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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Dealing with negative comments from peers


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My husband is a school administrator and his school like many have adopted a no tolerance for bullying policy, and it would be great if ballet school would operate along this same vein. No child should have to endure any sort of bullying at ballet ever! I think it's sad that it is looked at as just part of the culture in the ballet arena, I have even been apart of a school that it was almost encouraged ( as far as the girls that were know to be mean were the ones always elevated by the artistic director). My daughter has also been bullied at dance, and I understand much of it stems from jealousy and many will say, "girls will be girls", but in no way does this make it right.

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  • 2 weeks later...
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  • swanchat

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Just wanted to post a quick update and thanks for all the great advice. The advice to help her (and myself!) develop a think skin and keep being sweet was spot on. I really think the meanness comes from girls (and moms unfortunately) feeling threatened and wanting to find ways to put down or pick apart someone else. My daughter has just been focusing on doing her best and has a circle of really nice, advanced dancers who create a buffer from the negative comments from less secure students. When the comments do happen, it is way easier for her to brush it off and hang with people that support her.

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My DS is dealing with this right now. He had bad exams (so he says, no grades yet) and one of the girls approached him later to tell him that they (the students who were watching) were all laughing at him behind his back because he was not doing well. Why would someone say something like that? You would think they would try to build him up rather than tear him down. Now when he is in class he thinks that they are talking about him all the time. He actually has stopped going to class in the evenings (is at residential school and has to go during the day). I have tried to talk to him, tried to get him to see that it is just 4 more months and he is graduated, but I can't get through to him. He feels like talking to the adults in the program will just make it worse. To be honest, he probably has brought some of it on himself, because he does not have a lot of upper body strength and sometimes has difficulty in partnering. I don't know what to do and being thousands of miles away does not help. Because he is 18 he thinks he knows better than we do and doesn't always listen to our advice. He is auditioning for a college program in a few weeks and is hoping that the college atmosphere will be better. I feel that he is just about ready to quit dance because of all of this. My heart is breaking for him and I don't know what to do. He has slowly gotten his confidence back over the last few years and performed well (some parts could have been better) in his Nutcracker, but this is just tearing him down again. Any advice anyone has would be helpful.

Leaving the school is not an option, since he is a senior and he has to graduate. The upside is that since he has skipped the evening classes is that he has had time to go to the gym to work on that upper body strength, but he still needs to take the dance classes. I would like to suggest to him that he approach the teachers and ask to go into a lower level to work on his technique while getting away from the drama of the other level. Would that be a good idea?

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  • 2 weeks later...

arabento, I'm glad you posted about your son. It's not just girls who are picked on. DD has confided in me about some behavior I've been considering to report to the owner of the school and the main teacher, but you know getting involved in things can be risky.

 

Problem #1: DD is close friends with the only boy in her age group at her studio. He was the first student to befriend her when she began there after her old school shut down a couple of years ago. He and his family invited her to do several activities outside of dance classes. Some of the girls in the studio make fun of her for being his friend. They told her that he is weird, and one girl said he's gay. This is the part that upsets me, and I know the main teacher (and AD of youth company) would not appreciate this bullying because he himself is openly gay. How stupid can these girls be to risk running off a valuable boy who can contribute toward their partnering training.

 

Problem #2: There is a senior boy who left his local studio and travels to our studio. The girls say he's weird (he's not). My daughter likes him a lot, and one reason is because they attended the same SI last summer. He's a tall, strong advanced dancer with a nice long neck and a lot of potential to dance pro. They're lucky to have him, even though it's his senior year. His peers ignore him, probably because he's new and not part of their clique. DD says he sweats a lot, and the other girls make a big deal of it. During a modern class, one girl stepped in his sweat and screamed Ewwwwww!!!! I told DD that particular girl is a spoiled snob.

 

I don't know if I should say anything or let the dancers deal with it themselves. The girl calling DD's friend gay (as if it's a bad thing) infuriates me! This girl passive-aggressively attacks DD all of the time, and DD is so sweet and naive, she doesn't understand when this girl is trying to get in her head. This particular girl is heavier and in a lower level and has admitted to being jealous of DD before. Her mother is the same way with me, but I just stay away from the studio.

