A new studio, and those teenage dancers…

Two days ago, I attended class for the first time in two weeks. After I hobbled back to my apartment, I lay prone on my bedroom rug because my legs had essentially dissolved into jelly. Astonishing how fast that muscle strength goes away…

So although I have bought a class card, I’m not sure I’ll be staying with this particular studio. I plan on finishing the class series, of course, but if the other teachers/classes are like this one, I won’t be buying another set.

The class itself was challenging, yes. My thighs will (screamingly) attest to this. The teacher was clearly knowledgeable. The piano accompaniment was good. The studio building itself was charming.

So what was wrong? Simply: It may have billed itself as an adult class, but it did not cater to adults.

  1. No individual corrections at barre, except to the teen, pre-professional dancers.
  2. No corrections of older adults (and there were women there who were probably in their 50s, 60s) at barre.
  3. All corrections in center directed towards teen pre-professional dancers. During center, these were the dancers that the teacher watched; she gave only passing glances to the older women.

Now, I don’t want to be uncharitable towards teen dancers–they are lovely to watch, and often quite fun to have in an adult class. They tend to be less easily embarrassed than older adults, particularly beginners, so teachers feel more comfortable using their bodies to demonstrate a teaching point. In fact I would go so far as to say that I really enjoy having a big range of ages and body types in class; it’s just more interesting that way.

But it’s simply not worth the money or effort if the teacher ignores anybody who isn’t one of these dancers. Frankly, I and most of the other women in class have absolutely no ambition of performing or a professional career. It’s obviously not in the cards. But we’re in it to improve, and if a teacher pays you no attention at all, then what’s the point? Certainly, teachers have a tendency to focus on students “with potential” (i.e. the right body type), but honestly, adult students generally have no potential for performance. Perhaps teachers just do it out of habit, but as a paying customer, I find this irritating.

This shouldn’t be as much of an issue in beginning adult classes; the pre-teen and teen dancers don’t tend to drop in to these classes. It’s only when the levels begin to mix somewhat at the intermediate and advanced levels do you get this kind of in-class discrimination.

So I have 11 classes left to go…here’s hoping that the other teachers are better than this.

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4 thoughts on “A new studio, and those teenage dancers…

  1. lisa

    Ouf, I hope the other teachers are better too, especially since you’ve paid for so many classes! There’s nothing more irritating than a teacher who acts as though some of the students aren’t important to her (or him)… this happened to me in one of my LA City College art classes and I hated it vehemently in every session, until I finally quit. Why teach at all if you won’t teach to all comers?!

    Reply
  2. Vondra

    Thank you so much for writing about your dance experience. I was hoping to go into professional dancing sometime in my life, and then the dance teacher at my college told me tactfully that I wasn’t skilled enough to become a professional dancer.
    I began dance two years ago at a dance studio that met once a week, for an hour and a half, to teach ballet, tap, and jazz, to 8-12 year old’s, which is the second oldest age group. I was 19 at that time. From that experience, I would have guessed that many other dance studios mainly catered to those who were 17/18 years old and younger while college offered dance for those who were a bit older.
    Reading this blog has proven me wrong and shown me that I will still be able to take ballet, tap, and whatever else there might be out there for the older dancers who are unable to become professional. So thank you, this blog has given me hope once again to continue life as a dancer-at-heart. Now, I just need to decide upon another major in college for life that I can enjoy almost as much as, if not more, than dance.

    Reply
  3. lisa

    Vondra, there will always be other avenues for pursuing dance, even if they’re not professional. Besides the classes Apricot describes, there are lots of dance groups out there for nonprofessional dancers. They may not be ballet groups, or even tap or jazz — they may be something really random, like folk dancing or contact improv — but they’re out there. My husband had a colleague who was in her 60s and a nonprofessional dancer, and she was in a local dance company and would rehearse with them constantly. Groups like these might seem like a comedown if you’ve dreamed of wealth/fame/prestige, but my view is it’s always better to be doing something you love than not doing it. đŸ™‚

    Reply
  4. apricot Post author

    There’s no reason at all to stay in a class where a teacher is negligent. To be fair, teachers can’t give every student attention, and frankly, some of the older students who are very set in their ways don’t want corrections. But when it’s clear that the teacher is zooming in on a select segment of the class, then I find that unacceptable. Students can tell the difference between a teacher who’s just trying to not embarrass anyone and a teacher who just doesn’t care.

    And Lisa, I found another teacher who’s definitely better…thing is, it’s a lower level class, so I’m the “teen dancer” of sorts; but he does give corrections to students of all levels, so that’s good. And boo for selective teachers in any field–art, dance, history, whatever. It’s contrary to what a teacher ought to be doing–guiding the interested, and the motivated.

    Vondra, ditto to what Lisa said! And if you really really love dance, you might consider a major which will let you get a job in the field (if just not as a dancer). I have a friend who majored in economics, or finance or something who now does marketing for a major ballet company. So there are career paths that will keep you close to dance, if you so choose! Dance will always be there with you. And remember, Martha Graham started dancing at 22…so there are definitely forms of dance which older students can enjoy. Flamenco, folk dancing, Tahitian/Hawaiian, all varieties of modern…go out and sample them all! (And if you love ballet, keep doing that, too.) đŸ™‚

    Reply

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