Young ballerinas

practicing during class have been exposed to hypersexualization, according to author Mary Bawden of Redlands.

I recently returned to Redlands from speaking at the Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation Global Summit 2019 in Washington, D.C.

I’m now more committed than ever to raise awareness about the hypersexualization of children in dance studios.

Let me clarify what I mean by hypersexualization in dance: The American Psychological Association 2007 Report on the Sexualization of Girls found four components in hypersexualization not found in healthy sexuality.

1. A person’s value comes from his or her sexual appeal or behavior.

2. A person is held to a standard that equates physical attractiveness with being sexy.

3. A person is sexually objectified — that is, made into a thing for others’ sexual use.

4. Sexuality is inappropriately imposed upon a person.

If we apply the association’s criteria to dance studio choreography, we find some imposed movement patterns. Examples are booty pops, lip-licking, finger licking/sucking, breast or groin stroking, patting or pointing toward breast or genitalia, crotch-grabbing, obscene gestures, suggestive grinding, and seductive props and looks. These can be seen on TV and in some dance studios.

Unhealthy sexuality as defined by the association’s report has become normalized.

Here’s how it works: Someone watches a well-known media figure and their sexual choreography.

They begin to imitate them, bring those moves to the dance studio  and teach them to their students.

This trend in dance hijacks a treasured art form. Objectified movement isn’t the art of dance, and doesn’t promote artistry or creativity.

Actually, this is hypersexualization and hurts the art of dance throughout our culture.

My awareness about this issue began years ago.

Mary Bawden

A young friend invited me to go to a college dance concert she was in. I was thrilled. I was also totally surprised. There was a lot of hypersexualized dance. It startled me, but I thought, “Oh, well, it’s an aberration. Anyway, they are all 18 and over.”

Until I saw the same hypersexualized dance in high school dance recitals. Then I began to see this kind of dance in junior high recitals. Next I saw it in elementary school students, complete with adult costumes, choreography and music. And then I began to see it in preschool girls.

I felt heartbroken. I’m a dance educator. I’m responsible to protect children, educate adults and encourage the art of age-appropriate dance.

I began researching what experts said about this trend. Research goes beyond my feelings. That research is what you’ll find on my website, danceawareness.com.

We promote awareness of the benefits of healthy, age-appropriate dance in contrast to harmful, hypersexualized dance. Healthy dance promotes creativity, problem solving, communication, social awareness, emotional maturity and improved self-esteem.

We provide free resources to anyone. Several original, educational videos ranging from four to 30 minutes can be shared with friends. We offer a downloadable ebook about healthy or harmful dance.

Our material presents current research about the hypersexualization of children in dance. We’re working on a video that features experts in psychology, education, child protection and safety speaking about their findings on the effects of hypersexualization in children. Please join me to bring awareness to dance trends that distort the art form, as well as the cultural acceptance of dance that normalizes the hypersexualization of children.

Mary Bawden a Redlands resident and founder of “Dance Awareness: No Child Exploited,” spoke at the National Dance Educator’s Conference in fall of 2018 along with the California Dance Educator’s Association, California Health, Physical Education & Dance and the Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation Global Summit  this year.