to be “do what you have to for attention”. I’m all for my kids expressing themselves and I expose them to multiple outlets to do so (dance, music, sports etc) but in all of those things I ensure that they realize that maintaining self-respect is the most important component of it. (If your response is, “its only provocative if you look at it that way” then you are the problem and type of parent I’ve referring to)

  16. 16
    Sally says:

    You called kids “sexy”. You have no room to talk whilst saying such a pedophillic thing.

  17. 17
    Silvia Rama says:

    I don’t know it you know, but the choreographer of Single Ladies had changed drastically her choreography style for a more appropriate one for free choice. For me, all the others “sassy” choreographers should follow her

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