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Boydancermom

How to deal with instructor threats?

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Boydancermom

We discontinued private coaching with one of our son's instructors this week because we found out that the instructor threatened him last week. The instructor said to our son "I have enjoyed coaching you but if you take a Nutcracker role [...], then that will all end". At first I didn't believe this was said, but our son insisted and repeated the words to us several times. A few months ago, this same instructor said a not so veiled threat to our son and another boy (that has since left the studio). The wording of the veiled threat was exactly the same for both boys. e.g. he told both of them "I give and I give and this is how you repay me?" (the one boy was thinking about moving to another state to be closer to his father and our son was looking at residential schools).

 

I understand that when instructors put time and effort into a student and they move on, or take an outside performance opportunity, it's disappointing (I can't even imagine how hard that it), but it's not healthy for an instructor to resort to emotional manipulation, especially with a child. Any advice on how to handle this would be greatly appreciated.

 

We don't have a lot of studio options in our town - and our son is very attached to his ballet friends and the other instructors there (although he is afraid of the one mentioned above). It is further complicated because the instructor is the co-owner of the studio.

Edited by GTLS Designs
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vrsfanatic

I have no advice, as you know your son and your situation better than anyone here at BT4D. I cannot help but to point out that most ballet schools in the US are a business. Enrollment can determine whether a business thrives or fails. Often when reading the Parental Threads I wonder if it is ever considered that all of the discussions and moving about does have a financial effect upon the owners of these businesses.

 

I am sorry your son has been reprimanded by an adult who seemingly used power and authority as a tool in a seemingly inappropriate way, however did it ever occurred to the parents that those who schedule a theatre (sometimes years in advance) are dependent upon their student body to thrive. If the students and their families do not commit to a school or project, it is quite difficult to plan performing events for the student body. These performing events are important to the development of each student but also to the school. There is a symbiotic relationship between the two.

Both must commit. It is eye opening and difficult when a teacher realizes there is a commitment on the part of a parent to do what the parent deems best for the child, not the child and the school. Often times a teacher feels in their heart that what they say and think is in the best interest of the child, but when a choice is made by a family that differs from their vision, it can be a very big shock.

 

When I was a child, it was clear that if we went away for the summer, do not intend to return. If we performed with another group, do not intend to return. There was no testing the water else where and return home for whatever reason. Where I lived, those who left went only to SAB. They wanted to return but the doors were closed. Hard feelings all around for sure.

 

A bit harsh, maybe but at least business was able to continue. The way things are today, making plans for the future of a school is quite difficult.

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learningdance

Honestly, (AND THIS IS MY ADVICE-- OTHERS MAY DISAGREE).

 

I think that you are overreacting.

 

First ask yourself, "Has this instructor been instrumental in my DS's dance training? Would my son be where he is today without this person? Can this person help my DS improve? Is this situation so damaging that costs to my son outweigh the benefits he is getting from this person?"

My experience has been that this kind of thing is not so uncommon. . . may not be right but it happens. And I also believe that ballet, like many activities demanding precision and investment, attracts people who are passionate, exacting, dedicated but these same people can be also be ego-involved, controlling, and mercurial. (There are down sides to the passion and investment.) So this is the "bad" that you have to take with the good. When you get someone who is dedicated, whose life's career and work is dance, you are going to get this. You wouldn't really want your kid working with someone who didn't care. Someone who wasn't invested.

 

Think about your own career and when things don't go right, or you aren't given due recognition. . . You get mad, because you care. It's something you have spent years investing in. This "type" of personality is one with whom DKs will need to learn to cope. I am sure that there are AD's who are like this. So use this an opportunity

I am NOT justifying this behavior but this probably won't be the first time that someone says something like this.

This person prizes loyalty to him over what may be in the best interests of your son. So, now you know that. Filter EVERYTHING he advises you through that lens. He isn't able to have perspective about what is in the best interest of your son. Good instructors will be able to differentiate their emotions from the needs of their students.

I am going to say something to you that you might not like. I think you are trying to get every drop of training that you can out of your current situation so that you son will be in the best possible position to potentially go to a residency or company in the future. You really can't afford to alienate a teacher who might help your son improve. (I am assuming that this is a good teacher.) I would not allow this person to dictate what roles my son has.

