Last week I watched a news segment about a city trying to pass a law to make bullying a criminal offense. The law was not approved but it did get me wondering about bullying in the dance studio environment.
The first thought I had was “there’s no bullying in dance.” After all, dancers are trained in self control, poise, working together, and professionalism. They don’t bully.
Then reality set in. All kids can be mean, dance students included. They may not physically bully but I know their mouths are very strong weapons. There were many times I came home crushed from dance class over what a fellow ballerina had said to, or about, me. Dance is competitive and some dancers will do or say anything to get an upper hand over their fellow classmates.
So what are we dance teachers supposed to do to curb bullying in our classes and at our studio?
Set a high standard for your dancers.
Expect them to not only dance their best, but to also behave their best while in the studio.
Use constructive vocabulary in your classes that does not degrade or belittle students.
In a positive learning environment, your students will feel safe to try, to succeed, and to fail. As teachers, we set the tone for the classroom so we are in control over what words are acceptable or not.
Help build your student’s self esteem and self respect.
Let them know how important, courageous, smart, talented, or caring you think each one of them is and remind them often. Teachers words carry a lot of weight with dance students, so any positive remark or encouragement you give, can lessen or take away the sting of a classmate’s mean comment.
Practice zero tolerance.
As soon as you hear mean words, see rude faces being made, or witness unnecessary roughness, nip it in the bud immediately. The unruly dancer, or dancers, must know immediately their behavior is unacceptable. This will also set an example to the other students what is not tolerated in your classes. If you keep having issues with a particular dancer, I encourage you to talk with their parents. With you and the parents working together, it might be easier to help this student with their behavioral issues.
In reality, kids will be mean and unkind things will happen. We can’t shield our students from every degrading word or action, but we as teachers can help control the frequency, severity, intensity, and damage by staying alert and diligent.
We all want our studio to be a safe environment for our students – where learning, growing, and studying can take place without persecution or pain. Let’s commit to keep our studios safe for our dancers.
Have you had to solve any bullying issues while teaching dance? Please share so we can all learn tips and techniques to stop bullying before it starts.
Until next time, teach, inspire, and grow.
About LanaLana Brooks is a mother of two and certified in the American Ballet Theatre National Training Curriculum. She is currently a ballet instructor at Southland Ballet Academy with over 10 years of professional performing experience and 10 years of teaching experience. Ms. Brooks' students have been finalists and semi-finalists in Youth American Grand Prix, LA Music Center Spotlight Awards, and the Orange County Performing Arts Center "Stars of Tomorrow" competitions and some have gone on to dance in ballet companies nationwide. She has received extensive training from the Orange County Performing Arts Center "From the Center" program for community and student outreach and has helped develop assembly programs that bring dance and arts education to Southern California schools.
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