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Okay, this is my intro post, asking for advice on a situation that has been building. It is long and rambling. You have been warned...

I started dance late, progressed rapidly enough(to the point of supervised teaching of basic and beginning courses, semi-professional performances, choreography, etc.), and then had to take some time off to finish my schooling. While I wasn't away for long, it was sufficient for my body to forget everything, and I am now at the beginning of my 3rd year "starting over." However, I am still relatively young in non-dancer years(26), and I did manage to retain a lot of the mental things that go into making a dancer: history, common corrections, getting the most out of class, etc. I am able to remember combinations that I did in classes 10 years ago, though I cannot necessarily do all of them.

I am also a returned student, and this semester I took class with the school's only ballet instructor. I had taken her before, and decided that she did not have what I needed, but this semester I happened to need an extra unit, and I figured that her class was basic enough that I couldn't really get a poor grade, and it certainly couldn't hurt to work on my balance or port de bras in a slower-paced class. I certainly don't hold myself out as an advanced dancer at this point, but I am ahead of most of her other students.

The problem I am having though, is that once the midterms were over, she decided that I cannot do anything correctly, to the point that she asks me to sit out most of her moving combinations. That in itself does not really bother me; I know, objectively speaking, that I am one of the more advanced dancers in her class, with a more varied and stage-experienced background than she can provide, and my classmates often ask me after class if I was able to spot anything that they could do better, while I was watching and "learning the combination." I loved teaching before, and would love to begin teaching again, when I have again reached an appropriate level and can find a suitably supervised situation. What is bothering me is that when she does correct me, her corrections are either vague("You don't know what you're doing. Do it again."), or just flat-out wrong. Last week in class, I asked her a specific question about the supporting leg. I have been working with another teacher on the same problem, and I know that the solution does not have very much to do with the turnout of my working leg. She immediately attempted to manually correct the turnout of my working leg, which ended up torquing my hips. It...hurt. When I told her that it hurt, and to please not touch me, and that I was asking a question about my -supporting- leg, she said, "Well, you don't have 180-degree turnout and you never will. That's what hurts." I went into a retire in perfect turnout(one of the things I kept :) ) and told her that I wished she would SEE the person in front of her before making these declarations, and that it would be wonderful if she would help me to use the turnout that I -do- have, by not ignoring the question that I asked. She ignored me, and class moved on(though at the next class, she made a point of reminding me that I "only have 120-degree turnout").

Having the background that I do, having studied in-depth(making up for lost time) with master teachers, and now continuing to work with other teachers, I know enough to keep myself from being hurt again. The problem, though, is that I also see her making these kinds of blanket declarations to other dancers, who are unable to separate out the useful part of the correction from the harmful part, and who complain to me after class that they hurt more after trying to apply her corrections. She also yells at dancers for even attempting to clarify what she means by a given correction(she is past the point where this kind of behavior would signify an inexperienced teacher feeling anxious). While I certainly will never take her class again, and am considering a letter to the president of the college(she is head of the dance department, by default), I am wondering how far it is appropriate to go in class when you see other dancers being hurt. I was trained in the proper etiquette of never questioning, and certainly never yelling at, a teacher in class, but even telling her you don't understand what a correction means, ends up taking it to that level. I hate to see her not only taking the joy away from her beginning dancers who are working hard before, during, and after class(with me), but actually having to stand by while she gives a correction to someone which I know is harmful and incorrect. I don't quite believe that it is ever correct to flatly contradict a teacher in class(I would have never stood for that), but the dancers who work with me after class are figuring out on their own that my way of working, which they admire much more, departs in significant ways from what we did in class. The crux of my question(finally!) is this: how do you let dancers know that they are being hurt, and it does not have to be that way? Is it ever correct to say, in class or out, that a teacher is incompetent, or that students need to try different teachers? When diplomacy fails, do you need to become more direct, or just let the inexperienced people take their lumps and figure it out on their own, while you move on? Or, what I'm afraid of doing, am I setting myself up too high by being concerned about what the other students are getting out of the class?

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Hi, latindancerguy, and welcome to Ballet Talk for Dancers at Ballet Alert! Online! :thumbsup:


My gosh, so many questions and delicate situations in one post! No wonder you feel that you need advice! Let me congratulate you though, in clearly setting up all the dynamics at work in this question! :)


The short answer is, while you are there, you must not undermine the authority of the teacher her own school, whether it be an independent one or part of a college program. If you are on the outside, you may damn to your heart's content, but while on the inside, you must keep your own counsel and work on whatever is given you.


