This month several young ladies made national headlines for their interpretation of Beyonce's All the Single Ladies dance. The dancers mimicked Beyonce's dance moves, and did so exceptionally well. So...what's the problem exactly? Well, the dancers were only eight to nine years old.
If you have not seen the video, it can be viewed here on ABC's website.
Not long into the performance it is easy to guess why individuals were uncomfortable with the video. The girls are wearing minimal clothing, and gyrating to the song much like twenty-eight year old Beyonce does. Even the song itself seems overly mature for such young girls to be dancing to. What is even more disturbing is at the end of the clip when the girls are actually interviewed, and they sound so young and innocent. One has to wonder, do they even know what they are insinuating with their risque performance?
When viewing modern children's movies, it's not uncommon to see similar styles of dress and dance. Also contained in the video on ABC's website is a clip from the latest Alvin and Chipmunks: The Squeakquel movie. The female chipmunks also dance like Beyonce in belly baring dance outfits. Even if a child is not actively seeking information on dancing while watching a movie like Alvin and the Chipmunks, they may retain that image of dancing and refer back to it in the future. After you have watched enough dancing that contains gyrating and popping, well, that may be the way children think dancing is supposed to be.
I think it's incorrect for individuals to solely criticize the children or the parents in this particular situation. To be fair, the parents did state that the girl's outfits were for competition purposes only. In addition, it was an urban dance contest and not a school dance. These are important variable to keep in mind. However, our culture has generated a style of dance that these girls were imitating. This style of dance has also been deemed appropriate to incorporate into at least one children's movie. I think that early exposure is the root of the problem in this instance, and that parents must be careful when making decisions about what their children watch, listen to, and what activities they find to be appropriate for their children.
Being in the field of media, I am often asked questions about the influence of music and television on children. To put it briefly, I do not think it is reasonable or rational to assume any type of media can force a child or person to act in a particular manner. However, I do feel that it fosters belief systems and is a large part of our national culture. Therefore, what you permit your children to be exposed to will influence their world view. It may influence the peers they choose to associate with. It may influence the clubs they join and the hobbies they become interested in. And it is these unintended effects that influence decision making.
There is simply something unnerving about an eight year old gyrating to Single Ladies, or singing Ludacris' How Low. All I am going to say is that when I was that age I listened to Raffi before graduating to oldies like Elvis and the Beatles (okay maybe I listened to a little Billy Ray Cyrus in there too). I am not placing blame in any one place here, but I do think that we should let children be children while they have the chance. These girls could absolutely have showcased their talent to another more appropriate song, with more conservative costumes, with age appropriate dance moves. Their talent and spirit is undeniable, but now they have unfortunately found themselves in the media for all the wrong reasons.