It is hard to tell a student she is not ready for the next level of study—even harder if I know the student will see that her peers are advancing. But I simply will not promote a student when she is not ready. That would be unethical on my part and dangerous for the student.
Through my research with dance school owners, I’ve discovered that it is not uncommon for their businesses to have up to a 30 percent turnover of students from year to year. Looking deeper, I discovered that a large number of that 30 percent are recreational and preschool-age students—which means that not only are school owners losing students; they’re losing the very children who are the financial lifeblood of the school. When those numbers dwindle, the future looks a bit gloomy.
I have been a dance teacher for more than 40 years and have run a dance studio for 35 years. But when I was a little girl, growing up first in the Harlem projects, then in the Bronx, I could never have imagined such a life for myself.
Although I discourage using the word “lose,” it’s the best way to make my point. Some of the smartest and brightest people got that way from losing many of their battles. We learn from the losing process or by not getting what we want. It’s how we improve ourselves.
When I do my seminars, I always ask, “How many of you were the best dancer in your class?” In groups as large as 500, only one or two people raise their hands, and sometimes no one does.
I’ve discovered a trend. It’s a growing disconnect between what’s said and what’s done. The frustration that arises among teachers and school owners stems from students and parents who feel that they don’t have to abide by the policies or rules set forth by their dance school, that they, or their situations, are exceptions to the rules
Each week her dance teacher makes a snide remark that duplicates the atmosphere she has at home. She becomes even more intimidated, thinking that her dance teacher doesn’t like her. Even worse, she tells herself, “I stink at dance, too!” Before long she drops out of dance. Why go to dancing school to be berated when you can get that at home?
“You’re an artistic genius! How do you come up with an idea like that?” “Motivated to be different” is the motto of the teacher who choreographed the piece that everyone is raving about. She’s the one who doesn’t want to be like anyone else or follow the current trends in choreography.
TEACHERS: Great choreography isn’t about emulating the latest trend or the award you may win. Greatness is present in the choreographer who has the ability to make every dancer look good (and feel confident) regardless of the skill level of the students. You accomplish this by creating works in which the audience can’t tell the difference between the strongest and the “not as strong” students because of your genius choreography. Have a great day–Rhee
As a teenager, I remember overhearing a group of dance teachers at a dance convention get all fired up about the recent rumor they had heard about another dance teacher (who was not there, of course).