General Dance Discussion > You're a bad dancer! You NEED more lessons.

Discussion in 'General Dance Discussion' started by MadamSamba, Apr 18, 2004.

  1. MadamSamba

    MadamSamba Member

    I've stopped doing privates because my work hours have changed markedly. Having gone through the amazing experience of getting better and better each week while doing privates, I've plateaued and, I feel, have actually gone backwards.

    It's not that I dance badly, I'm just not learning new stuff. Anyway, I bumped into my old teacher at a social the other night and made a comment about needing to return to his lessons now that work has settled and he said, "yeah, your dancing has gotten pretty bad."

    You could have knocked me (and my companions) over with a feather. I'm not dancing anywhere near my potential, but I'm by no means a "bad" dancer.

    My question is this, was my teacher saying it to lure me back to lessons or because I genuinely am looking bad on the dancefloor?

    Obviously that's a difficult question given you guys don't know how I dance, or my teacher's character, but is it your experience that teachers are harsh/strict etc to make you insecure and lure you back or do you think he was just being nasty?

    I know him and feel he was jokingly telling me that I wasn't dancing at the level I should be, but my friends were livid and the entire trip home was spent talking about the underhanded techniques used by some teachers.

    Obviously they're in the minority, but it got me thinking and I wanted to know what about every one else's experiences and thoughts on the matter? Do some teachers undermine your confidence to keep you with them? What negative experiences have you had with teachers?
  2. Genesius Redux

    Genesius Redux New Member

    Wow. That definitely goes down in the tactless, cruel, and completely uncalled for book.

    The answer to your question, in my experience do some teachers deliberately try to undermine the confidence of their students to keep them coming back? Absolutely some do. Whether this is what your teacher is doing is something only you can answer.

    I honestly can't imagine any of my teachers saying something like that to me. Well, maybe my first--but that's mostly because we have a kind of tacit agreement to be as honest as we can with each other. Still, even if my dancing had gotten really bad, she'd probably say something like, "I'm so psyched that you want to come back--you don't want to forget all the stuff you've been working on!" My second teacher would never say something like yours did even if she believed it, and my current teacher would probably smile happily and say, "That would be great, I've really missed you--do you want to set something up now or do you want to call me?"

    Those to me sound like normal working relationships.

    In my experience, the male teachers tend to be more like that with their students than the female teachers. When female teachers manipulate, they usually play on emotions and affection--which is pretty manipulative, but at least is nice and often genuine. I've heard some horror stories about male teachers castigating their female students, treating them like the scum of the earth, making them feel worthless and vulnerable, all in the hope that they'll take more dance lessons to feel better about themselves. It's classic abuse and it's utterly reprehensible, and it makes me want to grab this guy and beat the living daylights out of him.

    Teachers I think can sometimes feel betrayed when their students stop coming in--I've seen teachers get very jealous when they see their students somewhere else, or dancing with someone else. That's no excuse for the way this guy treated you, but it's an explanation.

    Sweetie, from the things you've posted on this board, from the energy you have thrown into the DF, I find it highly questionable that your dancing could be bad. Possibly you're a little rusty--but bad? I just don't believe it of you. If I were you, I'd go back to privates when you can afford them, and definitely seek out another teacher, someone who will make you feel confident and secure, someone who wants to make you independent and happy, someone who wants to instill in you a lifelong love of dancing, and not some twisted co-dependent emotional connection cultivated for the sole purpose of taking your money.

    Feel free to show this email to your so-called teacher. And let him know if he wants to do anything about it, I'm more than happy to take up the discussion in any one of a number of convenient parking lots here in Nashville. :evil:

  3. ShyDancer

    ShyDancer New Member

    Im in agreeance with GR here... How rude!

    I think you handled it great not saying something nasty in return, I probably would have shot back "maybe its just that the teachers I have had are bad" :evil: :evil: :evil:

    I havent had any negative experiences...yet. But with time I have no doubt that I will experience it all.
  4. SDsalsaguy

    SDsalsaguy Administrator Staff Member

    San Diego is a bit closed than Nashville and we don't lack for parcking lots either! :x
  5. salsachinita

    salsachinita New Member


    Can't say I've ever experienced this, but I do have something similar to share.

    I must have really sucked as a newbie, all those years ago. I knew this all along, but something my teacher said (a few years after my first attempt at salsa) : 'Thank g-d you can dance now.......when I first met you I was saying to myself: "Oh my, she's so bad!"......' really made an impact. At least he said in in retrospective. Sometimes I wonder if I'd give up or keep at it if this statement was made to me at the time :? .

