Interaction and Boundary Standards and Guidance for Emcee Commentary for 360º Dance Festival
We are so excited you are a part of the World’s First YPAD Certified Convention! To review the details of what this means please visit here. This document is meant to provide guidelines as well as education to all personnel to promote a happy, healthy and safe dance environment for all in attendance at 360º Dance Festival events.
Most of us that grew up in the dance community have been unaware of the meta-messages that we were exposed to as children or the fact that dance is an unregulated industry. With the ever-evolving research in child development, social awareness (i.e. sexuality, body image, gender roles, and identity), social media and the ever-rising rate of reports of misconduct in dance related environments, we now have the knowledge to intentionally bring more positive messages and safer environments to youth in dance.
One of the responsibilities for the emcees is to ensure the dancers feel emotionally and physically safe and supported. We are in no way implying that you are not already following all of these protocols and being anything less than supportive and positive role models! In fact, you are in your position due to 360º Dance Festival immense respect for your character, integrity, and commitment to the culture of healthy and safe dance and YPAD trusts their judgement! However, the responsibility is that of YPAD and 360º Dance Festival to be as communicative and specific as possible to ensure we are all moving forward as a cohesive team regarding code of conduct, boundaries, and interactions. We must do our due diligence to ensure even perceived inappropriate behaviours are addressed, as our attendees’ perception is their reality. It is imperative that we know how to self-regulate, set and enforce our own boundaries, but also be able to recognize when others cross those boundaries and communicate that to the Event Manager.
The guidelines listed below will provide you with suggestions to assist in making the convention environment healthy, safe, and fun!
Since dance has no Governing Body, YPAD has thoughtfully created these standards with guidance from American Psychological Association, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Geena Davis Institute for Gender and Media, Darkness to Light, and more to present evidence-based research and equip dance professionals to advocate for youth dancers. This also protects the organizations and individuals working within them. While these can be difficult topics to discuss, the positive reality is the more we can raise awareness before these events begin the less chance an incident or misunderstanding may occur.
One thing to highlight is that the relationship between all event staff and the youth dancers is not equal. They are not peers. You are in a unique position of trust, care, authority, and influence with the dancers, which means there is always an inherent power imbalance between your role and those in attendance.
Professional boundaries are breached when a person misuses the power imbalance in such a way that the young person’s welfare is compromised.
As most people in authority recognize, some conduct will clearly breach those boundaries. While there may be some “gray areas”, it is in that space we must take responsibility for establishing and maintaining professional boundaries with dancers, teachers, and parents. This means exercising good judgement, erring on the side of caution, and recognizing the potential consequences for all involved.
Use “time, place, and circumstance” as a guiding principle, by asking yourself:
- Is this the appropriate time for my planned action?
- Have I chosen the appropriate place for the planned action to take place?
- Are these appropriate circumstances for me to take my planned action?
- Am I doing the right thing?
- How would others judge my actions?
- How could my actions impact others?
- Should I discuss this with someone else?
Professional Interactions and Boundaries with Dancers
- One of the most important aspects of 360 Dance Festival is to ensure the dancers are in a safe environment. It is also important that we take into account the perception of our interactions by others, as it is their reality. We must strive to be above reproach when our clients and attendees of our events are witnessing us interact with others, whether it be backstage, traveling to and from events, at the hotel or any other area while working for 360º Dance Festival.
The following protocols will help ensure a safe environment for the dancers:
- If you see children changing in a non-designated changing area, avert your eyes, and kindly direct them to the appropriate changing area. We do not want kids changing clothes outside for all to see. If you need help with this please communicate this in a timely manner to your Event Manager.
- Do not exchange social media handles with a dancer. We understand that many educators leverage social media for their business and also have a personal presence on social media platforms. There is no need for a dancer to connect with an adult on their personal social media profile. If the dance professional’s account has professional content and information relevant to dancers (such as upcoming classes and projects), dancers may connect but must do so through 360º Dance Festival.
Please refer to the Social Media Creed provided by 360º Dance Festival for more information.
- Please remember your backstage language to the dancers should be in the tone of a supportive and positive authority figure, not a peer.
- Keep an eye out for physical safety of the dancers. Do not let them jump off the stage, rush the stage, or trample over each other while entering and exiting for awards, etc. Please use your voice if you witness this in order to maintain crowd control.
- If you see a dancer is injured, or a troubling interaction in which the child is crying (or getting yelled at), being bullied, etc., report it to the Event Manager.
- Please remember to touch upon the nearest exits in case of an evacuation at the beginning of each session.
The following suggestions may assist in maintaining professional boundaries with dancers:
- Keep dealings with dancers open and available to scrutiny from appropriate authorities. Transparency is key.
- Treat dancers fairly, without treating any dancers as “favorites”.
- Do not personally email or private message dancers. If a dancer initiates this kind of contact, ask that they involve their parent in the conversation.
- Actively avoid situations which could be regarded as private or personal.
- Where some young professionals are just a few years older than the dancers they teach, they must be vigilant to ensure they do not view or treat dancers as peers or friends.
