by Rhee Gold
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). Some shook their heads in disgust; others had that look of “I shouldn’t be listening to this, but I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else right now.” I watched them head off to spread the word until everyone in the room seemed to know that Mary Jane’s husband had taken off with her studio funds and that she might not be able to afford to reopen her school. Or at least that’s the way I heard it.
As my mother and I were driving home, another dance teacher we carpooled with said to my mother, “Did you hear that Mary Jane is on drugs and is about to lose her school because of it?” I said nothing then, but later I told my mother what I had heard. Her response: “Forget about it—you should hear what they say about me!” She added, “I was too busy taking class to listen to the rumor mill.” Those words have always stuck in my mind because I was surprised that she didn’t care to know about other people’s problems, nor what others said about her. That was the message she wanted me to get—but I had, in fact, seen my mother cry about some of the rumors dance people had spread about her.
Not too long ago I received a phone call from an old friend I hadn’t heard from in years. I was excited to hear from him and anxious to find out what was going on in his life. But I never had the chance to ask. For two hours he ripped apart a mutual dance friend, whom I had known only as his best friend. The rumors, judgments, and accusations crushed me, but I let him rant. I didn’t know how to react. I did ask him if he was dancing and he told me that he was working at Starbucks because he hadn’t had a dance job in more than a year.
After the call I felt terrible, not only because I had heard such horrific tales about someone I cared about, but because my old friend was obsessed with his feelings. Here he was spending two hours on the phone on this rampage, when he could have spent that time looking into auditions or teaching opportunities or taking a class.
My thoughts went back to the Mary Jane rumor from many years ago. There was another lesson, one that had taken 30 years to hit me: My mother was too busy taking class to give an iota about gossip. That’s what made her such a success. She had no time for anything but becoming better at what she did and taking a smidge of time to live the “normal” life.
If I had my way I would like to declare the dance world a no-gossip zone. Imagine the collective success our dance community would experience if we all stayed focused on being the best we can be. By the way, Mary Jane has been happily married to her husband for 43 years and he never did take off with the studio funds. The real story was that a parent at the studio stole $50 from the cash box!