    Another comment made recently by one of my local legends: "Wow....! Look at you now! None of us who saw you dance at first would have ever believed that you could have become the dancer you are today!"

    *As I am far from being the kind of dancer I want to be, I must have been really BAD :oops: *

    Which goes to show that truth vs. tact can be a fineline to walk, especially when one's opinion is likely to have profound impact on others.
  6. MadamSamba

    MadamSamba Member

    Oh, Genesius and SD, you are both such dears and, from the sounds of it, rather gallant ones! :lol:

    Goodness...I guess I came off as venting and hurt, not so at all. I think perhaps I should clarify...

    My job allowed me one weekday off in exchange for working on the weekend. That was when I had lessons, which was terrific. A recent promotion meant I no longer have to work weekends, but that the weekday off, my dancing-lesson day, is gone. :(

    My teacher is extremely popular and a former champion who is very, very good. As a result of my time change, I can no longer get a regular spot with him as he's booked on weeknights and doesn't teach on weekends.

    Secondly, I didn't take his comment badly at all. He was being totally honest with me, which I much prefer. When I'm good, he tells me so and when I'm bad, well...he tells me too and I wouldn't want it any other way.

    We've got a great relationship, but I was a bit surprised. He's usually so diplomatic, that he'd only speak like that to me in private, not in front of other people (with whom I'm EXTREMELY competitive!!! :)

    The reason I put it up on DF was that it genuinely was one of those "ohhhhhhhhh, now I get it" moments. I've heard people talking about manipulative teachers and the tricks they try, everything from flirting with their students to flattering them ridiculously.

    I guess I was shocked because, had I not known he as being patently honest with me, it could have been taken as underhanded and, having heard similar things happen with other students at various studios, I wondered how it might have been taken.

    That said, you guys are so great...
  7. SDsalsaguy

    SDsalsaguy Administrator Staff Member

    Yup, when I was just starting out into the clubs, one woman I'd danced with "managed" to avoid dancing with me again for another year. Well, one night we were both at a small club with almost no dancers so I asked her to dance and she accepted. As we were leaving the floor after that dance her comment was, "Hey, you finally fixed that timing problem!"...and now she says I'm her favorite partner. :oops: :lol:
  8. salsachinita

    salsachinita New Member

    :oops: I am also guilty of doing this to some there is very little I can do to help, I usually wait til they sort of 'click'..... :oops:

    *as karma would have it, I get it done to me from guys as well :oops: *
  9. d nice

    d nice New Member

    I do this to my students. I'm completely honest with my students, they come to me and stay with me because I'll tell them thigns how they are, no smoke, no mirrors, no sunshine. I turn private students away because they aren't ready for what I have to offer them. Serious students only... the level doesn't matter, but they have to truly want to improve. Private lessons with me are not the place to come and feel better about yourself or get some exercize, or because its a fun hobby, it is about hard work, excelling, pushing yourself, and constantly finding the bar being raised. I don't hold hands, I don't coddle, and I don't sell sunshine. If your dancing is bad I'll tell you... if it is good I'll nod and we'll move on to something else that needs improvement. I encourage my students to take lessons from other instructors... if they find an instructor whose demeanor works better for them great. I am happy, I want people to be happy and get what they are looking for out of the dance... What I offer is a mirror and a roadmap. A mirror showing you esxactly what you look like, and a map showing you exactly where you are and what path you need to take to get to your destination...

    This is how I was taught and I feel it to be a diservice to treat my students as if they could not handle the naked truth.
  10. brujo

    brujo New Member

    Why don't you ask him the next time you see him?

    What everyone else here or anywhere else says is just wild speculation. Only he knows the motive and reason for his comments. Maybe it was just something that came out wrong.

    As for teachers being honest, there is a great North American attitude of trying to please everyone at the sake of being honest with them. Everyone is so damn worried about hurting someone's feelings that they simply can't speak the truth to one another. I had instructors that pat you in the back and taught me nothing and instructors who were blatant about my mistakes and helped me improve my dance. Guess who gets my business?
  11. Genesius Redux

    Genesius Redux New Member

    Well, I'm glad to hear that it wasn't all as devastating as I thought at first. But I still think there's a fine line between truth and tact. I ask for truth from my teachers as well, and when I work with students either in writing or in acting, I tell them the truth. But here's the thing:

    1. When you're at a social event, you're not in a pedagogical relationship; it's quite unprofessional to make any kind of comment like that outside of an actual teaching situation.