I would suggest, although I don't know where you are, finding a different teacher or school outside of the college where you can receive training as good as or better than that which you are now getting, since it seems to be unsatisfactory to you.


Good luck!

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I notice you're in California so, presuming you're in one of the major cities, you're lucky. Dance classes for adults should not be terribly difficult to find elsewhere. You don't need to rely on this one teacher to train you properly. That goes for the other students as well. If they want to pursue dance seriously, they can and should look for better instruction outside of that college.


Frankly, it sounds as if your teacher is not really a teacher at all. It sounds as if she's abusive toward her students and does not have the background to know how to adaquetely correct them. Telling someone they have no idea what they're doing without offering to correct them or show them how its done, especially doing so in an abrupt manner in a room full of people is a true sign of a non-professional. And, chances are good she's caught on to your discussions/corrections after class to other students. If she has, she's well in her right to feel upset toward you, but that does not excuse unprofessional behavior in a classroom (not to mention the potential for law suits when a student explicitly tells the teacher not to touch them).


Ignore her, finish class and forget about it. People have it in their power to change their situation. If the other students feel they are not getting what they want out of the class, it's up to them to either find a class on the outside that fills thier needs or to complain about the teacher to the appropriate parties on campus.


Reality is there are lots of "dance teachers" out there who are not very good. Just because someone was a good or even great dancer does not automatically make them a good teacher. Teaching and being able to correct people is really an art unto itself.

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If you are not learning anything in the class, don't go. Corrections are critical to a dancer's improvement. Bad correctiosn are worse than none. A teacher needs to explain their corrections in simple english/spanish/croation/vernacular. I'm a big fan of corrections like "straighten your knee, Mike."

Some teachers will give general corrections to everyone, and I don't know if it is me or others in the classroom (usually others). I end up over-doing the correction to let the teacher know I am listening, it usually makes things worse. I always let the teacher know I want corrections, and they usually give excellent feedback.



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You are well within your rights (since this is a college class) after all is said and done to write a letter of complaint to the powers that be and let them know your feelings on the matter. :thumbsup:

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Kids cannot always choose their teachers, and so I feel they have a bit more leeway here... however, as adult students, I think most of us are in a particular class because we choose to be there. In such a situation, I feel that if you call a teacher whose classes you still intend to take a bad and incompetent one, you are also calling yourself an injudicious fool - for if the teacher is so bad, and you know it, why on Earth are you going there?


And yes, I think it is definitely acceptable that students who stop taking classes let the teacher, the other students, and the school / department / whatever know their reason to do so. In the case of a bad or even dangerous teacher, I even think it is almost a duty to let the appropriate parties know!


(Expressing teacher preferences is of course always ok - I mean opinions like "I don't particularly care for Ms. X's combinations" or "I wish Mr. Y would give more adagio" or "I prefer Ms. Z over the other teachers here cause she concentrates more on basic technique". But that's a different matter altogether.)

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However, a university setting seems to be in place here, and when you're in that situation, finish the term, get your mark, but don't go back to that teacher.

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Mel's right. I once spouted off at a teacher in a class before the term was over. It felt great at the time but I paid for it. I'm normally an "A" student in English. Try as I might, I couldn't get about a "C" the rest of the term. :rolleyes:


Ah, but looking back, it was sooooo worth it :pinch:

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Wow...thanks, everyone for your excellent feedback, and for reading all that! I guess I was not particularly clear on some things: yes, this is a college course and I'm stuck for another month; my GPA at this point is quite irrelevant to me, but I do need to pass the course; and I am currently taking class with other qualified teachers at private studios. My work with these other excellent teachers is what led me to ask the particular question I asked this teacher about my supporting leg, and to know with certainty that the correction I was given was not applicable. It did feel good to vent to the understanding souls on here, as these events are quite fresh in my mind, and in these situations I am never quite sure of the balance between asking for responsible instruction, and of "acting young." In any event, I made a mistake taking a course from a teacher whom I knew to be unhelpful(though she wasn't quite so bad before), and my goal now is to make it through five more weeks without getting kicked out of class or getting injured, thereby compounding my error. I know it's not as long as it feels right now. I am seeing, as well, some value in Avalon's reply to Scoop's thread right before this one("the horror"): there may be other dancers there who ARE getting something out of class and who don't understand why I get stuck on something that is not a problem for them. I'm just not one of those dancers. My teacher has chosen, for whatever reason, to push me in ways that she does not push some of her other students. Perhaps I should feel flattered... My letter of complaint still stands; apart from the quality of teaching, our studio has a dangerously, unevenly, slippery floor(walking on it is dangerous, let alone jumps and turns). In the meantime, I have several classmates who have expressed quite an interest in taking class from me, whenever I am ready to return in that capacity. It is quite exciting to me to think how much better these dancers could become with a teacher(not necessarily myself) who is prepared to be responsive to them as individuals, and a stimulus for me to get to work on myself and my own technique, so that I can become that kind of teacher. In the meantime, I will continue to recommend qualified instructors to those who ask.