Those who experience difficulties in their personal lives and/or are socially or emotionally immature may be particularly susceptible to engaging in “at risk” conduct/behaviours with dancers. The attention, admiration, and sometimes adoration bestowed by dancers can be overwhelming and may be the catalyst for those in charge to engage in inappropriate conduct, particularly when a person is emotionally vulnerable.
Recognizing one’s own vulnerabilities is one step towards avoiding those vulnerabilities leading to a breach of professional boundaries with dancers. Those involved must consider their motivation in their interactions with dancers. Every action and interaction should be prefaced by asking yourself: “Whose needs are being met by my course of action?” There is only one acceptable answer to this question – always put the dancer first.
Engaging in conduct with dancers to satisfy your own needs is unacceptable. It is a betrayal of the trust of dancers, parents, the profession and the community.
Professional boundaries may be categorized into specific types of boundaries, although these categories cannot be considered mutually exclusive. They include:
A) Emotional boundaries– Emotional self-regulation primarily involves using appropriate levels of emotion in interactions with dancers, and coping with others’ emotions in teaching settings.
- Showing preferential treatment to particular dancers without legitimate reasons.
- Using subtle forms of control to allow a dancer to develop an inappropriate emotional dependency on the authority figure, which may lead to an inappropriate/sexual relationship with the dancer.
- Failing to recognize or act appropriately by engaging in a role along the lines of “friend” or “personal counselor” (unless there is a legitimate role designated)
B) Relationship boundaries– Relationships between adults and dancers are professional relationships, with a recognition that this person is not a friend to dancers, in the way dancers are friends with other dancers.
- Engaging in intimate, romantic, and/or sexual relationships with a dancer (current or former) is a conflict of interest and violates professional boundaries. A relationship with a person who was once a former dancer, that may otherwise be lawful, may still generate concerns that a person has abused their position.
- Concerns arise as to whether the relationship resulted from a breach of professional boundaries, including grooming behaviour while the former dancer was still a dancer.
- By ensuring that relationships are strictly professional and do not breach boundaries, an authority figure who forms a relationship with a former dancer or young adult will be less likely to come under scrutiny.
- Engaging in flirtatious behaviour with a dancer is unacceptable.
- Refrain from intimate gestures and/or touches, e.g. hugging one or two particular dancers after an awards program and/or touching involving one or two particular dancers. This is separate from the types of touching younger children might engage in on a daily or frequent basis, for reassurance or as part of normal classroom management.
- Expressing romantic feelings towards a dancer verbally, in writing, or in any other form is a violation of a relationship boundary.
- Refrain from favoring a particular dancer, with no educational, or valid purpose. This can include spending extra time with the dancer for inappropriate purposes or in inappropriate circumstances. For example, driving the dancer home (without prior authority) and/or favoring the dancer inappropriately.
- Gaining the trust of a dancer’s family and friends as a way of further integrating themselves in the dancer’s life creates a conflict of interest and must be avoided.
C) Power Boundaries– Authority figures must ensure they do not abuse their position. Examples of power boundaries include but are not limited to:
- Privately giving a dancer a gift, e.g. money, credit for a mobile phone or a meal.
- Using authority to harm and/or threaten to harm a dancer.
- Withholding information from a dancer to manipulate the dancer (e.g. to be alone with the dancer).
- Rewarding and/or punishing a dancer based on an adult-minor relationship, or favoring a dancer based on what the dancer does for the authority figure.
- Using a dancer to gain a personal benefit, such as monetary gain, goods, services or useful information from a dancer with expertise/connections.
- Bribing a dancer into silence about the adult’s inappropriate conduct.
D) Communication boundaries– The following boundaries relate to issues of self-disclosure to dancers:
- Talking or joking with a dancer or group of dancers about personal matters or sexually inappropriate matters that are outside curriculum content.
- Comments about a dancer’s appearance and body, including excessively flattering comments.
- Vilifying or humiliating dancers.
- Facilitating or allowing access to pornographic or overtly sexual material.
- Failing to appropriately respond to sexual harassment between dancers.
- Using pet names for dancers.
- Engaging in correspondence of a personal nature with dancers, including letters, phone, SMS texts and social media.
- Using social media to interact with a dancer without a valid educational context and appropriate safeguards such as including their parent and 360º Dance Festival Director.
- Offering advice on personal matters to a dancer, where it is not done in an authorized situation, such as an authorized meeting with 360º Dance Festival leadership present.
- Asking a dancer questions about personal/sexual matters.
- Allowing inappropriate discussions and/or conversation between attendees of a personal/sexual nature to continue.
- Breaching confidentiality of others with any attendee, such as talking about other staff and/or dancers.
E) Physical Boundaries– Authority figures must understand appropriate physical contact and ensure they do not engage in inappropriate physical contact.
We understand hugging is a part of our dance culture. We are a “touchy feely” industry and there are great aspects to that as touch can be nurturing and comforting. However, when acting in the capacity of an authority figure at 360º Dance Festival consider if an alternative gesture such as a high five or verbal affirmation might be a better fit for encouragement. Allow dancers/attendees to initiate physical contact such as hugging. Consider the context, purpose, and environment when engaging in any physical touch, whether it be a pat on the back, high five, and/or hug.
