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Protecting children in the dance industry

The sexualisation of children and the dance industry.

According to the American Psychological Association there are several components to sexualisation, and these set it apart from healthy sexuality. Sexualisation occurs when:

  • a person’s value comes only from his or her sexual appeal or behaviour, to the exclusion of other characteristics; 
  • a person is held to a standard that equates physical attractiveness (narrowly defined) with being sexy;
  • a person is sexually objectified — that is, made into a thing for others’ sexual use, rather than seen as a person with the capacity for independent action and decision making; and/or
  • sexuality is inappropriately imposed upon a person.

All four conditions need not be present; any one is an indication of sexualisation. The fourth condition (the inappropriate imposition of sexuality) is especially relevant to children. Anyone (girls, boys, men, women) can be sexualised. But when children are imbued with adult sexuality, it is often imposed upon them rather than chosen by them. Self-motivated sexual exploration, on the other hand, is not sexualisation by our definition, nor is age-appropriate exposure to information about sexuality.

Girls get this message repeatedly: What matters is how “hot” they look. It plays on TV and across the Internet. You hear it in song lyrics and music videos. You see it in movies, electronic games, and clothing stores. It’s a powerful message. As parents, you are powerful too. You can teach girls to value themselves for who they are, rather than how they look. You can teach boys to value girls as friends, sisters, and girlfriends, rather than as sexual objects. And you can advocate for change with manufacturers and media producers.

As dance educators, it is vitally important that we play our part in combatting the sexualisation of children within our society.

First of all – we must lead by example. As teachers, we should express who we are as people based on our values, our opinions, our thoughts and our teaching methods. We should strive to model a way of viewing and conducting ourselves that we would want young girls to emulate, for after all we are sometimes one of the most influential people in these girls’ lives. We must remember to compliment our students (particularly our little girls) in a way other than how cute or gorgeous they may look. We must ask what they think, how they feel and how they interpret the art form. We must continually offer them alternative perspectives on dance other than those which are considered in line with commercial dance.

Second of all, we must make wise choices regarding music choices for children. It is becoming increasingly difficult in genres such as jazz and hip hop to find music that does not concern itself with the objectification of women, and contain adult themes and lyrics. While children are usually subjected to these songs on a daily basis through many forms of media, we need to strive to ensure that when they are within our studios and particularly when they are performing in a public setting that they are representing themselves and their team with dignity. What is particularly disturbing today, is the music video clips that not only sexually objectify women and sometimes children, but they actively promote violence toward women. It is our responsibility as studio owners to first of all never purchase this kind of music in the interests of rejecting violence toward women, but to never expose our students to such a damaging and detrimental part of pop culture.

We also need to be concerned with our choreography – again particularly in the jazz, street funk, hip hop and commercial dance genres. With many adult dance shows on TV (eg. So You Think You Can Dance) and with dance featuring heavily in celebrities’ stage work and tours – children are exposed to choreography that has a sexual undertone and is created for adult dancers, on a regular and ongoing basis. While a lot of this choreography is incredible in its wow factor, design and movement innovation, the problem is it is also often sexually suggestive. The audiences of these TV shows, concerts and events are also teens, tweens and young girls (often as young as 3 and 4!) which desensitises children to objectification of women from an extremely early age. What used to be pushing boundaries with sexual choreography and what once was the extreme rather than the norm (think Madonna in the 80’s) is now more common than ever. What is difficult with this particular issue, is that by the time a student with an interest in commercial jazz is thinking about a career in the industry, they want to be learning what’s “right now” and what’s “hot”. They seek choreography/music that is current and often sexual in nature, without even realising the greater problems that stem from it. It leaves studio directors in quite the conundrum; do we expose these teens to the realities of the commercial dance industry? Or do we continue to try to shield them from these mature styles until they are 18 years of age?

