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The Scary Trend in Children’s Dance

If your daughter wants to take dance class, pick a company who’s conservative both in song selections and wardrobe choices to encourage modesty.

from contributing writer Mary Bawden

Have you bought flowers for that ‘special dancer?’ Each year I enjoy the dance recital of my two granddaughters at the Dance Foundation. At their most recent recital, their dances were titled ‘Whispering Wind’ (ballet), ‘Enchanted Rain’ (ballet), and ‘Trumpets and Horns’ (tap). It was a wonderful time to celebrate how the positive aspects of dance have affected them. Research shows that dance classes develop advanced skills in creativity, problem solving, communication, risk taking, high ordered thinking, and social awareness.


A young Mary Bawden

A young Mary Bawden

Then nostalgia. I’m taken back to personal memories about MY June dance recitals. One year I was a ‘4th of July’ dancer; the next year I was a ‘Nightingale’ and later, I even appeared as ‘Mary Poppins.’ Each week I went to dance class and each week I fell more in love with movement. During those years, I was fortunate enough to learn the craft of ballet from teachers Olga Fricker and Sheila Darby. Ms. Darby was on the national board of Cecchetti Ballet and she was the one who encouraged me to pursue dance professionally. But she didn’t need to emphasize the importance of dance to me. Movement classes reached into my heart throughout adolescence & adulthood. In a changing world, dance class was a positive, safe adventure. And I always wanted more. That’s why my love of dance took me beyond childhood memories.

Cheerleader For Dance

As an adult, I received a BA in modern dance from the University of California Riverside, a MA in worship (with an emphasis in dance) from Hope International University in Fullerton CA, and a California secondary teaching credential. I am also the founder of Soul to Sole Choreography and DA:NCE (Dance Awareness: No Child Exploited). Beyond that, I’ve led a dance ministry at my church for over 20 years and I’ve written a book on that subject. In 2016, I fell in love with ‘LaLaLand’ as well as the new documentary on Misty Copeland, the first black dancer chosen to be a prima ballerina for the American Ballet Theater. It’s safe to say that I am a cheerleader for dance.

But I need to pause here. Because our culture is inundated with children involved in dance and because I am a dance educator, lean in...

I care about maintaining the artistry of dance, and I care about nurturing children from an educational perspective. So here goes. In many dance studios around the nation, there has been an increase in sexualized, objectified movement for children under 12. These studios/teachers often unknowingly model their movement choices on what they see in the media culture. I’ll label this cultural shift the difference between healthy, age-appropriate dance versus unhealthy, age-inappropriate dance.

Hyper-sexualization/Objectification In Movement

Before I go further, I want to clarify what I mean by sexualization/objectification in movement by sharing some research you can read in detail. The APA (American Psychological Association) report on girls says that there are several components to unhealthy sexuality, and these components set it apart from healthy sexuality. When their criteria is applied to dance studio choreography, it’s important to identify negative movement patterns: booty pops, lip-licking, finger licking/sucking, breast or groin stroking, patting or pointing towards breast or genitalia, crotch-grabbing, obscene gestures, suggestive grinding, and seductive props and looks. And the sexual menu continues to increase.

Check out just one example below of how 8-9 year old girls are dancing in their classes and for competitions (warning: graphic).

[youtube id=”leBtnLRiLfQ”]

This is not the art form of dance. It does not promote artistry or creativity. Actually, it is hyper-sexualization, and it is hurting the perception of dance when a wide-ranging cultural audience watch it in media, model after it, and move in it. More importantly, it normalizes unhealthy sexuality as defined by the APA report.

DA:NCE (Dance Awareness: No Child Exploited)

Because there are many people who love dance as well as dance educators who are concerned about this cultural trend just like me, I have released several materials to provide a solution for dance education, particularly focusing on children under 12, under the title of DA:NCE (Dance Awareness: No Child Exploited) on my website Soul to Sole choreography. I’ve described them below:

  1. 4 minute video exploring the problem of sexualization in children’s dance. Please share it on Facebook.
  2. An R-rated, research-based 30 minute video or a PG rated research-based 17 minute video that has been designed to bring awareness and education in dance (with experts in the field) so that children are not exploited.
  3. An educational powerpoint presentation anyone can download to make a presentation in their local community on this topic.
  4. An encouragement to join Youth Protection Advocates in Dance. Y.P.A.D. is a national organization that is working to certify dance studios with healthy movement criteria(and a lot more). Your membership will make a difference for you and for change across the country.
  5. A national dance petition sponsored by the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) bringing education and awareness to dance studios about the objectification of kids under 12.

