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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Studio Cliques?!?


dancingmom

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Hi! I was wondering if any parents have seen cliques form in their studio? Both my kids dance at a really good studio and I'd hate to move them to a new one but my daughter told me some of the girls in the cool clique are acting mean (calling each other names, making fun of each other, etc.) to her and other girls in the studio. What should I do? Should I took to the director about this?

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Unfortunately I think this has more to do with the age of the dancers. This is kind of the age that all the cliquey drama starts. BLECH

 

With my girls, it's been more productive to coach them in how to deal with this type of thing than it would be to move them to a new studio (and a new set of the same problems.)

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Cliques happen everywhere. This is the age for it and there is a lot of drama attached. However, moving studios won't change anything. There are always cliques, there are always mean girls in the cliques. Better to teach your daughters how to deal with with it. There is a great book called Cliques, Phonies and other Baloney published by Free Spirit Press. Its a really helpful primer for kids on what cliques are, why the kids in them act the way they do and how to be yourself.

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It's unlikely the teachers at the studio will be able to do anything about it. I too think it's best teaching your daughter to deal with it as she'll probably come across it several times in her life in different places.

 

I once had a very angry father on the phone to me asking me to discipline one of my students as apparently she was bullying his daughter - it turned out that she was just ignoring her and leaving her out of things as they weren't friends. She never actually said anything nasty. Anyway, I never saw any evidence of this as students don't talk in class anyway so I said there was really nothing I could do if it was happening in the changing room. Our policy is that once children are out of the studio they are not our responsibility anyway. I offered to say something in class generally about making sure you include everyone but he wasn't happy with that, he wanted me to tell off the girl directly and inform her parents. I wasn't prepared to do that so he withdrew his daughter from the school. No great loss anyway as she made no effort in class and the atmosphere totally changed (for the better) when she left!!

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I'm sorry,but I don't always agree with turning your head the other way.I know what it can do to a child,because it happened to my son when he was 12.He was the only boy in a group of all girls,and there was such a clique that made his life miserable at ballet.And sure,they don't do it in class,they're bright enough not to,but that doesn't mean it doesn't happen and it can ruin everything.My son ended up quitting ballet,tired of being called a loser,or have to be gay to do this,being laughed at constantly in the hallway by this clique.When I mentioned it to his teacher I got the same answer as CDR gave,that she couldn't do anything about it because it didn't happen in class.So I told him to ignore them,not to do anything back so they couldn't say it was his own fault,all the things I could think about,I tried.But at the end of the year,he finaly had enough and he quit.At that time,I got a phonecall from his teacher,how sorry she was to lose such a promissing dancer,and could I please convince him to come back,she would talk to the girls.But unfortunally,he realy had enough,he never went back.

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I don't necessarily think 'dealing with it' means turning your head the other way. That would probably be required to some extent but I also mean teaching your child to stand up for herself and find friends of her own so that she has support.

 

Where I have seen evidence of any unkindness e.g. hearing a student bragging to another about taking an exam when the other student isn't, I have always stepped in and often taken the unkind student aside and had words with them. It's just impossible to do anything other than speak to the class in general if the teacher hasn't witnessed any of the bullying. To accuse a student of something which may not be true is unfair.

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Cliques are here there and everywhere. This is the age where peer groups start really mixing it up. The advice above about teaching your child to deal with all kinds of personalities is great. My daughter is just moving out of this age bracket, and I have watched from the sidelines the good the bad and the ugly with lots of dancers (groups of girls BEST friends- then shunning certain girls from the group, lots of eye rolling, hurt feelings and now friends again- just not as close). I do have to say however- it has gotten significantly less lately as my daughter's peers are maturing a bit and "sorting out" their friends- and the group behind them is now exhibiting the same behavior.

 

But I truly believe that there is a difference between being the target of some slight "clique meaness" (eye rolling, being ignored etc) and bullying.

I say this because both situations have been mentioned above. Once the behavior crosses the line into bullying- then it is a different matter entirely.

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sometimes it's enough to make a statement in class that bullying is something that won't be accepted in the school,not in class,but also not in the school itself.That's what's being done in the school where my daughter transferred to,and I haven't heard any of the parents complaining of this problem,in comparrising to the previous school,where it was a huge problem,not only for my son,but also for every girl that they didn't like for whatever reason.

My daughter didn't have a problem with these girls,but still she likes this school a lot more because all the girls are focussing on dancing,and not on waisting their energy with being mean to eachother.

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As a parent of now older children, looking back, the clique's of my DD's life came and went, especially when kids felt threatened or potentially misplaced in the hierarchy of the class. One child was advanced quickly and it caused some resentment and much talking behind her back. It eventually stopped but those who viewed themselves as superior never stopped letting the rest know it. That little clique would probably exist today if any of them were still dancing, which they are not.

 

Cliques were and are always frowned upon but they still existed. Teachers can only do so much. As long as the meanness is kept at bay they can be looked upon as friendship groups. My DD's just befriended others who were not as 'perfect' as those of the ballet classes social elite. Bullying never really happened it was the superiority that got to my girls. They could have felt put down but they gained confidence in themselves and their dancing and knew where they stood in the class and it was not behind the 'clique' girls and those poor insecure kids knew it. They needed each other to feel the best. For the most part meanness was avoided and my girls never came home upset at the situation, they just knew it was a reality.