 

I would go to him as a parent and address it. There is a reason that the instructor is not talking to you. . . . Easier to intimidate and manipulate a less-experienced kid. So address it and give the instructor a chance to save face. I would say, 'We are so thankful for all the work you have done with DS. He would not be where he is without you. You are so AMAZING, BRILLIANT, FABULOUS. We are going to have DS audition for roles for Nut. We think that this is not only good for him but you as well. Everyone knows that you are involved in his training and this will demonstrate that to everyone don't you think? I mean what better way to show the quality of his training than to have him perform publically?"

I might not know everything about this situation. If this instructor did something else, I would end the relationship, but I honestly think that you might be biting off your hand to spite your face.

 

I guess that I would also observe that, at some level, he is trying to be honest and trying to tell you where he stands (if, he indeed plans on following through.)

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dancemaven

Boydancermom, I don't think of that teacher's statement as a 'threat'. He is simply telling your son (and you) where he is willing to invest his time and energy. That is his prerogative.

 

As your son is entering only his second year of dance training, no matter the degree of his potential, he is still in the early stages of training. He may pick up the broad strokes quickly, but there are nuances of each movement that need to be ingrained and refined. At his point in training, this can be made more difficult when he is constantly being shuffled among unrelated (i.e., different schools, venues, coaching systems) instruction. Performances at this stage are icing, not the food of training.

 

You have previously said several times that you asked about your son auditiioning for this outside Nutcracker and were advised by his home studio that this would not be viewed positively. You had him do it anyway. So, the statement by the instructor is not a 'threat', it is merely a confirmation of the stated consequences of you and your son's choices. I don't see any reason that this statement should make your son 'afraid' of the instructor. 'Afraid' that the instructor will no longer care to invest his time and energy in your son, yes, but your statement (which you've made several times across your various postings) implies some physical threat or emotional threat. Not being willing to continue to invest time and energy in a student who is not interested in following a teacher's recommendations for training under that teacher is not an emotional threat---it is merely a consequence of a choice.

 

You seem very willing to take the opinion of any teacher or person in the dance community as more important or more relevant than any opinion of his current teachers. Why would they NOT be unhappy and feel that there is little more they can do for you or your son? You very clearly have no trust in them, despite the training they have provided him thus far. Without that trust and faith that his teachers have his best training interests at heart---which are not always the same as what a student or parent thinks is best for the training at any given time, especially when it comes to performances and additional instruction by others----then there is no reason to be at that school or training with those instructors.

 

If you are convinced that your son's instructors have NO reason to follow their own teaching philosophy and studio philosophy and rules when it comes to your son, then it is time to leave. But, in doing so, please do not bad-mouth or spread dramatic statements about the studio or the instructors. Nothing good ever comes of that. Do keep in mind that you and your son are quite new to the ballet world and it is often best to keep quiet, keep ears and eyes open, keep your minds open, and learn how things work, what drives the teachers and studios, and that there are no important people, just people who think they are important.

 

Edited: I see I was posting at the same time as learningdance. Honestly, I must agree: I think you are being overly dramatic----and not just about this incident. Chill out a bit, take it down a notch, and BREATHE. If dance is what your son is meant to do, it will happen. There is no race and there is no reason to constantly fight everything. As a boy, in particular, he has more time. He can't learn everything at once and it still takes time to learn what he'll need. You must try to stopping fighting things, and trying to squish square pegs in round holes. It will come eventually----slow and steady progress is what is needed. Not instant success.

 

Your son is 15. He is old enough to figure this out. As a tiger mom, you need to stay in the background and out of the way as much as possible. Only get involved when someone is being hurt on the outside or the inside. :wink:

Edited by dancemaven

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learningdance

I have to agree with Dancemaven, especially in light of the fact that your son is only in his 2nd year of training. . . . .That is super early.

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logollady

Agree with Dancemaven. Very well stated. One thing I have learned in the years my daughter has been in training is to fully commit to a studio/training. If your heart isn't there, you should either change your heart or change the program. No need to draw it out or make it all dramatic... just move studios. But then, don't expect to be welcomed back with open arms if you find the grass isn't greener on the other side of the fence. Take a decision to move very seriously... and walk forward in your decision once you make it.

