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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Studio Gossip


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I'm sure this topic has been spoken about before but I feel a needed resurrection is at hand.

 

Because I started ballet as an adult I have not had the painful experiences of being the source of gossip at a studio. Well, perhaps I have and didn't know it but I'm now old enough and confident enough that I don't really care. But I wonder how I would have felt in my younger, more insecure teenage days, had my ballet technique and strengths been scrutinized verbally by the other moms watching from the waiting room? I'm not the best dancer by any means but I love what I do. I would have been hurt deeply if I had heard the waiting area gossip, moms comparing their daughters with each other and criticizing how well so and so points or gets over her shoes, whether she is using the pointe shoes she should be...etc. Sometimes I hear people talk about things like that about other people and it makes me feel sad. Worse, when a student says this about another student. It is just not appropriate to voice negative opinions about other people in a public place, even if we think our opinions are valid. A person may be right, but they are not in the right when they gossip about others.

 

Every once in a while I even hear opinions on these forums that has a hint of that same spirit, albeit a little more anonymously spoken. It's not often, though, for which I'm glad. But I still hear "I know a dancer in our studio who... (insert criticism)...". Since nowone will know who we are talking about it seems perfectly appropriate to list our critiques of them without fear of repercussion. It's like wearing a mask makes it easier to say what we want. It is still us saying it and it is still others hearing it, the two are just not face to face. And I just don't understand how having that kind of conversation helps anyone out except to boost up one's own personal opinion of themselves as being better by knocking someone else's faults. Whether it is online or in the studio.

 

The same is not true about actually trying to solve a problem in which you are involved. If it is your own daughter, son, or student (or yourself) that needs technical help, then criticizing is really just assessing one's abilities so that you can find a positive solution. The difference is that it is within ones own realm of reasonable authority and control and there is a [/i]moving towards solution in the dialogue shared.

 

Just something I'm feeling strongly about right now. Not really a big problem on the Ballet Alert forums at all, but still applicable at times. Any thoughts on that? Or anyone who has been hurt by gossip and want to share?

 

Candi

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Whenever someone is involved in an activity that takes so much time and dedication, comparison to others in that field is unavoidable. I used to be very competitive in whatever I did, and I still sometimes compare myself (in my mind) to other people, though I try very hard not to. It's all part of the competitive atmosphere, the idea that "If I put so much love and work into this, I want to - or should - be the best."

 

I guess some people just have more sense than others in trying to suppress their criticisms :)

 

Do you find it ok for onlooker to compare dancers but say complimentary things? Or do you just not agree with the idea about talking about a dancer?

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spinbug ~ LaMusicienne

 

Both of you have made valid points. Dance is an inherently visual art, so comparisons will come with the territory particularly with the added dimension of competition among dancers. Outside observers (whether parents or audience members) will also have comparative discussions.

 

In an ideal world, people would keep negative comments to themselves. We don't live in an ideal world so all we can do is our personal best and hope others will do the same. We can discourage the gossip from continuing by not participating in it. Even well-intentioned comments can be taken very personally and be hurtful. One just never knows...

 

It is sad to hear purposely blatant, cutting remarks. I know that there are conduct rules at my daughter's studio but since there isn't any actual "gossip legislation," it unfortunately happens and is not addressed. I suppose the other sad piece is that this happens everywhere (even though it is wrong). That said, I have taught my daughter not to behave this way and have encouraged her to let things roll off her back (easier said than done, I know). She is a dancer, though, and she does compare herself to others. She does this to pinpoint her strengths and weaknesses. Rather than allow her to critique others in a completely negative way, I always ask her what their strengths are and how she can learn from them.

 

This is a tough one spinbug as we can't control another's conversations. It really comes down to personal ethics.

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Doesn't the place where this is happening also make a difference? A dancer's public performance is open to criticism (whether positive or negative) simply because it is a public performance, while class/studio is a place to learn, stretch, try different things, try things that are beyond one's level. It seems that a studio should be a safe place for that. While dancers may happen to be on display in class, they aren't displaying themselves in a the same way.

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Unfortunetly, this happens. In ballet as well as life in general. It is a natural response to compare ourselves to others, and all of us critique everyone in our own heads to a certain extent. It is our decision weather or not we want to have open discussion about it with others. Is it necessary? No. I feel that ballet is one of those things where there is "no hiding." Meaning, everyone knows how good everyone is. I feel that the people that gossip negitively about others are people who are probably very unconfident in their own dancing and do it to make themselves feel better. It hurts when someone gossips about you, but I find it best to not take it so personally. Usually, it's the gossiper using you as a means to feel better about themselves.

