Beyoncé vs Alicia: Educating Young Entertainers

We were on the edges of our seats, mesmerized by the fog, the lights, the formations, the choreography. I fully expected the best show possible from her after the snafu at the inauguration. And she was delivering – from the pyrotechnics to the all-female band. Suddenly from across the room, out of my 8-year-old son, I received the most honest of opinions during the halftime show: “Beyoncé’s just not that sexy. I like her, but she’s dancing in her UNDERWEAR. Why would she DO that?”

I was stopped in my tracks. Don’t get me wrong – Since the 90’s, I have loved me some Beyoncé. I was singing loud and dancing along when Destiny’s Child popped up out of nowhere to kill their Charlie’s Angels bit. But it seems telling to me that, first, my little boy was distracted and disturbed by her wardrobe, AND that he was using the word “sexy” to describe anything or anyone at the age of 8! (That was remedied quickly, by the way.)

Beyonce at Half Time

Beyoncé (photo: Hollywood Reporter)

Family Friendly Sunday Football
Now let me make sure I clarify this. You’re reading a blog that belongs to a performing arts academy, where we educate entertainers. Day-in and day-out, my kids see young women in leotards and tights. So what was it that bothered my little guy so much? He felt like she had crossed a line – perhaps the exotic leathers, the four-inch heels, and the barely-there black lace derriere? Add to this some minimal body rolls and hip work (jazz teacher speak for “gyrations”), and you get something that makes an 8-year-old boy feel like his precious Super Bowl has just been hijacked.

Don’t you think it was? The Twittersphere is referring to it as the BeyoncéBowl. Many people said she blew a fuse (thus the blackout). Some have said they enjoyed the Beyoncé concert and were pleased to see some football played at it. She WANTED to hijack the Bowl. That’s her job. Make a statement. Entertain. Shock and awe. Wait. What was I talking about?

Back to my evening with the kids. What I want to know is this: what are our kids being exposed to these days!? We had to fast forward the GoDaddy commercial. We had to turn off the 2 Broke Girls commercial. Even the Taco Bell commercial wasn’t family friendly. I had to guide my children through a brilliant halftime show that was just too hard for them to comprehend. All this before bedtime, when programming is supposed to be family friendly.

Bare Midriffs & Learning the Hard Way
Over the years, I have been criticized and occasionally mocked by parents, studio owners, and former students for my decision to teach, encourage, and even enforce age-appropriate movement, music, and costuming for our dancers. I do this because I learned the hard way. As a young teacher in my early 20’s, I made terrible costuming choices, ignoring body type and basic decency. (I still am not sure how parents put up with some of the bare midriffs.) Having learned the hard way, now I am adamant that students graduate from our studio with a healthy body image, driving home the idea that they don’t need to stoop so low for entertainment or career-building purposes. If anything, last night just reinforced the need for this education. I refuse to run a school where kids are encouraged to run around in bra tops and booty shorts, performing at competitions à la Dance Moms, and being exposed to trash in terms of music and movement. Don’t get me wrong – I still believe you should be able to SEE the human body if it is dancing, but when costuming is a distraction, the art gets lost and there’s no point to the performance.

Friends, we are all better than that. Our kids deserve MORE than that. Give them a fighting chance at self-respect and artistry with their education.

Remember, I am still a Beyoncé fan. She hasn’t lost me as a fan just yet, and I want her to rise above and become one of the greats that we remember for decades. I love that she can really dance. I love her as a musician and entertainer. (I’d love a new image team and costume designer for her.) But as long as she keeps borrowing her “choreographic inspiration” from Bob Fosse, I’ll be intrigued.

Alicia Keys sings the National Anthem

Alicia Keys (photo: Hollywood Reporter)

Last but not least, I’d like to give a shout-out to Miss Alicia Keys. She was the unsung hero of the evening, who brought tears to the eyes of the toughest men on the field, who quietly and majestically did what she came to do: perform live, unassisted by tracks or backup dancers or special effects. Entertainment is about moving people, reaching them, and  touching their lives one performance at a time. The unassuming, sweet sound of a piano and a brave young woman crooning the patriotic and unifying words of our national anthem reached around the globe to the ears of those homesick men and women defending our freedom. Miss Keys has my vote for the wiser entertainer because she made the choice to be an artist with integrity last night. Well played, Miss Keys. Maybe Miss Knowles should take a page out of your book.

My humble opinion,

Miss Sarah


5 thoughts on “Beyoncé vs Alicia: Educating Young Entertainers

  1. Sarah – Profoundly important words, especially given the manner in which our daughters are being taught to become sexual objects and our sons to be sexual predators. Your post is also timely, as I read the article below recently.

    Young girls, under pressure to have sex as never before, need parental protection:

    Despite the fact that this is a Brit author, the same exact problems exist here in the states.

    Boggles my mind that some would criticize you for wanting your son to respect women and for teaching self-respecting young girls to be empowered. On behalf of my two daughters, I thank you for speaking the truth.

  2. Pingback: I’m a woman of many opinions… « I don't know if you heard but…

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