Dancing season is rapidly coming to close.  Not a moment too soon, I must heartily add,  as I will miss nothing about the hot chaotic mess that is hosting a Dance Festival.  Children running, crying, scurrying about, being chased by frazzled Moms – all to the backdrop of shitty canned music and the omnipresent sickly smell of too much hairspray.  One can feel the anxiety in the air as troops of children are herded about for their stiltedly choreographed time on stage.  So many shades of awesome; but not the reason for this post today.  Today we look at the larger issue of the replication of the patriarchal beauty standard via the innocuous vehicle known as the teen Dance Festival.

Daughter Crying while being attended to by Mom.

Daughter Crying while being attended to by Mom.

I see this happening multiple times during the festivals I work.  A distraught daughter being made up by her Mom in preparation for some sort of dance routine that will be judged and graded during said competition.  Young girls being preened and made up to look like something they are not.  Not all, as in the above picture, are really that into the entire process.  Yet, the show and the make-up must go on.  They are groomed into dancer approved appearances like this:


Step 1


Or this:






Step 2

The question I have is this – how important a quality is ‘sexy’ for female dancers?  The pictures provided certainly seem to prioritize a certain look: Lithe, heavily made up, and much skin showing.   Does this standard apply to all dance?  Of course not, but in dance festival land as I’ve seen,  step 2 could be considered the norm.

Against the backdrop of our societies standards, “step 2” can send a ruinous message to girls/women about how they should look to be successful in their personal pursuits and society in general.

How did dancing get to be like this?  We need only to look at the standards set by society in general for women.



childmakeup1The cultural transmission of these toxic norms is carried across generations – the norms ingrained on the mother are inscribed onto the daughter as she grows up and looks to her mother to help cope with being female in our society.  So, the in the dance festivals I observe, I can see this transmission of patriarchal norms in action.  Small children are plucked and primped, made to wear revealing clothing and generally forced to embody what is considered to be ‘sexy’ as per the male-gaze.  This process is only made possible with the cooperation and willingness of older women to groom their children into what has been deemed as an acceptable female pursuit by society.  It is a vicious cycle that needs to be examine more and unpacked to find ways in which dancing can be made less of a grooming tool of the patriarchy and more of an actively fun pursuit for children who want to express themselves in a venerated art-form.

Let it be said that I am not against the art of dancing, but rather, the poisonous patriarchal outer shell, that has encased much of the art-form within its clutches.