One of the extremely important responsibilities that sit on studio directors’ shoulders is the choice of costuming for our students. This relates to attire worn in the dance studio and that which is worn in competitions, performances and concerts. Suggesting that "covering up" will help to solve the problem of the sexualisation of children is extremely naïve. Dance is a physical pursuit. It is artistic and it is athletic. It relies on line and body awareness. It requires a strong and confident display of body movement and it requires tight, breathable and movement accommodating attire that is appropriate for the classroom or performance. Sometimes a two-piece costume is right for the dance piece. Sometimes a nude leotard is and sometimes wearing tights may be detrimental to the “look” the choreographer is going for. None of these choices in their own right sexualises a performance. However, a two-piece bikini combined with fishnets, long boots, a fake tan, sexually suggestive choreography and facial expressions as well as adult lyrics inherently does.

So that leads to the question, where does one draw the line between what is considered appropriate for children and what is considered “art”? I can only answer this question for myself and my own studio.

At GDANCE Academy, I employ staff that embody all the characteristics of strong and empowered female role models. Music choices are age appropriate and in that, we strive to use “safe” pop music (hard to pre-scan every lyric). We keep music what we deem to be appropriate for children for displays, concerts and competitions. We try to choose songs that are empowering for women in the genres that lean toward this type of style and we introduce more mature themes in the Open Age category (pre-professional dancers). I like to showcase choreography and costuming that is edgy and unique – not sexual, and those that demonstrate a connection with the intention of the piece. The exception to this is if there is a character role (such as is the case in some music theatre numbers) that requires a sexual component to portray the essence of the character. In these cases, quite often the characters and performances can be extremely entertaining and we reserve these specialised pieces for our most senior dancers.

KidsPace has developed a framework for recognition of the ethical practices required by dance educators to exercise this responsibility in all aspects of dance education. The KidsPace Dance Code of Practice makes explicit the various facets within the Australian dance industry that may be causal or contributing factors to the developmental impacts we are witnessing in children today. The aim of the code is to guide dance educators of all settings (sole traders, companies, public and private schools) in the best practices to ensure the utmost protection, healthy growth and happiness of Australian children in the dance classroom. . For more information visit:

At GDANCE Academy we support the KidsPace initiative and you will hear more from me about these very important issues and collaborating with KidsPace in the near future.

Stay tuned.

Jo McKinley


GDANCE Academy


What can you do as a parent?

Tune in and talk

Watch TV and movies with your daughters and sons. Read their magazines. Surf their Web sites. Ask questions. "Why is there so much pressure on girls to look a certain way?” "What do you like most about the girls you want to spend time with?" "Do these qualities matter more than how they look?" Really listen to what your kids tell you.

Question choices

Girls who are overly concerned about their appearance often have difficulty focusing on other things. Clothes can be part of the distraction. If your daughter wants to wear something you consider too sexy, ask what she likes about the outfit. Ask if there’s anything she doesn’t like about it. Explain how clothes that require lots of checking and adjusting might keep her from focusing on school work, friends and other activities.

Speak up

If you don't like a TV show, CD, video, pair of jeans or doll, say why. A conversation with her will be more effective than simply saying, "No, you can’t buy it or watch it." Support campaigns, companies, and products that promote positive images of girls. Complain to manufacturers, advertisers, television and movie producers and retail stores when products sexualise girls.


Young people often feel pressure to watch popular TV shows, listen to music their friends like and conform to certain styles of dress. Help your daughter make wise choices among the trendy alternatives. Remind her often that who she is and what she can accomplish are far more important than how she looks.


You may feel uncomfortable discussing sexuality with your kids, but it's important. Talk about when you think sex is okay as part of a healthy, intimate, mature relationship. Ask why girls often try so hard to look and act sexy. Effective sex education programs discuss media, peer and cultural influences on sexual behaviours and decisions, how to make safe choices, and what makes healthy relationships. Find out what your school teaches.

Be real

Help your kids focus on what’s really important: what they think, feel, and value. Help them build strengths that will allow them to achieve their goals and develop into healthy adults. Remind your children that everyone’s unique and that it’s wrong to judge people by their appearance.