 

We did have a clique of sorts when one girl came back after a nasty injury. The friendships had moved around in the class and the injured girl was really left out. I actually think they hoped she was gone forever as she was a good dancer. It took time for the balance of the class to re-establish itself, which it did. This kid never really joined a clique, she didn't need one and eventually the resentment at her return stopped and balance was restored.

 

At times I think we need to look at a ballet class, especially one that has grown and developed together over time as a microcosm of society. Not everyone will get along and even among the top end dancers there is a pecking order. Some people want to lead and some do not mind being led while others because of God given gifts and hard work end out in front because of no group affiliation. That's the scenario that appears to have caused the most problems over the years, the really talented kid joining a group and turning the pecking order upside down. Some kids will always have the power of 'the group' behind them. It will lessen as they mature but ballet classes are not immune. I'm just glad that for us none of the original clique girls are still dancing. I thank God we never had a truly 'mean girl', the ones we had were bad enough!

 

I believe teachers can lessen this syndrome. A well spoken word or those looks only teachers can impart really go a long way to keeping the uglies at bay.

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Guest dreamofdance

In our experience, the words of other girls defending each other spoke louder than any words a teacher could have spoken. If the majority of the class will not tolerate the bullying, the bully loses her power. We had the beginnings of this clique behavior at our old studio and it only took one of the older girls who witnessed it to step in and say that this behavior is not tolerated at this studio and it was gone. I'm not sure a teacher would have had the same power in this age group where it's all about being "cool" with your peers and especially the older kids.

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heleen,

 

I am saddened by your son's experience, and I am sure that he is not the only boy turned away from dance by social pressures. Boys, by their few numbers, especially in the earlier years of training, are already isolated. And teasing or bullying only increases this sense of being alone.

 

My son had only a brief experience like this, at about the same age, and I remember how hard that was for him. He, too, did not want to return. I spoke with his teacher, and she was very measured and careful not to address any specific situation, but did try to unify the group. It was a small class, so this was not very difficult, and it did smooth things over enough for the group to move on. If it had continued, I don't know if my son would have stayed with dance at that age. These girls were basically really nice kids, and they all became good friends at a later time.

 

Interestingly, a year or so later, at another studio, this kind of class drama was just an annoyance, hardly a blip on the radar, as his identity, confidence, and interest in dance as a future career were more consolidated.

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I am also saddened by heleen's son's experience. I believe a teacher/adminstrator dropped the ball. I"m sure a few years later those same young ladies would be begging for male partners and wondering why they can't find any. Coming from a studio where the guys were welcomed all along the way, I find this sad.

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In our experience, the words of other girls defending each other spoke louder than any words a teacher could have spoken. If the majority of the class will not tolerate the bullying, the bully loses her power. We had the beginnings of this clique behavior at our old studio and it only took one of the older girls who witnessed it to step in and say that this behavior is not tolerated at this studio and it was gone. I'm not sure a teacher would have had the same power in this age group where it's all about being "cool" with your peers and especially the older kids.

 

I'm hoping this happens at DD's studio where there have been the small beginnings of ugly girl behavior starting to show up. I'm also hoping that some of the oldest girls in DD's level get moved along sooner than later.

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dreamofdance, you are so right! Peer pressure is enormous and an older, more advanced dancer is even better. Our school had girls with potential mean girl behavior get lesser parts than anticipated in performances. They were told that their focus had not been totally on ballet while in class and sadly it showed. The part they got was the part they earned. It's true when your the top of a class by intimidation it's a hard position to hold onto! It's not always the case of course, we all know it is rarely the 'popular' girl and boy in high school who get to the Ivy League schools. Quite often the geeky kid who worked hard is the ultimately winner! Ballet has many a duckling who becomes the swan!

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Lots of good points, here. In addition to what has already been said: We can also influence the atmosphere through our own behavior and that of our children. While my DDs are not required to be BFFs with every child, they must be polite and inclusive. They are also required (by me) to be friendly to new students and to speak up when others attempt to engage them in bonding through bad-mouthing and exclusion. I am also friendly to every parent (and their children), whether or not I consider them a friend. I have seen the atmosphere at our studio change for the better over time, and do believe these individual efforts helped.

 

In our studio, it also happens that parents sometimes also bully children, either out of control needs or competitive feelings. In situations where volunteer adults were given too much authority with too little direction, DDs have had to face down several adults, too. I find I'm relieved to notice that my DDs are *almost* old enough so that the adults will most likely no longer try to control them inappropriately. In any event -- being brave with their peers has helped them be brave with others. That said, if their emotional or physical health were threatened, with or without a pattern of behavior, I wouldn't hesitate to discuss it with the director or teacher. I would probably go with the "Clique" book or "Queen Bees and Wannabees" in hand.

 

Among the problems with this is that parsing out the dynamic can be difficult. Unfortunately, I have seen skilled manipulators with aggressive parents completely turn things on their heads -- providing discipline and warnings to the kid being picked on! Not incidentally, the picked-on kid (to the point of physical aggression) was smaller, younger, and more talented. In retrospect, the parents of this younger child feel they waited too long to react.

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