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picardythird

If I recall correctly, your son had accepted parts in his home studio's Christmas program, asked about auditioning for the outside Nutcracker, was told by his home studio that they did not want him to audition but auditioned anyway. After receiving the role in the Nutcracker, he was told by his home studio that he could not do both so he choose the outside performance. So really, he broke his agreement to his home studio to perform in their own production.(It may have only been an oral commitment but still they thought he was going to participate.) I know that if my daughter did that at her studio, her AD's reaction would make your teacher look like an angel, haha! Obviously your son is receiving good training at this school or he would not have received as many SI acceptances and scholarships as you have reported. I'm not sure a performance in one Nutcracker can replace a year's worth of instruction. I think if you are accepting training at a school and receiving the benefits of the training, (especially if your child is receiving extra attention from the teacher) you owe the studio the courtesy of at least listening to their advice and opinions. There have been times I have disagreed with my daughter's teacher (mostly about attending SI's) but I always have just asked him to explain his reasoning and 99% of the time, I have discovered he was right! If you choose to ignore their opinion, you should not be surprised if they react negatively. But, I know from years of watching similar things happen in my daughter's studio that often teachers will say things in anger that they will later forget about. I think you should give it a few weeks, lay low and it will very likely blow over. I'm sorry if it sounds like I am criticizing you but now I look back on things I thought were important 6 or 7 years ago and realize how unimportant they actually were! Things will usually work out for the best. Just try to relax and enjoy every moment of watching them dance and grow. Okay, I will step off of my soapbox now :)

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Boydancermom

All really good advice!!! And I'm so glad that you are comfortable enough to tell me that I'm overreacting - I seriously love it here! This is probably TMI but I had an emotionally manipulative mom so I think I am sensitive to anything that even remotely looks like a duck or quacks like one.

 

I love the advice about honoring and giving our son's studio credit for what they have done. In our last meeting, my husband explained that to them - that our son wouldn't be where he is without them and that his success [ . . . ] are all at their hand. He told them that this is a feather in their cap!

 

I know that this is all good experience for our son to navigate choppy dance waters. I'm sure that this won't be the last time - and it's all good practice.

 

I realize that you are all right. I don't trust our son's instructors to have his best interest in mind - and this is what is at the crux of the matter. They aren't that well connected in the dance world outside of our town and would like him to stay here as long as possible because they are starting a dance company - they don't know much about residential schools or SIs. But I have to remind myself, that doesn't mean that they aren't good instructors. But it is difficult for me to look to them for the best advice regarding that as there are many more experienced in that (on this board, for instance).

 

And you are right - although we all hope that a studio will have our dancer's best interest in mind - they are running a business, and to that end, that has to be their focus. But that also means that we have to advocate for our dancers and to do what is right for them - but to do it in a way that isn't offensive, is respectful and doesn't affect their revenue (now - that's the challenge!).

 

They have requested a meeting that "is imperative if our son is to continue training with them" - my husband is going to go to that because I think he has less emotional triggers. We will see if this is something that can be worked out.

 

All very good advice - thanks so much!

Edited by dancemaven
repetitive information

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Boydancermom

Boydancermom, I don't think of that teacher's statement as a 'threat'. He is simply telling your son (and you) where he is willing to invest his time and energy. That is his prerogative.

 

You have previously said several times that you asked about your son auditiioning for this outside Nutcracker and were advised by his home studio that this would not be viewed positively. You had him do it anyway. So, the statement by the instructor is not a 'threat', it is merely a confirmation of the stated consequences of you and your son's choices. I don't see any reason that this statement should make your son 'afraid' of the instructor. 'Afraid' that the instructor will no longer care to invest his time and energy in your son, yes, but your statement (which you've made several times across your various postings) implies some physical threat or emotional threat. Not being willing to continue to invest time and energy in a student who is not interested in following a teacher's recommendations for training under that teacher is not an emotional threat---it is merely a consequence of a choice.

 

Here's the thing: our son's studio never said that he couldn't audition for the Nutcracker. When I found out about the audition and approached them with the possibility of the audition. they said that they were unaware of it. They said that they were surprised that the company didn't send them the flyers as they said they would when they visited them. They said that they were going to call the company and confirm the date. That told me that they approved of it! (what would you have thought?)