Marketing and the media also influence adults. When you think about what you buy and watch, you teach your sons and daughters to do so, too. 

(Advice adapted from the American Psychological Association).






Today is International Women’s Day!

We have much to celebrate today, however we still have a way to go to achieve gender equality.

There are many barriers to gender equality.

·       Australian women are over-represented as part-time workers in low-paid industries and in insecure work and continue to be underrepresented in leadership roles in the private and public sectors.

·       A quarter of women were sexually harassed in the workplace between 2007 and 2012. The harasser was most likely to be a co-worker (52 per cent) and the most common forms of sexual harassment included sexually suggestive comments/jokes (55 per cent), intrusive questions about private life or appearance (50 per cent) and inappropriate staring or leering (31 per cent).

·       In 2014, one in two (49 per cent) mothers reported experiencing discrimination in the workplace at some point during pregnancy, parental leave or on return to work, and one in five (18 per cent) mothers indicated that they were made redundant, restructured, dismissed, or that their contract was not renewed because of their pregnancy, when they requested or took parental leave, or when they returned to work.

·       Mothers spend twice as many hours (8 hours and 33 minutes) each week looking after children under 15, compared to fathers (3 hours and 55 minutes). 

·       In 2009-2010, average superannuation payouts for women were just over half (57%) those of men. Average retirement payouts in 2009-10 were of the order of $198,000 for men and only $112,600 for women.  As a result, women are more likely to experience poverty in their retirement years and be far more reliant on the Age Pension.

·       One in three Australian women aged 15 years and over has experienced physical violence and nearly one in five has experienced sexual assault. It is estimated that violence against women and children will cost the Australian economy $15.6 billion per year by 2021-2022 unless decisive action is taken to prevent it.

·       More than smoking or obesity, domestic and family violence is the leading preventable cause of death, disability and illness in women aged 15 to 44 years.

·       Did you know Australian women have to work an extra 66 days a year to earn the same pay as men for doing the same work?

**Information from Australian Human Rights Commission.**

 However, worldwide, women continue to contribute to social, economic, cultural and political achievement. And we have much to celebrate today! I’m so proud of all the girls, teachers, mums, sisters, grandmothers and aunties at GDANCE! You are strong women and you empower your children by teaching them they can achieve their dreams. Thank you for helping us to achieve gender equality in our dance community.

So how do we want to celebrate International Women's Day 2016?

Everyone - men and women - can pledge to take a concrete step to help achieve gender parity more quickly - whether to help women and girls achieve their ambitions, call for gender-balanced leadership, respect and value difference, develop more inclusive and flexible cultures or root out workplace bias. Each of us can be a leader within our own spheres of influence and commit to take pragmatic action to accelerate gender parity.

What can you do to take action to put gender on the agenda this International Women's Day and beyond?

Make a Pledge For Parity

Visit this PAGE to make your pledge.

GDANCE Academy will always be a place where our girls are taught (and shown) that being a leader is a wonderful thing. That chasing your dreams is essential! That boys should feature just as prominently in the arts and we should be helping to encourage and support them. That we are not in competition with our friends and sisters, instead we should be helping them and cheering them on as they pursue their goals. We support our teachers through family planning and parenthood, working with them to help keep them in the workforce. 

Let’s celebrate women today and commit to striving for a future where there truly is gender equality for our children. Thank you for supporting GDANCE and our commitment.

Miss Jo xx




Michael Schwandt Workshops at GDANCE


I’m SUPER SUPER excited to announce that Michael Schwandt will be conducting two workshops at GDANCE on Tuesday 29th March!!!!

Workshops are for Contemporary and Hip Hop and are open to students aged 10 +. You will receive an email from me soon about this fantastic opportunity.

Take a look at Michael’s show reel - this guy has done it all.!reel/ce82

VERY FEW foreign choreographers have had as much of an impact on Australian dance and entertainment as ... MICHAEL SCHWANDT!

