When I first met Leslie Scott, the founder of Youth Protection Advocates in Dance (YPAD), it was the passion she showed for her work that first stopped me in my tracks.
She was a woman on a mission…and what an important mission it is!
Leslie created YPAD in response to concerning (and common) trends on the rise in the dance industry; practices that were affecting one too many dance students. For example, their heightened anxiety about body image, their compromised technique with unsafe movements, and the hypersexualization of choreography, costumes and music messaging. Therefore, she saw a need to develop guidelines for healthy and safe teaching practices; a professional educational resource with specific tools for helping studio owners, teachers, parents, and students understand better ways to train in dance. YPAD was the answer!
Listening to her speak, I couldn’t help but be moved by Leslie’s message and her sincerity to positively affect young lives in dance. I was immediately taken by her commitment to inciting change in the dance industry at large; it felt like it was meant to be that we would meet and have the opportunity to work together. YPAD’s mission perfectly aligned with the momentum I wanted to build.
I’m honored to say what started with a sponsorship of her work has turned into an amazing friendship. As a result my studio became the first official YPAD Certified studio in the world.
Certification encompasses several important elements, including:
- Background checks for all staff and volunteers
- CPR training for all staff and volunteers
- Emergency and evacuation protocols for the studio
- Staff training classes in topics such as:
- social media safety
- positive role model choices
- dancer health and injury prevention
- body image, nutrition and eating disorders
- mandated abuse reporting
- anti-bullying education and conflict resolution
- age-appropriate dance concepts, costumes, music, and movement
Certification has been a journey – some parts easy, some more challenging. For example, background checks were already in place so that was an easy box to check. However, we had to conduct four training dates to work with everyone’s schedule since we have such a large staff. Now, there is an online certification option with more flexibility, which makes it easy for large staffs to become certified from any location and start and stop at their leisure. We moved our CPR training to online for the same reasons.
Would I do it again? In a word, ABSOLUTELY! It feels both empowering and encouraging to be a part of YPAD’s dedication to dancer health and safety. As a studio owner and a parent, there is a level of assurance knowing we are doing our best to lead our dancers in the right direction. At the same time we educate and protect them from stress of negative influences.
Certifying MDU led me to examine how we approach dance events as well as our studios, and it became an easy decision to move forward with YPAD Certification for two more of my businesses—MTJGD and the 360 Dance Festival—which became the world’s first YPAD Certified organization and event!
ALL of the dance faculty at the 360 Dance Festival are committed to the same code of conduct.
The 360 Dance Festival can now proudly promote that it has the YPAD Certified “seal of approval”. This gives parents the confidence they need in knowing the event will prioritize their child’s health and safety in dance.
Yes, it’s been a bit of work and an investment, but it is my conviction that a high-quality dance education CAN be completely free of unhealthy or unsafe practices if we studio owners and teachers lead and teach our students with intention and attention. YPAD’s commitment is that all studios, regardless of size should be able to participate so they offer financial aid, scholarships and free consultations with emotional and physical safety specialists through the YPAD Consultant Group.
Standing with Leslie and YPAD in this belief gives me hope that the dance industry will continue to see a shifting tide; where every child knows their worth and can dance freely into their potential.