 

I asked if our son could leave class 30 minutes early and they said that he couldn't. Fair enough. He didn't. They did NOT tell us that he couldn't audition or that he couldn't do both shows should he get a good part. This dance world is new to me and I maybe quite naively thought that when he found out that he got a part he wanted to do, that the rehearsals could be worked around each other. The Nutcracker folks, in fact, changed the rehearsals to accommodate our son's studio rehearsals. I am new to the dance world and I have been surprised with the exclusivity of it all. Other boy dance moms have told me that if their boys are one of few in a town - then the studios work together with certain rules to ensure that everyone is happy.

 

I think that communication has to be clear and to the point. I'm not a mind reader and I was very confused when I heard that our son's instructor might not be interested in coaching him in the future if he took the other part. Why not tell US that? To communicate through our son seems petty and manipulative.

 

But - it is what it is. I'm learning along the way thanks to all of you. Very grateful for your help.

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Boydancermom

I am sorry your son has been reprimanded by an adult who seemingly used power and authority as a tool in a seemingly inappropriate way, however did it ever occurred to the parents that those who schedule a theatre (sometimes years in advance) are dependent upon their student body to thrive. If the students and their families do not commit to a school or project, it is quite difficult to plan performing events for the student body. These performing events are important to the development of each student but also to the school. There is a symbiotic relationship between the two.

Both must commit. It is eye opening and difficult when a teacher realizes there is a commitment on the part of a parent to do what the parent deems best for the child, not the child and the school. Often times a teacher feels in their heart that what they say and think is in the best interest of the child, but when a choice is made by a family that differs from their vision, it can be a very big shock.

I think that's why this board is so very important. No - sadly, many new dance parents (me included) focus on their children and we need experienced instructors and studio owners to share their point of view so that we can understand and respect why the studio owner does what they do. What is hard for me to understand sometimes is why studio owners have a tendency to hold onto a rising student for dear life and not view them as a "feather in their cap" when it's time for them to network with others outside their town, to do bigger performances or training outside their town? Are they holding onto them so that they can do performances and fill their coffers at the expense of the student's training? Isn't this sometimes a conflict of interest? How do they balance the two (keep the studio in the black and do what is in the best interest of the student?).

 

As you probably know, on the basis of more than one esteemed instructor's advice outside our town, we toured residential schools this past year. This was against the advice of our son's studio owners which upset them. In the end, our son decided that the time wasn't right for him - but as a parent I believe that it's my job to listen to all advice and to present options for him - to open doors. He can choose to go through a door or not. A tiger mom would have forced him to walk through a door which I think can have disasterous results. In the end, he is old enough to make his own decision but it's my job to open doors for him at the age of 14.

 

I opened the door to meeting and connecting to the esteemed director of an outside company that is performing in our city. I told his studio that he was doing this and they voiced no concern. Perhaps if they would have take the time to explain to our son why taking a part would hurt them - then he would have made a different decision. In the end, it's all about communication.

 

I'm so glad that you took the time to explain the bigger picture. It's very important to know because without thriving studios, schools and companies, our dancing kids would be on the street.

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dancemaven

Boydancermom, I'm sorry, but . . . you are not listening and are not hearing us.

 

Please, it does not help for you to reitierate the 'life story' time and time again. It doesn't change the advice and words of experience you are receiving here. If you want advice, you must be open to it. If you just want to repeat your viewpoint over and over expecting folks to agree with you then you won't receive advice.

 

I will say it once more and then I'm done:

 

1. Your son is only in his second year of dance training;

2. He is at the beginning of his journey;

3. He is not 'a feather in [anyone's] cap'---yet, perhaps in a few more years;

4. He is raw material, i.e., potential, at this point;

5. He needs consistency in training;

6. No one is looking to hold onto a student in that position 'for dear life';

7. At this early stage of his dance training, he needs consistency in instruction (yes, I AM repeating myself);

8. You may not know the depth of connections your son's current teachers have.

 

I am sorry to be so blunt. But I don't know how else to put it so perhaps you will hear us.

