Everyone deals with bullies at some point in their lives, but in a dance studio it is unacceptable. When students have been dancing together from the time they are nine to eighteen years old there should be a sense of comradery among the dancers. Of course, some students are going to have more in common with others, but students shouldn’t ever feel they are being left out or that there is favoritism in the classroom, at a performance, or at a competition. As an instructors, it is our job to protect, encourage, and support students in their dance endeavors; and parents should be setting this example.
Unfortunately, we live in a world where their are mean girls and boys, and no matter what their age, bullying has a tendency to be inevitability. Growing up at a studio the owners were a second family to me. They always supported me in my desire to go to college for dance by allowing me to become an assistant dance teacher, giving me the opportunity to take more classes, as well as took some of my suggestions to heart by creating a competition team to give students the ability to be on stage more as well as developed opportunities for more classes. I would love to say that the competition team was always a great experience, but their became this inner turmoil that was unnecessary during my senior year of high school. The twenty-three year old competition team instructor still had a high school mentality and treated certain students like they were the stars and that the rest of the students didn’t deserve to be there. It created small cliques within the eleven person dance team, put a wedge between students that had been together for years, ultimately ended the job of the instructor, and led to the disbanding of the Saturday competition team by the time I left for college.
So, how can you prevent this from happening in your own dance classroom or studio? Firstly, know the instructors you hire. Not everyone that comes through your dance school or studio as a student should be teaching. Watch classes and see how the instructor interacts with the students. View the student’s reaction to the instructor’s direction. Second, create a team player mentality in the classroom as well as at performances. Having a support system between the students is the key to a successful choreographed routine and harmony among the students. And thirdly, have the parents understand and execute kindness and support between one another as well as the dancers. As the old saying goes there is no I in team and you need everyone to be a team player if you are going to be successful in the dance world.
Anyone who has ever been to a dance competition knows that it’s filled with studio colors, junk food, and a whole bunch of girls and boys who are uber nervous about messing up on stage. No I didn’t mistake with that second item. Yes full of junk food. From starburst and gummy bears to goldfish and cans of soda. Most dancers are at a competition from 8:00 AM to sometimes as late as 10:00 PM, so to keep a thirteen year old awake you feed them sugar. I digress. At dance competitions you also hear various songs performed to well choreographed dance routines that represent the best from each studio all over the country. Every year there is that one popular song that every studio uses and you literally want to rip your ears off every time a kid steps on the stage and you hear those first few notes. I’m talking about that song that there is basically a verbal brawl on who is going to get to dance to it at the studio, because once one person has claimed that song at the studio, no one else can dance to it.
My big competition years were between 2001-2004. I can still list the most popular used songs for each of those years and I can’t listen them. The debut of the artist Alicia Keys with ‘Fallin’ was the best emotional R&B song to come out in 2001. Keys even won three Grammys for ‘Fallin,’ but after the second dance competition and hearing it fourteen times (in each competition) I just can’t bring myself to ever listen to that song. Evanescence’s ‘My Immortal’ in 2004 was worse. I swear every other dance solo or duet that came to the stage that was announced was using that song. If I was a judge I don’t think I could have kept anyone straight, let alone made a judgement call on how well any of the movement was executed.
The whole point when you are competing or in any performance is to standout. When you are searching for a song to give to your instructor for the new year try to find a band or artist that is up and coming or music that is older. Instructors – give your students other song options before the new competition year. Give your students other artists to get excited about at the end of a competition year that are new or developing a following so when they come back to class they could have a new found passion for another band or singer. There are resources that the millennial generation did not have as kids such as streaming music services, YouTube, and Pandora. These resources gives you the ability to find out about new artists as well as find similar music that have the same vibe or sound of a song you were looking at originally. If you have older siblings that are really into music use them. Don’t get stuck in the pop culture world when there are so many other artists to discover like alternative groups such as Sleeping At Last, PVRIS, and State Champs; all who have great songs for contemporary or lyrical routines. Look into songs that music publications are writing about such as Rolling Stone, Billboard, or Alternative Press. Be bold. Be brave. And stop caring so much about what your friends are going to think if you don’t pick the new One Direction song or Little Mix single as your solo music. As Dr. Seuss says, “Why fit in when you were born to stand out.”