Today my wife, Laurel, and I got our first look at big-time children's dance competition. We spent most of the day watching the Los Angeles regionals of The American Dance Awards, held in Lake Elsinore, California at Lakeside High School.
Our four-year old granddaughter apparently was the youngest contestant, dancing in two six-and-under categories (small group tap and small group jazz).
We loved every moment of the dancing.
My daughter was fearful that we'd get bored with the all day competition. Early on she slipped me her car keys, figuring that Laurel and I would want to head someplace else while we waited for our granddaughter's dances, scheduled for 12:45 and 4:25 pm.
Aside from a lunch break, we were glued to our seats in the auditorium. After almost every performance I'd say things to Laurel like: "Wow!" "Amazing!" "Unbelievable!" "That looked professional!" "So cute!" and other exclamations of wonderment.
The dancers, mostly girls but also some boys, ranged in age from four to twenty-one. Their energy, skill level, enthusiasm, charisma, and overall watchability was exceptional. We expected to see some good dancing.
What we got was great dancing.
However, in case any parents of certain eight and under girls were sitting behind me, I want to explain why I laughed (not very loudly, but almost uncontrollably) during some of their performances. I wasn't laughing at their dancing, which was terrific.
What almost brought tears of hilarity to my eyes was the sight of little girls doing a highly credible impersonation of Tina Turner shaking it.
Now, I'm old enough to have seen Tina Turner perform in person at the Winterland in San Francisco sometime in the late 1960's. At least I think that's where it was. Much of the 60's is a brain-blur to me, for reasons that should be obvious.
Young people can get a taste of Turner on You Tube, which includes being able to watch Beyonce perform "Proud Mary" at a Tina Turner tribute in a fashion that does Tina proud.
Today I was awestruck at how little girls just a few years older than my granddaughter could dance so Tina Turner/Beyonce'ish -- complete with "big girl" makeup, costumes, and pouty demeanor. At first my mind bounced back and forth between wow, that's so wrong! and wow, that's so right!
It didn't take long for me to settle in on so right!
The little girls clearly were enjoying themselves. They were getting to play dress-up on a big stage in front of an appreciative audience. They obviously had practiced long and hard. There wasn't anything remotely lewd or sexual about their dancing.
I just kept thinking, "Wow, you've come a long way, baby." Back in my California childhood days, few kids danced at all. We were forced to learn some square dancing during P.E. in high school, all prim and proper.
Nobody would have believed that in 2012, girls eight and younger would be made up with lots of eyeshadow, blush, and lipstick, then shake their child bodies in glittery, skimpy outfits like twenty year-olds at a nightclub. But, hey, why not?
The kids I watched today were having fun. No matter what their age, it looked to me like the music they were dancing to, and their dance moves, were what they wanted to do. Sure, their dance instructors did most or all of the choreographing. They know, though, what appeals to children nowadays.
Hip-hop culture, and it's jazzy variants, seemingly has spread to every dancing age group. I say, great. The dances I watched today brought smiles and energy to my social-security eligible body. Keep it up, kids.
If you want to dance like Tina Turner, go for it. Even if you're five years old.