 

As for communication, perhaps if you asked instead of telling, you'd get a different response. I always tried to pose my questions to my DD's studio director and various teachers as me wanting to understand their philosophy and then how that applied to my DD as an example rather than telling them what I was going to do or what I wanted them to do for DD. I learned an awful lot that way and it often changed my viewpoint on issues and calmed my concerns.

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Boydancermom

Thanks DanceMaven - points well taken.

 

Regarding the "feather in their cap" they would have the opportunity to get press for their studio from an newspaper article that the outside company is (supposedly) orchestrating that will feature him as "hometown boy that does good". Not sure if this is going to transpire or not (I have been warned to take everything that a company says they are going to do with a grain of salt), but I would think that IF this is done, then it could reflect positively on their studio and even help sell tickets for their show a few weeks later. I am not saying that our son is a "feather" in anyone's cap at this point, but he has the possibility to be one and help drive girls to attend their studio - going back to the "symbiotic" relationship that vrsfanatic pointed out.

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Thyme

Boydancermom- I am not sure I can contribute anything here but will try. I am a mother of a 16 yo DS and while we have not had the same situation happen to us, I recognise the dynamics. We have had ( or brushed up against) some of the personalities that have been described by other posters and yourself. For a non-arts parent, this way of being came as a shock to me too. DS has learned to recognise them at 10 paces and is learning how to relate, so that is good and essential I imagine. Putting that whole scene aside though, the part I am responding to is the phenonomen of treating your talented son as ' the next best thing'. I used to LOVE hearing about how great he is, perfect feet blah blah blah. Now it is a warning signal that things are not what they should be. DS learned to despise this too. It really mucks with his head and he shuts down. In fact he now considers being told that he has potential as uncomplimentery but i digress. My point is that there is something about DSs who tick the boxes. They are wanted by everyone (the girls must really despise this) for roles, for attracting girls to the studio etc etc. If I may be so bold, i think that the other posters are trying to alert you to this. One year of dance is only just dipping his toes. He may indeed be the Next Big Thing but he shouldnt be the Current Big Thing. Our approach now is just keep your head down, work and stay out of the limelight until you deserve it for real. If some one sincerely likes him, they will keep an eye out for him. At this age, probably not. He has a long road to hoe and needs to get to work. In my opinion, performance is a minor concern. Finding a quiet place to grow and learn his craft is what matters.

 

P.s. Keeping his ego under wraps is also important. If he is treated like a feather in a cap, other dancers will pick up on that.

 

 

Thats my view!

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Pensive

I don't consider this a threat either. It's a teacher telling you ahead of time what the consequences are going to be for a certain action. IF you do this, THEN this will happen. The fact is, there is not a studio anywhere who would be willing to allow a student (male or female) to miss their own rehearsals to participate in another studio's production. DD's ballet school is very open about allowing the kids the opportunity to dance at more than one studio, but they aren't going allow a child to participate in a show who misses more than the allotted number of rehearsals.

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gcwhitewater

A perspective regarding students performing from a teacher/school director point of view:

 

I do not allow students training at our academy to perform in other productions. Reasons:

  1. Time. Even if the rehearsal time does not conflict with their training it takes away from the amount of energy, mental and physical, they would be using in their lessons.
  2. Appropriate level of role. I would not know if the role being performed would be used to further the long term progress of our student. It could be material they have not worked on yet or material they have yet to fully understand and therefore should not be doing onstage.
  3. Exploitation. Will this director bill this student as their student.
  4. I consider performance of a student as an extension of their training...does that director?

I do not allow students from other schools to perform with our academy (even boys!). Reasons:

  1. I do not train them and as I said, performance of a student is an extension of their training.

These days no one teacher can say they completely trained a dancer from start to finish. There are many hands along the way. But, when those hands could potentially interrupt or create conflict with their current course of training, I voice my concern with the intent of protecting the student's long term growth. I do not have these rules in place for monetary gain or ego...they are in the students best interest in my opinion.

 

Regarding "Feathers in my cap" as a teacher.

I do not have any. I have many students who have gone on to professional careers but I do not view any of them as a feather in my cap. I provide the tools (hopefully) necessary for success, but the students are the ones who choose whether or not to utilize them. Therefore, it is up to them, not me.

 

Jumping off soap box...it's a high one today so I will be careful.

 

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