Our goal: To bring awareness and education to adults in order to stop the hypersexualization of children in dance.
Meet our Executive Director and Founder – Mary Bawden
Dance educator and author Mary Bawden received a BA in modern dance from the University of California Riverside, a MA in worship (emphasis in dance) from Hope International University in Fullerton CA, and a California secondary teaching credential. Mary began choreographing dance within church services in 1994. In 2003, she founded Soul to Sole Choreography and released a book, Dance is Prayer in Motion, in 2016. The book focuses on an educational approach to use conceptual movement as a communication tool for worship. Several years ago, Mary began to notice the culture around children’s dance moving toward an unhealthy trend: sexualizing children under 12 in adult-style costumes, sexually provocative choreography, and music with sexual content and/or themes. Many in the public arena have been slow to recognize this harmful form of child exploitation. Mary’s observation of this unhealthy trend inspired her to advocate for healthy, age-appropriate guidelines to protect children and the art of dance. In 2016, she founded DA:NCE (Dance Awareness: No Child Exploited) to create awareness through the collaboration of credible experts with excellent research to provide free evidence-based educational materials for dance educators, parents, and concerned adults.
She has spoken at numerous conferences from NDEO (National Dance Educator’s Organization) to CESE(Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation) Summits in Washington DC. Mary has also been interviewed and written for a wide range of TV, podcast, and radio hosts. In 2019 one article she wrote received over 250,000 views (Read Article). Her organization offers many resources that have researched the damaging consequences of hypersexualizing children in dance including short trailers, videos with national experts, downloadable PowerPoint presentations, an ebook on Healthy Versus Harmful Dance, a DA:NCE newsletter, and a National Petition supported by NCOSE (National Center on Sexual Exploitation).
DA:NCE invites you to sign the petition and share it on social media. We plan to use the petition to influence cultural change to protect children from exploitation in dance.
Your signature makes a difference!
Why is this such an important issue?
Children are becoming increasingly sexualized through dance at younger and younger ages. Studios, dance teachers, and even parents often unknowingly model their movement choices on what they see in the media and pop-culture outlets. The ramifications of this are alarming. A 2012 study conducted by the Canadian’s Women’s Health Network research shows that most girls – as young as 6-years old – are beginning to think of themselves as sex objects (Source).
Another 2012 study from US researchers Kaitlin Graff, Sarah K. Murnen and Linda Smolak found that people who viewed a photo of a ten-year old girl in highly sexualized clothing (a short dress and leopard print cardigan) rated her as less intelligent and less moral than people who viewed her in less sexualized clothing (Source). In a 2014 study by Marika Tiggerman (Australia) and Amy Slater(UK), they found that children are starting the teenage years four years earlier than they used to. Meaning that girls aged 4 – 10 are engaging with teen culture and exhibiting hyper-sexualized behavior (Source).
The hypersexualization of boys is just as disturbing. In 2015, evidence-based research from the UK by Dr. Linda Papadopoulos, found that “Hypersexualization of femininity can’t exist without hypermasculinization of males. They feed off and reinforce each other (Source).” The research concluded that the media influenced boys to have distorted relational expectations of girls and to evaluate them with ‘unfavorable and unrealistic’ criteria. Further, Dr. Papadopoulos found that a hypersexualized culture put pressure on boys ‘to act out a version of masculinity’ normalizing a controlled display of power and violence with women (Source 1 & Source 2).
The healthy sexual development of children is being hijacked. The culture invites them to imitate the porn-style dance moves of their favorite stars with masculine and feminine roles defined by media influence. Yet, children do not have the emotional sophistication to understand what they are seeing or doing (Source 1 & Source 2).
The effects of the sexualization of girls in dance is widespread:
• Body Dysmorphia
• Eating Disorders
• Poor Academic Performance
• Teen Pregnancy
• Higher Risk of Abusive Relationships
• Higher Risk of Pornography Use
• Unable to Identify Sexual Abuse
• Mismanagement of Social Networking
• Promotes Rape Culture
• Promotes Objectification of Females
• Relationship Wounding due to Constant Comparison
Boys have many of the same negative effects as girls when they are hypermasculinated including body
dysmorphia, depression, eating disorders, rape culture and violence (Source 1 & Source 2).