Edited by Cupid
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What do you do when this type of behavior presents itself in your coworkers?

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The goal of most who spend time minimizing others is to exert power, establish dominance and humiliate.

 

Be grateful for the thick skin (both types) ballet develops, ensure you have a confidante or advocate if it gets to that point, and remove yourself mentally, or physically if needed, from the situation. Same advice whether this type of behavior comes from a 13 yr old or a 40+ yr old.

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Exactly. It never fails to amaze me that that type of behavior does not end at high school graduation......

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As an adult, I would deal with the situation without involving boss, but it's different with children, especially with today's anti-bullying policies. The boy being called gay is what I'm contemplating addressing. It's tough enough for boy dancers in the United States to avoid being bullied and accused of being gay by their peers in academic school or their neighborhood--the dance studio should be at least their one safe haven from discrimination.

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Momof3darlings

I think the point was that if you were in a work situation, there is someone you would take that information to. While there is no HR in a ballet school, there is an Administrative team. In my personal opinion, to know about bullying and say nothing to the adults in charge is only a step down from the bully themselves. In other words, to see it and turn the other way because it does not involve ones own child is to allow another child to be bullied.

 

In regards to growing a thicker skin. I'm fine, with the thick skin that is learned from Life/Dance/Casting/Placement not being fair. I'm fine with the thick skin that is learned when you are in an environment when not everyone will succeed no matter how much they try. I'm even fine with the thick skin that is developed in a highly competitive environment where sometimes you have no control over who "wins" and all that comes with that. There are many things that over the years, I have come to terms with in regards to what is needed to survive in the dance world. However, I will never accept that it's okay to consider it growing of a thick skin that someone is allowed to be mistreated for things that are the "who" of who they are.

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Arabento, I'm sorry to her of your DS's troubles, it is heartbreaking. Since you mentioned the college audition and if college would be different, I just want to share with you that my DD has found her college ballet experience wonderful. She had problems with peers at her home studio and has found the college program to be supportive and with a lot less drama than at her home studio. She has an amazing group of friends that she has made in and out or the ballet department, they all really support eachother. I don't know if everyone can say the same about their college dance experience, but I wanted to let you know that DD's is very positive.

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Hi Momof3darlings, My thick skin comment was for Clara who is adult dealing with other adults, and represented only 33% of what I said. As far as children being made fun of or called gay (whether one is or isn't) - that is not what I was addressing.

 

In fact, as adults in ballet (parents, administrators, teachers), I think we do a disservice when we encourage children to stay for good training in the face of potential mistreatment by teachers or peers. Everyone's limits are based on their own level of "thick skin" and their own definition of abuse or mistreatment*. My skin is actually quite thin for mistreatment directed at children. Others are more tolerant. I appreciate your passion, but I think we agree.

 

*I realize for some people being "mistreated" means not getting the fairy-princess-queen-of-the-world lead everytime, and that is fine. If that is what people need, go find that place - it exists. For others, mistreatment represents verbal or physical abuse from trusted adults or peers as a price to pay for receiving training in ballet -- an unholy barter that needs to end once personal limits (that gray area between the two extreme examples I just gave) have been reached.

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Momof3darlings

Mousling--I glad to know we agree if we do and I'm sorry if you took offense. I intended none. However, in the context of the string of threads from Arabento on that I was commenting on-within that I still disagree with more than 33% of your statement in the context of the current conversation I was reading. (was a percentage of agreement needed to comment?) The way I read Clara76's question is that it was in reply to a parent asking for help with a situation that did not involve their child. So what I would do with my own child and what a parent who is witnessing should do can be two very different things. Possibly I misread Clara's question to Cupid, but my perception of her question is simply for us as parents to use our brains and that the same thing we should/could do in our workplace given Cupid's situation is the same thing, as a parent, we should be doing in our studio lobby if we see/hear it occur. If I misread her question, then possibly I did go in the wrong direction, but that was my perception of the question.

