Is Competition Dance Over-Sexualized?

Welcome to the hot button topic – one that stirs up a little controversy – but it’s something I am so passionate about, I am willing to risk stirring the pot in hopes that it opens up a conversation that, in my opinion, we need to have.

How much sexy is too much sexy?

Yes, we are asking that question.  In 2020.

Our collective team at Tiger Friday travels the country attending, watching, vending at, and judging dance competitions and we find it disconcerting how it seems we are pushing the envelope further each year.  We see dancers – seemingly younger each season – skillfully executing moves on stage that reflect ideas much too mature for children.

Before we continue - let me clarify.  I am not referring to strong, feminine numbers, romantic themed pieces, or even routines with tons of attutide and sass.  This is a very different category characterized by sexual movement and touch, often coupled with revealing costuming set to songs with "mature" and questionable lyrics.

*Sigh*... I admit, as one driven by very traditional religious values, I recognize that some of my opinions may seem outdated, and I certainly do not judge what others choose to do to their own bodies.  I understand that my choices aren’t necessarily “right” for everyone. But, I will say one thing I hold to be universal in this crazy dance world – religious or not.  We, as adults, pushing our young dancers to be comfortable with overtly sexual choreography and extremely revealing dancewear will lead to a desensitization to age-inappropriate sexuality and an increased disrespectfulness of the body and mind, particularly within our young female dancers.

I have many points for my readers to consider:

First: As innocent as we may feel it is – what is the message we are sending to these kids?  The way I see it – the message that we are (hopefully unintentionally) sending to these young, impressionable dancers is that to show more skin, perform more sexually suggestive movement is the way to get attention.  The way to make people applaud.  The way to make them approve of you. As adults, we may see it as "innocent" and "cute" - but to the impressionable brain of a child, they are, in fact, being conditioned. Obviously, as a grown woman, I would consider the suggestion that to gain approval I must lower my neckline and sexualize myself both degrading and highly offensive - right? So why is it okay to teach children this?

Now, I’m all for a little coy sass or even an aggressive, powerful female presence. Bring on the woman power - 100%. But when it comes to suggestive lyrics, “barely-there” costuming and **using our female “private parts” as the focus of our movement** – what is really happening?  We are cheapening the value and beauty of our dancers and their bodies. We are teaching them to use their bodies, their sexuality and confidence, in ways that desecrate their inherent innocence and virtue.

Which leads me to my next point: Who is watching and how is this affecting them?  I learned the hard way, and now I won’t let my 13-year-old son come watch dance competitions.  I know most everything he sees will be clean and beautiful… but what about that one piece that is sure to sneak in– the one with the dancers wearing actual lingerie, stage-grinding to Rihanna’s “Push Up On Me”?  And – after viewing 99 clean pieces and 1 overly sexy piece – which ONE will be burned into his memory? Each time I see a piece like this I can’t help but wonder- WHERE ARE THESE BEAUTIFUL LADIES’ FATHERS?! I have a very difficult time believing these dads aren’t the slightest bit uncomfortable watching their daughters bump and grind on stage for all to see.  Not to mention any hormonal teenage brothers out there trying to be supportive siblings… Are we not also teaching and conditioning them? Again, it may seem innocent to us, but the actual message being sent is- "we encourage you to watch, hoot and holler for, young ladies in very little clothing, dancing suggestively." Is that not exactly what, as grown women, we are trying to DE-condition in our society?

On the one hand, women are working around the clock to undo centuries of damage from our gender being sexually objectified and degraded.  We want to be respected, feel confident, feel equal, feel validated.  Are we, as teachers and choreographers unintentionally undoing some of that progress? Should young girls receive the message that their female power is found in showing off their bodies? That they should feel fierce and gain respect by using sexual movement on stage? It feels like we are contradicting ourselves. 

Why are we – as parents, studio owners, teachers, choreographers, DANCERS – allowing this? Are we rationalizing that this is just the way the world is now?

Well, not for me.

Not my choreography.

Not my dancers.

Not Tiger Friday dancewear.

I hope, if nothing else, I can help condition dancers to respect their beautiful bodies.  To help them understand ways to use their bodies to create meaningful, beautiful, exciting, confident, powerful, fierce art.  To inspire them to know the truth about the power of their womanhood and use it in a meaningful and positive way. To give them the tools to feel confident in their bodies without feeling comfortable selling them.  To help them feel powerful, confident, “fierce and free” - even attractive! - in their own skin without attaching that worth to the willingness to be sexualized. I pray that they will see they are worth so much more than that, and I hope I can be some small part of that realization.

Dance on,

Bree Hafen

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3 comments


  • Stells

    Personally, I think that sexuality is part of being human. As such I think we should stop shaming people and especially women for being „too sexual“ in dance, as long as they are actually still dancing and showing their skill. In my opinion, „shaming“ sexual dancers actually generates the attention they get. If it wasn‘t considered somewhat scandalous, it wouldn‘t stand out as much and therefore no one would do it simply for attention.

    That being said, I think sexuality part of being an ADULT. Until a dancer actually can understand about it on a physical and emotional level, they should NOT be given such routines. This probably depends a lot on the dancer but I‘d say most below 16 have not reached that point.

    A different topic is that (also) in the dance world, sexualization seems to happen more to female dancers (not just in absolute numbers but also in proportion). I think competitions should have rules in place to disqualify dances that are derogatory towards women, especially in sexual ways.


  • Lea

    I saw this at SHOWSTOPPER in Phoenix last month! The dance that won was a ballroom number done by teens/Sr. It was called THE ITALIAN! It started out by a girl standing there telling the audience that you please a woman by giving her what God gave you… and in the beginning if the dance a girls bends over right in front of the make dancer’s crotch!!!

    They win the overall high score!!!! Really???? And their other ballroom dance guy 2nd overall and the girls looked like topless Vegas showgirls!!! That was the theme…

    I’m no prude: I worked in Vegas… I short so I wasn’t a show girl… but many of my friends were!

    I’m sooo ashamed of Showstopper… I really don’t want to do their Nationals!


  • Flo Dance

    Thank you so much Bree for discussing this issue in such a respectful way! This definitely needed to be said and I am so proud to support a company that empowers young girls in the best way.


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