Being managing editor of Bourgeon I’ve gotten on a whole bunch of press lists, and I just received an email from the folks who publicize the Knick’s City Dancers. That would be the National Basketball Association’s New York Knicks cheerleading squad. Bourgeon – and I – are really more focused on fine arts, and community arts, but I was curious. In the email there was a link to a photogallery from their recent audition, and I’m sharing a few photos just cause the subtitles are classic/horrific.
This one is titled: Gill Asking the Dancers for More Attitude. On the court that means “push your bosom together.”
This one is titled: Gill Mentoring the Dancers. Having been in a few auditions I’m sure the dancers were feeling the mentorship.
This one is titled Gill Showing the Dancers Some New Moves, which could also be subtitled “Gill explaining how the Knick’s City Dancers flip off their opponents.”
To see the entire slideshow, click here. All respect to Gill, and the dancers, who are just making a living, and even to the PR folks who – let’s face it – got me to blog about this.
The issue is whether the adults responsible for this performance have a responsibility to enforce more appropriate child-like behavior, and/or model less sexual adult female behavior. Why is it ok for little girls to be made to act “hot”? Isn’t that, like, actually punishable by prison (if it wasn’t on the stage)?
Dance teachers at all levels are responsible for contributing to the healthy maturation process of the child. They’re not just dance students. They’re kids. On the way to becoming adults. Learning and performing the dance in this video these girls learned that if they dress and move that way they get positive reinforcement. That they should dress and move that way. That these kids are being used as sexual objects without their consent (they’re children) is terrible.
This type of performance is not uncommon. It’s not clear what direct effect rehearsing and performing this dance had on these girls, but I can say without a doubt that this is why I was relieved when my eldest niece stopped her training. I love dance. I love it. But when she quit I was honestly a little relieved, because being a professional I’ve seen how twisted the pre-professional world can be with young men and women. The reality is that dancers commonly go professional at age 18, and sometimes even younger. So to prepare them, pre-professional students are made to project like men and women far before they actually are.
As we mature we realize our manhood and womanhood as a reality. To have ones personal identity shoved into a particular box before it fully exists is unhealthy (even though the child may never realize it.) This problem exists broadly in theatrical arts education, but most seriously in dance education. Boys and girls are actually physically told to mimic adult male and female motion (as in this video), and to move and interact in those ways. We are not just making artists with pre-professional training; we are making humans. Teachers have an actual responsibility to help children act like children so that they have time to mature as whole humans.