 

But I guess we both digress from sharing our perceptions of what we're reading into discussing each other's posts so possibly that should continue if needed on pm.

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Goodness-

I must remember to be more clear. Yes, I was respoding to the OP's dilemma of the bullying happening to someone else's child. I must share with you this: As a child, I was outraged when I saw other children mistreat each other. I stood up for one such child, and of course, the bully then took her focus to me, twisting my arm behind my back so hard it went out of place. I've also been the target of bullying in high school from the Queen Bees, so I know what it feels like, and it isn't pleasant.

 

I don't want kids to be hurt, and I'm the first one to place myself between someone and a child.

 

I guess I've been the target of such behavior so long that I've come to expect it from human beings.

 

And as far as getting away from it- where do you go to find that ???? Does such a Utopia exist, where human beings are all kind to each other, in all walks of life???? How do we change human behavior?

 

My concern is that with all of our anti-bullying and zero tolerance policies are not helping- they are making things worse. Kids are coming to school with weapons. Children are hurting themselves. I can't watch the news anymore, because it all feels so lost...........

 

Maybe, we ought to be having a different discussion, like how to instill self-esteem in our kids so that bullies will not phase them, and so that they can learn not to intimidate others.

 

I know that if we all dig deep down, we might recall our own chidhood, and we might even recall being not very nice to other kids. I wish we could never have to be having any conversations about bullying, because human nature had evolved to the point where all children are treated as the wonderful gifts they are, and nobody felt the need to feel powerful over another human, and adults all acted like adults.

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Like Clara, I was bullied from 1st grade all the way through high school by one girl. She even ended up at the same college although we didn't see each other enough for her to bother me there. It hurts and like Clara, I can't stand to see anyone mistreated by anyone else and like Clara, I have to wonder about all the policies that are set into place that aren't working. I firmly believe this all starts at home. Children need to understand kind behavior before they ever leave home for school and it needs to be taught and enforced at home. Schools can only do so much. As much as I would like to think that bullying can be stopped, I think it's best if parents can empower their own children with realistic coping strategies when they are the victims. Parents also need to teach their children that bullying will not be tolerated and that bravery will be rewarded when a person stands up for another person's rights. As far as adults who bully; I've seen my fair share of them too. They are bullies who never grew up and one even bullied my dd during every parent observation by making faces and pointing. Guess what? Her daughter was also one of the bullies who bothered my dd.

 

As far as implications in ballet: I can only say that our dd has found that kindness goes a whole lot further than hate; thinking of others makes the divas look petty; having generosity of spirit means that others will seek out your company. DD dealt with bullies (some were the same girls who had been good friends) in ballet class from middle school until she went to a different upper school for training. She was bullied because of jealousy and while different from being bullied because of characteristics that define who a person is, the jealousy was there because she was viewed as quite talented and the others didn't get that same feedback. There were many tear filled nights. We helped her understand that the problem was with the bullies. As much as she wanted to be mean to the bullies, she knew that the same behavior from her made her a bully too and it wouldn't be tolerated in our family. Her solution was to hang out with different people. She actually ended up being friends with the older students and learned to view the bullies as one would view gnats- annoying but harmless. She never reacted to the bullies; she just moved on. I'm not sure that it was "thick skin," it was just survival. She learned that she wanted to be the kind person; as a result, she has maintained lots of contacts and friends all over the world. She's built a network and networking is vital in the ballet world. In the end the payback for being the nice, kind, generous person is worth the effort. Do you think anyone is going to lift a finger to help anyone of those bullies?

 

edited:

 

I re-read the whole thread and realize that I've said pretty much the same thing before.. sorry for the repetition. (At least I'm consistent) :happy:

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Bullying is bad. Not being the favorite is ok. The line that distinguishes that is completely personal.

 

And momof3, no offense taken. I agree with you most times, but not always, and that's ok I hope.

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