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labrador

Racism in the Studio

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labrador

I am not sure how much information I want to share at this time. I am the mother of two aspiring brown dancers. I am suspecting DD just encountered racism on the part of the principal of a ballet school affiliated with a respectable company. 

I would appreciate any bit of wisdom from anyone else here who has weathered a similar challenge. 

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Bavalay

Hi Labrador.  This is my first post and I am a bit nervous, yet compelled to respond as a biracial mom with a DD12 of color.  Short answer: yes.  I have seen racism directed towards her from a teacher.  The ballet world is no different from society; and no matter how talented one is, there will always be underlying prejudice oozing from someone.  The question then becomes, what do you do to keep your dancing kids self esteem intact and reaching for their dreams?  How do you train them to still learn from those in question and let the subtle slights roll off like oil?  These are the things I have been working on for my children since birth.  I hope this helps--and I have made assumptions as there was not much to respond to but I suspect...keep your head up and twirl (pirouette) on.

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labrador

Thank you, Bavalay.

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Bavalay

Certainly Labrador.  I'm curious if your DD noticed.  As a mom I think I feel racism more deeply when it is aimed at my child.  She usually smiles and keeps it moving--she has places to go and it doesn't involve nasty, jealous people.  I hope your girls do the same.

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labrador

Bavalay, DD is hurt and keeps it inside. My concern is whether to confront what feels like subcurrent racism or wait until I see something outright and full blown. Once I make a statement, I can’t walk it back easily.

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Bavalay

http://www.iabdassociation.org/page/Ballet

Labrador, you may already be aware of this association but wanted to share this as I know the ballet world has been working to address some issues you referred to by inclusion of dancers of all ethnicities.

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millvillemurphs

Labrador, I have no specific advice about the situation, since we know so little about it.  But my heart goes out to you and your DD as you are both struggling with your concerns.  The Parent/Teacher Conference Room thread is a little less public - perhaps you'd be more comfortable sharing some of the information there and using the members as a sounding board.

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Bavalay

Labrador, yikes.  I made the mistake of bringing issues to those in charge and the response I got was perhaps the place wasn't a good fit. I responded that the solution was not to leave but to work with all different types of teachers.  I stopped going into the facility to collect my child because I couldn't bear hearing or seeing it, or having my words twisted.  Based on my experiences I would not recommend bringing it up unless there are people versed in institutional racism that work there and can mediate.  People who say and do racialized things usually don't see it or even know they are participating in it.  Help your daughter with her hurt, focus on the positive including corrections; and when the dust settles you both can come to some decision as to how she feels about herself and your studio.  One person can do damage, but I bet there are many more who support and believe in your DD.

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labrador

Thank you, Bavalay. People who display racist attitudes indeed can be clueless that this is what they are doing. The banality of evil.

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Bavalay

Labrador, if you have end of year conferences, perhaps there would be a time to bring it to their attention in a way that would not make DD vulnerable (?), or put the school on the defensive.  Remove the emotion and people--keep the facts, words, and how it was interpreted.  Or with the passing of time this could be over and never be an issue again (one can dream!).

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labrador

Thank you, millvillenmurph. I’ll look it up.

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labrador

“Funny thing” Bavalay, the school’s conference is between the teachers and the students. Parents are not a party. They are not strictly prohibited but they are expected not to attend. 

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Bavalay

That's not very funny Labrador.  My DD studio has parent-teacher-student (and sometimes director too) conferences.  That way everyone can ask questions and hear progress, goals, and expectations.  But I think the older kids, say high school, often have them without parent unless it is requested.  It's kind of a vulnerable spot for young kids who are still learning how to communicate and advocate for themselves with adults.  I usually just sit and listen, support, and encourage DD to ask the questions she posed at home.

Edited by Bavalay

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labrador

I agree, Bavalay. Even a high schooler may appreciate just the supporting presence of an adult. It can be challenging even for a high schooler to be in a conference with multiple teachers. I hear and read a lot that dance teachers want parents to trust them. Trust is a relational concept, not a technical specification. There is a partnership between dance schools and students’ families. Partners need to ask for clarifications and redress of concerns.

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Bavalay

Yes indeed Labrador.  Not only that--kids sometime have selective hearing or start the dialogue of how mean or (insert insult here) the teacher was.  With a parent present they can correct misconceptions with their kid and/or clarify.  I am hoping that by Monday feathers have been smoothed and thar your DD has healed and proceeds with style and grace.  As I tell my DD, don't let anyone knock you off your square (or point shoes). Shine.

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