There may be times when touching a dancer is necessary without a valid/authorized reason and/or consent. Valid reasons include: removing them from danger, consoling an upset child, providing first aid, and/or congratulating them. When using touch to correct a dancer or witnessing an instructor correcting a dancer, ensure it is visible to others. Ask yourself if physical contact is necessary or if a verbal explanation or affirmation is adequate and more appropriate.
The following examples indicate violations of physical boundaries:
- Unwarranted, unwanted, and/or inappropriate touching of a dancer directly or indirectly with an object.
- Initiating or permitting inappropriate physical contact, e.g. massage or tickling games.
- Allowing dancers to push too close, or otherwise make inappropriate contact.
- Being present when dancers dress or undress, when not in an authorized supervisory role. Please ensure dancers change only in designated areas. If you see a breach of this, avert your eyes and seek out the Event Manager to correct the situation.
- Do not, in any circumstances, engage in any act or conduct directed towards a dancer of a romantic or sexual nature including, but not limited to:
- kissing and/or caressing;
- obscene language or gestures of a sexual nature;
- suggestive remarks or actions;
- jokes or humor of a sexual nature;
- unwarranted and inappropriate touching;
- indecent exposure;
- inappropriate verbal compliments by a authority figure to a dancer;
- communicating or corresponding with dancers about sexual or personal feelings for them or another person;
- exposure of dancers to the sexual behavior of others, other than in authorized curriculum
- resources in the context of education about healthy sexual relationships.
Many of these behaviors are part of the “Grooming” process. This is when perpetrator gains the trust of and access to a child by strategically eliminating boundaries and then abusing their power through misconduct. Please be aware that there are many grooming behaviours that do not seem sexual in nature.
It is important those in charge maintain professional boundaries and refrain from conduct which may be identified as grooming. It is equally important that authority figures are able to identify unacceptable conduct in others and feel confident to report it to appropriate authorities if they observe it.
Emcee Commentary and Interaction
Before we get to the bullet points on this section, it is important to understand the term objectification. Objectification is the action of degrading someone to the status of a mere object. When we make comments about someone’s body (i.e. look at those abs, you have legs that go for miles, etc.) or their appearance (you’re so pretty), this reduces an individual to an object to be admired. It’s not to say that telling someone that they’re attractive is inherently bad. However, if that is the only thing that you are giving them praise about, it then turns them into something to be admired and adored, instead of being a whole human being (with other admirable traits like kindness, intelligence, etc.). Current research demonstrates younger children are noticing whether their bodies do or do not conform to what they see in the media and as a result, they have developed an acute awareness of one’s body and its appearance. This acute awareness is one factor that plays into children having early onset of mental health disorders. What we are asking of the emcees is to avoid any remarks that could be construed as sexual, objectifying, and/or inappropriate for a family friendly audience.
Some general aspects to be mindful of and strive for:
- If you are not speaking to the audience, please ensure your microphone is muted or turned off.
- If you need help with a situation, please contact the Event Manager or fellow staff for assistance.
- When not onstage and even back at your hotel, be mindful that your interactions with the audience, dancers, parents, colleagues, etc. still reflects the 360º Dance Festival brand and culture.
Some (commonly heard) phrases to avoid:
- “Werk it girls!”
- “You better werk that body/audience!”
- “That was one hot number”
- “Gotta start ’em young!” (after a spicy piece).
- “I wish I was that guy when I was his age!” (after a piece where the guy is the focal point of all the little girls’ affection)
Some great phrases to say after a performance:
- “Great job! Those kids nailed it. Such talent!”
- “What a performance!”
- “Wow, that dance was so meaningful!”
- “I felt the passion! Great work dancers!”
Social Media Safety:
“I agree to use my social media accounts and conduct myself online with integrity, using YPAD’s Social Media guidelines to help guide my choices. I agree that if I have sexually suggestive activity, sexualized dancing, references to drug or alcohol use, violence or gang-related activity, hate speech, negative comments about other dance professionals, or similar content on my social media account, I will not “friend,” “follow,” or be “followed” by the dancers, especially minors. If I wish to post non-child-friendly content, I will use privacy settings on my primary social media accounts, and create separate accounts on which to connect with youth dancers in a role model capacity. I agree that when speaking out against inappropriate content in the dance community, I will not shame or name any specific choreographer, teacher, dancer, dance studio, parent or dance organization. I will not post videos of sexualized or otherwise inappropriate dance content.”
Please read the full Social Media Creed.
Thank you for taking the time and focus to read and understand this document. Culture is collaborative and we want to ensure that the culture at 360º Dance Festival Dance Festival is one that puts the welfare of young dancers in the spotlight, represents their YPAD Certification status, and is professional at all times. Of course, we want to ensure the safety and well-being of all staff and attendees as well and hope these guidelines have provided you with tools to identify potential risks, take precautions, and be able to appropriately rectify any breaches of safety and/or professionalism.
We have no doubt this will be a successful season for 360º Dance Festival and an incredible experience for all who attend!