Over the last 10 years ... Michael has TAUGHT over 350 workshops in Australia alone!

He has MENTORED countless dancers and choreographers across the country, many of whom you’ve grown to love on So You Think You Can Dance, X Factor, The Voice & Australia’s Got Talent.

He has SPONSORED NINE Australian dancers for their work Visas in the US and been a constant proponent of Australian talent.

He has HIRED local Australian choreographers to be part of his international creative teams for TV specials in the US, Africa and India. Most recently, he hired 14 Australian dancers for the multi-million dollar US Arena tour, Circus Xtreme where dancers played to US celebrities and sold out crowds in some of the world largest arenas in 45 US cities.

Michael has also FOUGHT hard to bring Australian artists Timomatic, The Veronicas & Havana Brown to the US for their US network TV debut performances on international TV specials.

I'm so excited to invite Michael to be a guest at GDANCE and trust you will all snap up this amazing opportunity.

Until next time,

Miss Jo xx

Boys in Dance

Hello everyone and welcome to the second entry of the GDANCE blog! Hope everyone is off to a good start for the term. 

Today I wanted to write a little bit about boys in dance as we launch our first GDANCE ALL BOYS class (on Tuesday afternoon at 3.30 pm if you're interested or know someone who is). 

Quite often there's lots of little boys dancing around here at GDANCE. But they're not in the studios! No, they are skipping and singing their way to and from the car park, they are mimicking their sisters dance moves in the corridors or they are peering through the studio viewing pane on a Saturday morning watching their sisters dance (and likely not quite understanding why they're not!) 

I'm saddened when I hear our girls' little brothers get told this: "Yes I know you love to dance but Daddy wouldn't allow it!" Or some similar version of that statement. 

It begs the (huge) question, WHY?

In our society I think dance is still seen as something that's not "masculine". Which means it must be feminine right? Are we still living in a society where dance is seen as "feminine"? If so, why would it be a negative thing for boys to partake in an activity that is viewed that way?  Femininity and all its variants is a wonderful thing! It is not weak, nor pretty, nor less than, masculine. THIS is at the core of the issue and it goes DEEP. This IS a feminist issue and its one we face daily. See this amazing VIDEO on the topic. When did it become an insult do do something "like a girl?"

You would think that with all the dance shows on TV these days, dance is becoming a lot more acceptable for boys to do. And it sure is helping make progress for boys! But there is a long way to go before we see gender equality in dance. 

There is still a strong undercurrent in our society that dance is for girls and football is for boys. Or that dance is for boys who are gay. Or more disturbingly, dance will make boys gay. There is a general feeling that hip hop is ok for boys to do, but not ballet. (Huh?) It is often the case that Mum has to "check with Dad" before allowing their son to dance (and not because of financial reasons). Unfortunately Dad's answer is usually a resounding "No". 

These are the repercussions of a patriarchal society. One where men and boys are taught from an early age that they need to appear "strong, tough, heroic and gutsy" to be considered a bloke. 

Let me tell you, there's nothing more gutsy than a boy stepping into his favourite dance class, week in, week out despite being subjected to the bullying and teasing that is happening somewhere else in his life because of it. There is nothing more heroic than a father and mother breaking the mould and going against popular culture and allowing their son the joy of dance even though there will be raised eyebrows by even those closest to them. There is nothing tougher than a Dad who is a feminist (whether he knows it or not) because he advocates for the equal rights of girls and boys in his decisions for his sons. He isn't bothered by anyone who has an opinion on the fact that he has a BOY that dances, he merely loves and supports his kid that loves to dance. 

So today's blogpost is to celebrate the fathers, men, mothers and girls in our GDANCE community who support our boys in their dance pursuits. Those who step out of their comfort zone to really challenge society's ingrained and outdated sexist agenda. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for being leaders for men everywhere, and showing us all what it means to allow your sons to truly, "follow their dreams", paving the way for boys in generations to come. 

Miss Jo xx

Boys at GDANCE