Would the real Miley Cyrus please stand up!
by Janice Burdon
Reading Frank Kermit’s opinion on Miley Cyrus’s 2013 Video Music Awards performance last week stirred up some memories for me. Memories I couldn’t ignore and so I feel the need to respond. My opinion is only worth something if I can back it up with my own personal experience, so here’s my story and opinion.
Back in high school, I had a reputation as a good dancer. I loved to dance! Every chance I got to dance, I was on the dance floor and soon earned the reputation of Dance Queen! I would go to dance performances like ‘Cats’ and even took jazz ballet lessons. Teachers would stop me in the hallway at school encouraging me to motivate the other kids to dance at monthly school dances. “Just get them moving,” they would say. I agreed; only to realize that the kids preferred to watch me dance instead! It got to the point of ridiculous when they formed a circle around me and threw money on the floor in front of me as I danced! Wow, money, imagine that! To my delight one summer, I got paid 100$ for half an hour of work to motivate crowds to dance at the Chateauguay Canada Day festivities. I knew then and there that I had a talent for motivating people to get moving.
I remember performing in a play one year at Billings High School where one of the numbers focused around women evolving through the centuries. Every girl held a part. Some were students, others mothers, and some were businesswomen. The role I was called to play was club dancer. I had to dress the part, so there I was in fishnet stockings, a candy apple red dress and black high heels. With my make-up on, I was dressed to kill and was to dance to the song ‘Bad Girls’ by Donna Summer. I was excited about my part because the dance instructor said I suited it to a ‘T’. I became her preferred dancer. The pressure to perform was on!
It was the night of my first performance and there I was nervous as always before I had to go on stage. My cue came and as I cleared the stage curtain and began strutting my stuff, a feeling of unease came over me as I looked out at the audience. The women with their judgmental looks were burning holes right through my dress. I kept dancing mechanically, trying hard not to pay attention. “Hey mister, do you have a dime? Hey mister, do you want to spend some time?” Came the words of the song and as I looked out at the men in the audience, a feeling of disgust washed over me as I saw their leering grins. It made me feel dirty. The once fun activity of dancing suddenly turned sour for me. I was so grateful when my cue to exit came. My dance instructor saw my face and said, “Janice, it’s just a role, you need to let yourself go and have fun with it!” How can I let myself go when I knew this wasn’t me? Dancing reflects who you are and I wasn’t a bad girl! This was all wrong! I had several nights yet to perform and so I did so grudgingly. I swore to myself that from that day forward I would never, ever dance like that again. My dancing was going to be for fun and not for some sexual spectacle.
You see, I learned a hard lesson about performing from that experience. I didn’t need to keep people’s attention by using sluttish dance moves. I was and still am a great dancer, performer and motivator. I know it by the way I keep everyone’s attention. I know it by the respect I got from my teachers and fellow peers. I know it from when I directed talent shows and how teachers by encouraging me, would stay after school to supervise. Instead, I use my smile, enthusiasm, personality and talent to keep my audience’s attention. It still works and even at 45; I’m able to pull off amazing performances whether it’s at a street fair or in front of my clients when I teach a class.
When I watched So You Think You Can Dance the other night, I was taken aback with all the wonderful talent these dancers have. The raw, fervent and passionate talent that shows how a body can move held me spellbound. Here were REAL performers, attempting to ‘wow’ their audience. They didn’t need any sexual moves to win over their fans. Their real passion for dance and performing was evident. Time and time again, applause rang out from the audience cheering each dancer on. I remember thinking that this is what it’s all about; pure, raw talent. Miley Cyrus is a beautiful, talented young woman who doesn’t need to resort to cheap tactics to keep her audience’s attention, so why did she? I must admit that when I watched her performance, I couldn’t help but wonder where the talent was. All I saw was a 20-year woman performing sexual moves to keep her popularity ratings up and felt it wasn’t really who she is. Perhaps the problem lies with a society that keeps demanding more and more from these young performers, after all sex sells doesn’t it? It’s funny how a mother breastfeeding her child is unacceptable in the public eye and network T.V., yet these sexual innuendos are aired for everyone to see.
I believe the secret to a great performance involves being true to one’s self. Performing is an expression of what’s inside you. If what’s inside you is good, then it will come out when you move and people will see it. Integrity and respect in performing are still valued today and people still appreciate good innocent talent. You can have all the props in the world but props alone will not make you a good actor or singer. Although we should not take these celebrities as role models, they are visible to young impressionable girls who think that acting this way is acceptable and will gain them popularity. This is downright wrong! We need to encourage our young girls to capitalize on their OWN talent, so they realize they have something special without resorting to these antics. As for Miley Cyrus, I hope and pray that she can come to the point in her life where she feels free to be her real self.