Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Adding competitive dance to achieve compliance

We haven't heard a lot about competitive dance teams being used to achieve compliance. Much of the attention has been given to competitive cheerleading at the collegiate level. But competitive dance falls into that same ambiguous category as cheerleading. They are not often sanctioned sports and thus counting the students who participate in them becomes a little suspect.

A school district in Ohio is considering adding competitive dance in a move toward equity. A survey undertaken by the district revealed that competitive dance was the most popular option among female students. This story raises a few interesting issues.

First, the use of surveys to determine interest. If the girls want it--overwhelmingly it seems--shouldn't they be afforded the opportunity? Of course, if it isn't really a sport...Which leads to the question that surveys do not address--why don't girls want to play sports that are already sanctioned? Let me note here that I am not suggesting that traditional sports are best. I see a lot of value in alternative sports. But I also do not consider dance an alternative sport. This argument is becoming very circular, but I do have a point. The point is that such a survey reveals that the sports that girls are exposed to and encouraged to participate is still very much influenced by dominant beliefs about masculinity and femininity.

Second, and this point is a little more clear, dance is cheap. Relatively cheap anyway. In Ohio they are seeking a volunteer coach or someone who already coaches another sport. What this suggests is that dance is not going to be as valued as other sports which are provided more comprehensive support and that they are looking for an inexpensive way to achieve equity. I would not be surprised, given the current economic situation, to see other schools--even at the collegiate level--add dance to become compliant.