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I think one has to look at how it is meant. The parents at my daughter's studio don't seem to talk about ballet at all, except perhaps informational stuff like who is having a sale on leos, etc. However, at her softball practices and games the parents do compare abilities and techniques. Who has the best swing, who made the best plays at first base, who still flinches away from catching the ball. My daughter is a pretty good player, but she isn't the best at everything, and there are areas where she definately needs work. I don't take any offence at the observations because first of all, it isn't malicious. Comments are made in front of parents rather than behind someone's back. Also, there are just as many positive remarks made as negative; afterall, everyone has both strengths and weaknesses. I guess I wouldn't expect any of the 8 year old rookie league girls to be experts any more than I would expect them to be dancing on a professional level. Of course they're not perfect yet! It dosen't offend me to have someone notice that. To me it just seems like a group of parents who are interested in their children's developement and who notice differences among an otherwise similar group of kids. That is one of the fascinating things about watching a group develop. We are all different and we will all learn, improve, and develope differently.

 

Of course, if comments are always negative and the strengths are never mentioned, or if things are being said to deliberately hurt and offend, then that is very different. I hope the remarks you have heard spinbug, were not meant to denigrate or hurt the students.

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Doesn't the place where this is happening also make a difference? A dancer's public performance is open to criticism (whether positive or negative) simply because it is a public performance, while class/studio is a place to learn, stretch, try different things, try things that are beyond one's level. It seems that a studio should be a safe place for that. While dancers may happen to be on display in class, they aren't displaying themselves in a the same way.

 

Good point! I, myself, tend to be a very analytical person, which is why I also like ballet so much. My nature in that way helps me tremendously. But don't ever sit next to me during a ballet performance because I'll be leaning over and describing what the dancer just did and how it wasn't just perfect and also how beautiful and difficult, etc. I'm working on that habit of mine, with my husband's enduring patience. :blushing:

In the long run, though, the audience really is an authority. So I agree. The dancers are performing for us, to move us and inspire us. We should be able to say whether that was accomplished or not. We are not a separate entity from the performance. Not that we are encompassed by it but we are definitely affected by it. That also means that we are in relationship with the performance and the dancers during the duration and so expressing our impressions are acting within the parameters of what that relationship is all about. BUT we are expressing our impressions, something from within us! We are not insulting the dancers or people themselves. I can say that I didn't enjoy the performance very much because I think the dancers were not very inspiring in their expressions, or technical abilities, etc. But it's another matter talking about how the dancer during the __(blank)________couldn't point her foot to save her life!

 

One must never be rude and insult a particular dancers negative attributes. :angry: That's not acting positively within a relationship but rather causing injury to it, even if that relationship only lasted the two hours we were sitting in the audience watching.

 

Candi

 

 

 

By the way, I don't ever recall anyone else talking negative about my physical attributes and I'm at a stage in my life where I could probably ignore it, especially if I didn't care much about their opinion anyways. But, I know of others who have been very hurt and I've heard lots of nasty things said that would have been better left in their head.

 

It definitely is a good skill to have a thick skin!

 

Candi

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"Doesn't the place where this is happening also make a difference?..... while class/studio is a place to learn, stretch, try different things, try things that are beyond one's level. It seems that a studio should be a safe place for that. "

 

I am not aware - being an adult - but do parents normally watch? I thought that it was not normally allowed - and that this is one of the reasons.

 

Jim.

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There are studios that have large viewing windows and instructors use their own discretion as to whether they want to draw a curtain across the windows. Some studios are without windows and classes may be conducted behind closed doors.

 

Some parents choose to stay (particularly those of very young students), others leave and those of older students generally don't go to the studio at all (unless asked in for a conference).

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Guest pink tights

Jim--some parents will always find a way to watch! And the waiting room conversations can turn ugly. Some are masters of the compli-sult.

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Knock, knock - mom of a DD. This definitely has happened at every studio my DD has attended, to a lesser or greater extent. I've had excellent success with saying, as I pass the nay-sayers, a version of "that's my child" or "my niece" or "my DD's good friend" (even if not technically "true") usually shuts them up and embarasses the heck out of them. It's always fine to say "I'm uncomfortable with you saying negative things about the students", or even, if you aren't comfortable speaking up, standing near them quietly for a while and watching the kids. Usually, they back off. If they continue yakking, try "They are just all so lovely. I'm impressed by their hard work and positive attitudes." There are always a few who will continue being ugly. Nothing you can do. My DD says that helps develop the necessary calluses on your soul to continue dancing pain-free.

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