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  1. #1
    Member Bast's Avatar
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    Default Class etiquette and pecking order..advice please

    I have found myself in a bit of a tricky situation and I'm hoping some more experienced dancers could give me some advice.

    I started in a beginner class last September and was put into the intermediate group in march this year. I was so worried about not being good enough and letting down the class that i practiced heaps.

    We all have an important performance at the end of the month which the whole group is doing but there is also a performance next week.

    I have two problems, the first is my teacher put me in the front next to her and sent one of the more established dancers to the back row. There was some discussion about this as she was in the front row the week before. I spoke up for her saying she had come to extra rehearsal and was in the front last week. My teacher was quite harsh about this girl's technique in front of the rest of us and said that she never did put her in the front.

    I felt really embarrassed as I am new to the class and feel my place should be behind the more experienced dancers.

    The second part is that my teacher decided to chose only two girls to dance with her next week, myself and one other girl. The other girl can't do it.
    I'm terrified as I have never performed before but want to do it as it would be great to get the nerves out before our important performance later on and don't wan't to let my teacher down. BUT I'm worried about stepping on the toes of the other girls who have been there much longer than me.

    I really like this group and don't want to get on their bad side but I also don't want let my teacher down my not doing the dance.

    Any advice would be much appreciated, I'm just not sure how I should handle this.

  2. #2
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    Default Class etiquette

    I'm sorry to hear you are in that situation. You should consider talking to your instructor and explain you don't want to cause any conflicts between you and the other student(s) because you want to have friendships in your class. Hopefully she'll understand that you appreciate she noticed you are doing well in class but at this point don't feel comfortable performing next to her and bumping her other students aside- which could cause resentments. Suzara

  3. #3
    Moderator Farasha Hanem's Avatar
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    I agree with Suzara. If your teacher is the right kind of person, she will listen to your concerns. Be as kind, respectful, and polite as possible when discussing the situation with her. If she doesn't listen to you, you might want to consider finding another teacher. You should never be made to feel uncomfortable, nor should you feel obligated to dance in public until you feel you're ready. I hope everything works out for you.

  4. #4
    Member Bast's Avatar
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    Thank you both for your replies. I rang my teacher and she was very understanding and said she would look at including more dancers at the next rehearsal. If still none are chosen, I won't do the dance. I value my friendship with the group more than the opportunity to perform.

  5. #5
    Moderator Farasha Hanem's Avatar
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    I'm so glad everything worked out! Here's to a long and happy association with your teacher and your dance sisters! I agree with you, relationships are more important; there will be plenty of opportunities to perform. Much better to have the reputation of being a warm, genuine, caring person than a stage diva. Warm wishes sent your way! *hugs!*

  6. #6
    V.I.P. lizaj's Avatar
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    In the final analysis, who is in charge of the class and their performnce. Teachers should not let themselves be dictated to by thier students..there lies chaos. On the other hand a teacher should be able to justify her decisions, they should seem reasonable an she should be open to suggestion. The final decision though should be hers or at least be accepted as such.

  7. #7
    Member Samira bint Aya's Avatar
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    I can empathize with your situation Bast, but there is something in this discussion which bothers me…

    I don’t understand why you should feel worried that your teacher chose you, and anticipate other dancer’s jealousy. Why should you – or anyone – rub their dance sisters in the wrong way because they dance in the front row? Why should your older dance sisters feel more entitled to it?

    From reading your posts, I got the feeling that there is something very wrong with this group’s dance “culture”, or pecking order, as you put it.

    I joined a group of more advanced dancers than me, earlier last year, and I felt very timid at first. I have danced in the front row, in the back row, anywhere that the troupe leader will place me. And I have decided there is no value in trying to see how I compare to others.

    Our dance ability is not at the forefront of our relationships. Exploring this dance in our own individual ways, and working hard as a group to create something together is more important.

  8. #8
    Member Bast's Avatar
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    It turns out it was all in my head, most likely a left over from my early experiences in an awful jazz ballet class.
    I had a chat to the girls about it and they were nothing but supportive, and it looks like a couple of them will join in the other performance.
    I am really lucky to be with such a genuine and lovely group of people

  9. #9
    V.I.P. PracticalDancer's Avatar
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    Bast,

    There are lots of things that could be going on here. I am hesitant to speculate as to the true motivation; but, you have known this teacher for about a year now, so perhaps you can evaluate what is happening based on these ideas.

    There are both positive and negative reasons why teachers / artistic directors place dancers in a certain spot.

    Reasons based on positive intentions:
    1. Make sure everyone can be seen (usually indicated by short up front, tall in back)
    2. Balance the "look" of the group (can be body type, costuming, or hair color -- may not want all the blondes clumped in a corner)
    3. Balance the talent of the group (so that some dancers can "see" another to queue off of OR so that dancers "blend" better -- my understanding is that choir directors do this with voices, for example.)
    4. Leverage skills and minimize limitations (does the end require that front row dancers drop to the floor? bad backs and knees will then need to be in the back row, so that those dancers do not injure themselves or their pride.)
    5. Staging (some staging techniques mean that certain dancers have to do "more" to get from point A to point B, or to learn more complicated movements. perhaps there is one part where Suzy Q just knocks out a move and needs to be front and center. or, best yet, allowing the performers to rotate so that everyone gets their turn.)

    Reasons based on negative intentions:
    1. To manipulate members of the group (can have a variety of motivations and occur in a variety of ways, including the other reasons listed below. this is basically the "power trip" for the teacher. if you suspect this in the slightest, get another teacher pronto! dance should be a healthy comfort to you, not something that someone else uses to marginalize you or torment you.)
    2. To make the teacher look good (by placing "bad" dancers near her and hiding true talent.)
    3. To make others look bad (by intentionally putting a weak dancer in the spotlight and letting the train wreck occur.)

    There are other reasons that are a bit "neutral" but could turn either way -- your teacher may not have really decided what she wants. She may have forgotten her reason or re-thought it. She may not really care.

    Again, consider these reasons with caution. As Liza so wisely put it, it is HER number and HER call. Openly questioning her motivation will easily irritate her if her reasons are negative, may "weaken" her and push her into a negative space if she is using a "neutral" motivation, and will only teach you something important about staging if a) she is a strong teacher committed to really giving rounded instruction and b) she is coming from a place of positive intent. Before asking openly, observe the overall dynamics, listen to your gut, and then ask only if you can build a positive mentoring relationship with her first.

    Good luck, dear!

    Regards,

    Anala

  10. #10
    V.I.P. Jane's Avatar
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    Anala made very good points about staging. A choreographer placing dancers on the stage has a lot of decisions to make. I strategically place dancers who memorize choreography the best, not necessarily with the best technique or stage presence, in a few spots where they can be seen and cued off from different vantage points.

    I also use height to place people when in straight line style formations. For horizontal lines, I generally stick the tallest person in the middle and put descending heights out to each side. Lines of dancers on a diag. i.e. up right to down left, I put the tallest dancer in the back. Other things can factor in, but I think this is pretty standard.

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