Photo Credit: morethandancers.com
Since I’m in the public relations and advertising field, I tend to hear the phrase “sex sells” quite often. Even though it proves to be true more often than not, there is a time and a place for everything. Take the dance industry for example. This industry is so competitive that it’s easy for dancers to use sexuality as a tool to stand out among peers. In fact, dance activist and educator, Leslie Scott, did just that until she realized that this was a real problem that affected youth in dance. It was then that she founded the non-profit Youth Protection Advocates in Dance (YPAD) with the purpose to keep youth happy, healthy, and safe in their dance environment.
Scott herself has had a very successful dance career. She has worked with Hi Hat, the choreographer for artists Ciara and Missy Elliot, on The Choreographer, and was a finalist for Bravo’s Step It Up. In addition, she’s danced for recording artists Beyoncé, Ee-De, Angel, Latin Froz, Audio Club and Remix. Lastly, Scott has taught dance for 27 years and is currently a faculty member at Edge Performing Arts Center and Millennium Dance Complex in Los Angeles. Although, according to current YPAD Advisory Panel Member Dr. Tomi-Ann Roberts, there was a time in Scott’s adult career where she was guilty of “self-sexualizing.” Often, Scott would change the music up in her classes to be more sexualized because she saw this led to larger attendance. As she realized there was a problem with her behavior, she also noticed how much kids and teens were affected negatively by our current hyper-sexualized culture, so she decided to do something about it. Check out this video of one of Scott’s classes at Millennium Dance Complex.
YPAD’s mission is that through education and activism, we stand united to stop all exploitation of youth in performing arts. This non-profit is made up of a highly-educated and esteemed advisory panel, along with a global community of members, who collectively seek to address three forms of exploitation: sexual abuse, hyper-sexualization, and all inappropriate exertions that lead to unnecessary injuries. “As an adult leader, educator, and a female in the industry, I decided I wanted to use my platform in a completely different way. As I started to do that, it felt so satisfying and so amazing, said Scott to Dance Informa in 2016. Here is a short video featuring Scott who explains more on this nonprofit’s mission.
Photo Credit: nohoartsdistrict.com
YPAD provides free online resources for dancers, teachers, studio owners, choreographers, and parents. The most important of these resources is the YPAD Standards, Recommendations, and Suggestions Handbook. Additionally, the resources page on the YPAD website covers topics such as sexualization of dance, music messaging, internet safety, social media usage, dance attire, body image, injury prevention, and bullying. Also, YPAD holds in-person dance workshops for dance teachers, competition judges, parents. The workshop topics include Holistic Hip-Hop, Let the Music Be Your GPS, and Performance Technique.
So, how can you or your child’s studio become involved in YPAD? The best thing to do is to become a member. YPAD is a 501c3, so membership fees help the organization provide various resources to the public. You could also host a Dance 4 Cause event to provide your dance community with the YPAD experience and raise funds to support continuing education and activism. If you can’t become a member or host an event, simply browse all of YPAD’s free resources and share its educational videos with your community.
The bottom line is that today’s culture is causing our youth to grow up way too fast. Some of today’s youth use dance as their safe space to escape all the pressures of growing up, which is why an organization like YPAD is so crucial. The life lessons that these kids learn through the YPAD community will follow them into adulthood and allow them to make better life decisions.