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Why Youth Competitive Dance Needs To Change

11/13/2015 04:54 EST | Updated 11/13/2016 05:12 EST
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Not to age us, but when we were growing up, dance -- ballet, modern dance or tap -- was considered an artistic pursuit. It was categorized with the other performing arts like music and drama. For our children, our daughters primarily, the perception of dance has shifted from that of a performing art to an athletic pursuit. We think this is terrific.

What we fail to understand is why, as athleticism has become the focus (and rightly so), youth competitive dance has not dispensed with its ridiculous costume and makeup requirements?

There is a clear movement happening in the media to embrace natural beauty. From the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty to Hollywood celebrities protesting Photoshop -- mainstream belief is that we should be teaching girls to appreciate their beauty without cosmetics. We find it shocking that young dancers (we're talking about children here) still need to cake on the makeup and dress up in provocative costumes.

As women, mothers and role-models, we all aspire to produce a generation of girls that is strong, confident, empowered and feels proud of who they are.

Yet, in the dance industry it is somehow ok to plaster the face of little girls with layers of makeup -- we're talking about loads of foundation, blush, eye shadow, mascara, false eye lashes, and lipstick. This completely conflicts with the notion that dance is a sport. Imagine if we told professional swimmers and divers that they had to wear skimpy bathing suits. Would that not be ridiculous?

Young girls are at their most beautiful, eyelashes are still full, skin is unblemished and they have no bags under their eyes. They have rosy cheeks from effort and athleticism. They have youth. Isn't that enough?

We are turning what should be an athletic competitive sport into a pageant show. The very young ones may not be aware that they are being sexy, which makes it even worse.

Are they not beautiful enough without the makeup? We're not interested in hearing that it's about the lighting because while kids (boys and girls alike) may need to put on a little blush for a live theatre production, there are no false eyelashes involved. We've worn less makeup on live TV where the lights are super bright.

We're not altogether opposed to using makeup and costumes. It would be totally appropriate in a theatre context or in a dance that had a certain theme -- where you need to play the part. Unfortunately, in competitive dance, it happens across the board, even in ballet recitals.

There are also health concerns -- we know a number of girls that have had bad reactions to false eyelashes. Why put them through this?

What we really want to understand is why parents are not speaking out against this? Challenging this ridiculous convention? We hear them complaining in waiting rooms, backstage in dance recitals, yet no one speaks up.

Finally, please don't tell us it's all part of the sport. So what if it is? Let's change. Full contact was part of youth hockey for the longest time. Parents had enough and it was changed at certain levels.

About the Authors: Stephanie Kleiman and Tal Srulovicz are co-owners and editors-in-chief of Her Magazine.

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