Years of attention and corrections given over countless class hours. Sleepless nights pondering how to best fix their stubborn issues. You equip them with the right mentality so that they are ready to embrace all of your well prepared, meaningful lessons. Tears of joy are shared after milestones are reached. A relationship that brings many ups and downs but renders some of the most special outcomes. You watch them grow. You impart your knowledge and teach them to soar, like a chick being tossed from a nest. Your teachings have given them so much of what they need to succeed; and guess what? They do! AND THEN THEY FORGET YOU EXIST! Their new resume lists the multiple workshops they took over the course of 3 months, all of which were 1 to 2 hours each with professionals who didn’t even know their name. After winning an award 1 year out of your instruction they publicly thank the commercial jazz choreographer who they spent all of 5 hours with for their inspirational teaching. Then over the course of the next couple of years they post and thank and post some more how everyone else including their poodle “Mercedez” with a Z has helped them get where they are today. But throughout all of that your name, your legacy your teaching abilities are nowhere to be seen.
That story went south fast! And it usually does. I don’t think any of us are prepared for when a parent and student forgets all of our efforts. And the reality is that without those efforts they would most likely not be where they are today. Sadly, if you have been in the industry long enough, have created enough capable dancers than you my friend have probably been forgotten by a student. I certainly have and it sucks. I literally could not think of a more eloquent way to put that. It just down right sucks so bad that you sometimes question why you do this at all.
The inspiration for this blog was based on a story that highlighted the fact that Maddie Ziegler did not acknowledge Abby Lee Miller’s role in her great success. Abby Lee then turned around and said the following: “I don’t think had she not been in my studio, she would be where she is today.” And yeah, I agree. Why not acknowledge her contribution to her success? Why pretend your abilities came from the dance fairy in the sky! Why take away the fruits of our labour? I have some theories based on my experiences as well as other industry professionals’ as to why this happens.
Theory # 1: Dance teaching isn’t glamorous enough to bring with you when your all grown up.
I cleaned the toilets at the studio the other day because the cleaner wasn’t coming in for another two days and I simply couldn’t leave them in the state they were in. That wasn’t that much fun nor was it a good representation of my teaching skills. Students see me play many roles and I’m sure they can think of plenty of words to describe me. Glamorous probably isn’t one of them. I’m not cool. I’m not insta-famous. I’m ‘just a dance teacher’. So I would say dance teachers simply do not seem to command the kind of praise they deserve due to their various relatable roles. So unless you are Lady Gaga’s choreographer, students don’t seem to see the VALUE in associating themselves with a little old dance teacher from their home town regardless of how much you gave them in order to actually function in a professional setting.
Theory # 2: They have grown out of their child hood and that includes you.
Some people simply want to move in to adult hood as quickly as possible. Much of their transition years are spent grieving the loss of competitions, classes, friendships and all the other great things that come with being a dancer as a child. Students in this phase of life become know-it-all’s and ungrateful. I would say pretty standard behaviour for a large portion of older teens and early adults; but still no less hurtful.
Theory # 3: They are just like you.
There is a point when certain personalities clash because they are a lot a like. Elite dance has a tendency to attract very motivated, dedicated, confident human beings and when their are too many of those in one room it can become a tense situation. A student who is goal driven and has an A type personality will often reach a point in their training life where they want to prove to everyone how great they are, even if they don’t realise it. The “I don’t need you anymore” attitude kicks in and creates a sort of resentment towards their teacher because they simply believe they have risen above their teachers teachings, because thats how good their teachings are. This happens when a student starts winning awards and consistently receives praise from others in the industry. Any opinion other than their tired old teacher’s becomes far more valued.
Theory # 4: The grass is always greener at another studio.
Of course that studio owner is being nice to you. You already have everything in place to make a routine look good. So they aren’t correcting and challenging you like your current teacher because they don’t have too. That’s how good your current teacher is! Everyone wants you now! But hang on…What about before? When you weren’t awesome? Where were these people then? I think it’s so easy to move on from your long time teacher when you have become really good because praise feels better than having to meet the expectations of your current studio who have had you throughout all of the good and bad . I have had a fair few students move on to due to age policies of the studio I am working at, moving cities or the fact that I don’t under any circumstances tolerate rude, downright nasty parents and students. However, the minute they walk in to another studio all that talent and hard work somehow becomes theirs….Nope! I dare say not. How about you lay claim to them when you have had them as long as I have. Let’s do that instead.
Theory # 5: Children are raised to think they deserve everything and you simply aren’t giving it to them.
“A dancer can do a scorpion or side layover (way too far over)…oooooooooh no way!!! That must mean they are the best ever,” said no dance professional ever. I’m gonna say that dancer spent 2 hours and 20k takes to get the right shot. That is impressing everyone but the people that matter. Really good dance teachers look past natural ability and nurture real, usable talent. This makes dance teachers less appealing as a motivational source, as opposed to 5k+ FB and instagram followers that will feed todays very large, very undeserving egos. Put yourself in the shoes of todays youth. Why would you take corrections, failure (positive in nature) and hard work from a dance teacher when you can have the public praising you for every bit of dance you put out there whether its great or not? The second option happens NOW! And who doesn’t want everything NOW? And since good dance teachers offer the total opposite to instant gratification, it appears that in 2017 we have gone out of fashion.
The saddest part about this very real, very common story is that these children who praise and thank everyone else for their success but their child hood dance teacher seem to forget one very important point: That teacher saw potential in them. That teacher nurtured that potential. And that teacher helped them realise a large part of that potential. Without a teacher, potential is just that….potential. Ultimately, very few, if any, people will invest in another adult the way childhood educators invest in their students . And yet, we are often completely forgotten along with our contributions to their success.
To all those students and parents who understand our value please help us spread the message that without teachers there are no successful careers. Teachers are the wheels that perpetuate innovation, the foundation that maintains and raises quality and the tool that develops students in order to have a prosperous future.
I do not believe in being INSTA-anything! We preach it constantly to the youth of today but perpetuate the bad habits by supporting the very thing we try to combat. In order to teach youth what constitutes actual achievement I have started a FB page called “The Real Stars of Dance”. This page celebrates real, long term, prevalent and ground breaking teaching practices and teachers that have given dance the legitimacy and respect it deserves. Please contribute to this page by posting your dance educator and make them online famous!
LIVE LOVE DANCE