If you love dance, please share the educational materials above with other parents and grandparents. While I support the art of dance 100%, I do not support its inappropriate use. There are appropriate, creative, wonderful ways to use choreography in this culture, and unfortunately, inappropriate ways to distort movement as well (so, like many other areas, choice is the issue). Please join me in bringing awareness to dance trends that distort the art form, as well as the cultural acceptance of dance that normalizes the hyper-sexualization of children. Let’s make healthy movement choices in what we support in the arts as well as what we allow our children to participate in. I feel a responsibility to protect children, educate adults, and encourage the art of age-appropriate dance in the current media culture.

Now I’m off. I’ve got to pick up a bouquet of flowers. I wouldn’t miss the joy of another dance recital in Redlands. I can hardly wait to see the show! Join the healthy movement cause and help me be a cheerleader for the art of dance, not the objectification of children!


If you want more info on Hollywood’s deception. You can download the brand new Hollywood Exposed 4 CD series here. TUNE IN with your kids. It will change their life, and yours.





As a dance educator, living in Redlands, CA with husband Richard, Mary Bawden loves dance and its researched benefits. She founded DA:NCE which advocates for the protection of children and Soul to Sole Choreography which provides concrete tools for communicating the gospel using the language of movement.

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  • Jacob
    Posted at 15:04h, 17 January Reply

    Ya. Agreed. All I had to see was little girls wearing what looks to me a prostituts evening wear/private adult sexy time underwear. All Needed to hear was your not being in favor of sexualizing children for public consumption. Agreed. With so many ways and styles of dance available, …agreed.

    • Tina
      Posted at 06:52h, 24 September Reply

      Thank you for your feedback! It’s always very fine line on what to show and what not to show to get the point across. Sometimes when I just “say it” people tell me it’s not that bad…when I show part of it, then people freak out and finally investigate what I’m talking about and help get the word out, talk to their kids, etc.

  • David
    Posted at 15:22h, 17 January Reply

    Well there’s a can of worms to be opened or not ….. lol. If you don’t like it don’t watched it. It’s been around for 30-40 years and I’ve said ergh ! That’s gross and choose not to watch anything to do with it. So now they probably want to ban it….. taking away another freedom of choice !!

    • Tina
      Posted at 06:55h, 24 September Reply

      Well, this issue I have is not just the people watching this, but the girls being given the raunchy music and attire to go with a sex-saturated song. The girls can easily dance to something classy and learn how to carry themselves with class. Why promote the prostitute lifestyle to 7 year olds? That is just lunacy to me. They need to grow up knowing that people love them for who they are not what they show. NOT necessary. Def the wrong message to the young girls and the adults and kids watching…yikes.

  • Sharon Danley
    Posted at 16:39h, 17 January Reply

    Brilliantly and cogently stated. The sexulized grooming of our little ones is simply child abuse. Thank you for this.

    • Tina
      Posted at 06:56h, 24 September Reply

      That’s exactly how I see it. Glad we’re on the same page 🙂

  • Maree
    Posted at 23:12h, 18 January Reply

    Shame on each parent that allowed their daughters to be sexualised in this fashion, looked upon by males in the audience , to be taught by a teacher without moral ps or care for the girls and to each adult who did not walk out of the concert, shame on the organisers … child should be sexualised …..

    • Tina
      Posted at 06:56h, 24 September Reply

      I 100% wait, 110% agree with you! Well SAID!

  • Tina
    Posted at 11:26h, 23 January Reply

    Dancing for kids is awesome exercise…builds self confidense and long lasting feiendships! If parents have healthy honest relationships with their dancing kids none of this should matter, unless of course some ppl. are stuck up trying to relive their childhood through their dancinging kids.

    • Tina
      Posted at 06:58h, 24 September Reply

      not balony…(that stuff never tasted good anyway)
      Dancing IS awesome exercise. My girls take dance classes. What is BALONY is dancing like and dressing like a prostitute. There are so many classy songs and attire available for our young girls. We will agree to disagree on this one. 🙂

  • Susan
    Posted at 16:59h, 24 January Reply

    You say it is important to protect kids under the age of 12, but I ask, at what age is it ok to teach young women to do the moves that objectify themselves?!
    I am fortunate my daughters (12 and 15) are dancing at a studio where provocative and sexual moves are never choreographed, even when graduating at 18.
    Women are never objects and young teens need to be shown this by example all through their formative teen years.

    • Tina
      Posted at 07:00h, 24 September Reply

      I completely agree! Young girls, teens, and women should not be required to dance or wear clothing that is provocative! We’re on the same page! Way to go for putting your girls in a dance class that promotes a positive self esteem!! Keep at it! Where is it located so other moms can get their girls involved!

  • Rosel Palacios
    Posted at 14:41h, 24 April Reply

    Hello Tina!
    I just listened to the podcast. Where can I find the article on this topic that you mentioned on there? Thanks a bunch for ALL you do. God bless

    • Tina Marie Griffin
      Posted at 21:14h, 19 June Reply

      Hello! Which podcast episode did you listen to? Perhaps we can start there and direct you accordingly. Thank you for swinging by!

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