What does a video game about dancing have to do with equity? It turns out that it’s a lot more than I imagined!

I relaunched my Just Dance Club at school this year with a few new elements: instead of once a week at lunch for junior-intermediate students as a drop-in club, I decided to target it to our Grade 2-3 students, with each class having an afternoon recess dedicated to game play. The primary division students don’t always have as many club opportunities available to them and by dancing at recess, I didn’t have to worry about complicated after-school pick-up arrangements. The groups would be smaller so students would be more comfortable to strut their stuff and students would have more turns to hold the Wiimote (although we all dance to every song, whether or not our individual results “count”). Plus, I thought it would be a great way for me to continue to exercise regularly throughout the work week – I’ve been walking around the community with fellow teachers at lunch and playing Wii Fit at home. (You can read about my Wii Fit return on my blog.)

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I dance with the students and sometimes other teachers come and dance with us too. When we use Just Dance as part of our dance curriculum, we use Just Dance for Kids. As part of the club, we use the “regular” Just Dance. The recommended age is 10+ for Just Dance, but we talked about this before the club started and agreed that we’d avoid some of the more “mature” songs and dances. Still, the students talk about the songs they hear and the moves they see and it’s been a great way to address some interesting equity issues, especially around gender. For instance …

  • How important is the avatar on screen? It means a lot to the students. At first, girls only wanted to dance to songs represented by female dancers, and boys only wanted to dance to songs with male avatars. Students soon had their favourite songs and eventually worried less about who was dancing onscreen and paid more attention to the music. (I have the One Direction dance moves memorized now and don’t need to look at the TV to do them.)
  • How did the dancers move? Students noticed that some of the songs used what they called “sexy dancing” and usually it was only the songs sung by women and led onscreen by women.
  • What did they wear? The female dancers show a lot more skin than the male dancers.

We unpack some of these ideas as we jump, twist and reach. It’s a great opportunity to discuss some of these issues in a safe, non-threatening way.