Too much choreography for children is too adult for their age, writes Karen van Ulzen.

One of the main issues that arose from the RG Dance scandal was that of age appropriate choreography for children. Internet chatter about the case expressed horror at the adult or sexual nature of some of the school’s costuming and choreography.

I have never seen an RG Dance concert or the supposedly sexy poses of the children on the school’s facebook site, but I would have to say that RG Dance is by no means the only dance school guilty of this sort of thing. I have long campaigned against the inappropriately sexual nature of much choreography for school kids. I can’t believe the number of (mostly female) teachers who put their pupils on stage in skimpy outfits and have them strutting and posturing like mini adults. It’s as if these teachers - and the parents who go along with it - have become so inured to the sexual nature of the dancing that they can’t see how suggestive it is.

It should be a simple matter to judge. Don’t give students under 18 dance moves, costuming or music that are sexually suggestive or involve “adult concepts”. But the trouble is, it seems we do not all agree on what is “age appropriate”. What is cute to one set of eyes is obscene to the next.

Here is what one “dance mum” commented on our own website: “What saddens me is that when I am attending dance eisteddfods with my daughter, who is 12, I have noticed that nothing has changed after the RG scandal. Costumes are still skimpy, dance moves are still inappropriate, crotches are being flashed towards the crowds and the whole time this is going on the parents are clapping loudly and cheering as though its the best thing since Vegemite on toast and the judges have beaming smiles.“

The issue of offensive choreography has been of concern to some adjudicators and eisteddfod organisers. Some eisteddfod committees have taken a stand by writing new rules forbidding offensive material.

For example, in a direct response to the RG Dance Scandal, the Bendigo Dance Eisteddfod has added a new rule that “inappropriate lyrics, costumes and/or movments on stage may lead to disqualification”. The Sunshine Coast Dance Eisteddfod made headlines this year when it issued a new rule that “students must wear a pair of flesh tights and... avoid the overextended (turned in/inverted) mount with the crotch facing the audience”.

I asked the Australian Dance Adjudicators, a voluntary organisation set up to lift the standard of dance adjudication, if they had guidelines on what constitutes “age appropriate” choreography...

This is an edited extract from an article in the Oct/Nov issue of Dance Australia. OUT NOW! Buy it at your favourite dance shop or subscribe here.

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