Edited by latindancerguy
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Well, yes, if that extra credit is such that it is impossible to drop the course now, then the situation is a bit different. Sorry, I should have paid more attention to that to begin with.

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Guest dances4fun

I'm having a very similar problem to yours at my university class as well! It's so frustrating. I'm just trying to survive the class at this point. I've been going to some ballet classes at a studio again...it feels so good to be back! I'm being pushed a lot more in the studio class in comparison to the class at the university.


latindancerguy: how many are in your university class? I have about 40 in mine! I wish that I would have taken the intermediate class instead of the beginning one. We haven't even done chaine turns!

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Class size is decent, about 20 in Beginning and 15 in Intermediate, which translate to studio-level Basic and Beginning, respectively. As with any other course, class size continues dwindling as the term winds up.

One bit of encouraging news: the school is reviewing candidates for a new position, so that this teacher won't be the only one teaching ballet. Hopefully, she will be able to set aside her dogmatic ways enough to enable her to select someone with an approach different from her own. Keeping fingers crossed, for the sake of those who follow me...

Edited by latindancerguy
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I've kept out of this discussion so far, because obviously you have some genuine issues about the teaching in this class. But I'd like to offer a point of view from the college lecturer position. Sometimes, the experiences of teaching and learning are very separate! Bad teaching doesn't always result in ineffective learning, and conversely if students aren't involved actively in their learning, then the best teaching in the world won't help! This may seem a teacher's cop-out, but reflecting on my own undergraduate years, I realise that sometimes it took a lot of time (way past the end of particular individual semester courses) to really absorb what I was being taught ie to really LEARN.


From a professional point of view (both you as a professional-in-training and the teacher) you should find out what procedures your college has for giving feedback to its teachers. It is really important to do this in the right way, which maintains respect for both yours and the teacher's points of view. You have to assume your teacher knows what she's doing, even if you feel what she's doing is wrong.


I'm speaking here as a university lecturer myself (in performing arts, but not dance) and here in the UK we have a number of ways you could do something about your sense of the unsatisfactory nature of the teaching. You could speak in confidence to the head of department or school or Dean of the Faculty. As lecturers in the UK we invite formal feedback from our students at the end of every course, and publicly accountable for how we respond to it. But the students have a responsibility to offer constructive feedback in a way which respects our expertise as well as their experience as learners. Does your college have a student representative body? They may have a student officer who can listen to your concerns and pass them on in a useful way.


But I think what you can't do is undermine the teacher overtly by correcting or coaching students outside of the studio - you're doing the class as a student, and whatever you feel about the teacher. she was appointed by your college with, I assume, the proper procedures of checking qualifications & experience. If you outline your concerns in a constructive and balanced way (as you've done here), but do it through official channels, then I'm sure the people who have the power to change things will listen. Certainly, that would be the case in the UK!


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At the risk of sounding like a politician, I'll throw in some more clarification...

The teacher does encourage us to practice with, and learn from, each other. She probably just did not have me in mind as one of the more active practice leaders, and I certainly would not, at this point, be advertising myself as her competition. I'm not sure that she even realizes how much time her students are putting in after class. My classmates just gravitate towards me. :)

Seriously, though, I never set myself up as a teacher in this class. We just have informal practice sessions after class where we go over the combinations, and I might show a simplified version of something from one of my other teachers(some of my classmates and I have mutual teachers at other studios). Some of my classmates know my background or have seen me in performance, and others quickly recognized some dramatic benefits from my suggestions, and my little group just keeps growing. Ironically, the more the teacher tells me how horribly I dance and how I can't get anything right, the more my classmates tell me how wonderfully I dance, and how they want to dance the way I do. Reverse psychology at work...Even last week, when I landed on my back(that miserable floor!), they all admired the way I rose from the floor. Very supportive people.

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Some people just attract other people; it's a fact of human relations and dynamics. You're fortunate that people congregate about you, but it also puts on you a serious responsibility to make sure that you have the very best information to pass along to your colleagues. From the sound of things, it seems that you are in a rather wholesome environment for study, with lots of peer support. :)

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