What does sex have to do with…dancers?

Regardless of your sexual preference, regardless of what sport you may have played in high school — if you were physiologically born a female (look at me trying to be politically correct), you have probably taken a ballet class.

I am one of those girls that you were in the same class with when you were four years old that actually stuck with ballet until I graduated high school.  And I am sure you stopped paying attention to the dance world once your mom finally let you play traveling soccer and basketball.  But having competed Dance Moms-style for a number of years in middle school, as well as training at an elite ballet school, I can’t help but realize that the bodies of young female dancers have been sexualized, and it is considered normal.

Deborah L. Tolman in her article “Adolescent girls’ sexuality” discusses how there are double standard with young girls’ sexuality and how their pubescent bodies are viewed.  However, Tolman is primarily discussing girls that are going through puberty or have finished puberty.  The ballet world starts a lot younger than twelve.

Tolman mentions are girls feel the need to “wear less and less to be more and more sexy.”  This makes sense for girls who have just come into their new, more curvy bodies. On the other hand, there are girls in the dance world who are not remotely closed to being considered womanly, half-naked performing their routines.  Ballet classes typically require the student to wear a leotard, tights, shoes, and possibly a sheer short skirt – nothing else.  Although this ensemble may seem revealing for a young girl, it is necessary for instructors to see how well the girl is dancing.  Additionally, the uniform for ballet classes will only been seen by the other girls and the (usually female) instructor.  The costumes that are worn by competitors in front of typically hundreds of random people do not serve any purpose for instructors like the leotards and tights do.  These costumes bare the midriffs and show the bottoms of 6-,7-, and 8-year olds for the purpose of looking sexy. Yes, SEXY. That is the adjective that was told to us to describe how these costumes were supposed to make us look and to elicit a certain kind of facial expression when we perform the routines.

So as people on the outside of this bizarre dance world, do you think this practice of having young girls wear revealing costumes should be stopped? Or is it too large a part of dance performance, like kiddie pageants, to eliminate completely?

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