    2. You'd already told your teacher that you knew you had to take lessons again; after you've made an admission, as it were, the comment on top of that is pretty gratuitous.

    It doesn't matter to me how terrific a dancer someone is--if he can't handle basic professional protocol, I, for one, wouldn't work with him. It's dance, not neurosurgery. There are always other people who are just as good at teaching, but don't have the high and mighty attitude.

    That said, MS, I'm glad to hear that what you described did not fall into that category.
  12. d nice

    d nice New Member

    Here is the thing though... this is all about cultural context. I get so annoyed about reading dance etiquette posts and stuff, people telling others that X is the proper way to act. No such thing. Even "professional protocol" is so much nonsense. What country do you live in? What ethnic/socio-economic/religious group/generation are you in. Now what about the business person you are talking to? A Japanese businessman has very different professional protocol than an American businessmen, they are both extremely different from an Argentinian businessman. Real problems arise when we make assumptions about what is correct and incorrect behavior. If you are gong to make and act on assumption it is safer to assume that the person meant whaever was said or done in the nicest, friendliest way, until you can prove otherwise. Rather than holding a grudge or getting hurt by it, simply ask.

    I go to black swing dance events and people left and right correct me on the floor in the middle of dance (if I need it)... and sometimes its not my partner... I don't mind because that is the culture. I do it to others. It was what I grew up with. However the lindy hop and west coast swing events I go to are vastly populated by whites... the culture of those dance groups is very different. I have to remind myself that certain behavior is not understood. As much as the racial balances are identical for all practical purposes between west coast and lindy hop there is a huge generational and socio-economic gap. THe attitudes and expetations and interactions are still very different. What is considered normal and par for the course in one is considered weird and even undesirable in the other.
  13. Genesius Redux

    Genesius Redux New Member

    Well, sure it's contextual--as MS has mentioned, it's about tone of voice and personal relationship and everything else. But the reason this sort of thing sometimes pushes my buttons is that I've seen entirely too much arrogance and insensitivity in the arts masquerading as honesty and truth and integrity.

    Example: A very good friend of mine, a young woman who has one of the best Broadway-style voices I have ever heard, who is now located in Tennessee after some work in NYC, tells about one of her last auditions in NYC. The producer listened to her sing, and said, "The voice is excellent, but," gesturing to her body, "what am I gonna do with that?"

    Megan is not overweight. But she isn't slender in her body type. There's no way to excuse that kind of comment.

    Now many actors I know simply take this sort of treatment as par for the course. "It's a NY style, people are blunt, they're honest, yada yada yada." And yes, to survive in that market, you have to learn to live with it.

    But that doesn't make it acceptable.

    There are many acceptable alternatives. "We'd love to use you, but you're just not right for this role physically." "Why not?" "We need someone who's more slender, not so strong a physical presence." This, by the way, is not a way of speaking euphemistically--it's a way of speaking accurately. She's not overweight--but she is a commanding physical presence. And if you want to cast, say, the role of Sarah in Guys and Dolls, she just doesn't fit--whether she can sing the role or not. I'm not calling for sentimentality or molly coddling. I'm calling for simple politeness.

    Precision is always acceptable--value judgements are not. "Your dancing has gotten terrible" is a value judgement without precision, without focus, and without meaning. It could conceivably, as MS says here, be a comment that's toned down through relationship, humor, or a particular style. But it doesn't have the utility of, say, "yeah, we might want to take a closer look at that right-side fan."

    If rudeness is questionable when it comes to professional evaluation, how much more so when it comes to people who are dancing for personal growth? In the professional world, it's sheer arrogance and self-aggrandizement. In other contexts it can have an even more disturbing etiology. What I was responding to specifically in MS's original post was the question of whether there were dance instructors out there who tear down their students to rope them into more lessons? Are there dance instructors who deliberately rip apart someone's self-esteem for personal profit?

    The answer is, there most certainly are. Moreover, most of those dance instructors tend to be male and the people they are controlling are their female students. Within some franchise operations, hitting at someone's self-esteem is a deliberate business practice. And it frankly mirrors the pattern we see in domestic abuse. I won't trouble the forums with a long list of examples--things I have actually heard, when women friends who have been taking dance lessons play me back private phone messages from their instructors, berating, scolding, attacking them. So outrageous are some of these comments that other friends have had to be almost physically restrained from seeking out the instructor and beating him into the ground.

    Many of the women I've seen this happen to are single, some of them widowed, lonely and needy. The instructor comes to them having found a hole in their lives, promising to fix it through dance. But here's the catch: if they actually teach these women to be more assertive, more independent, more self-confident, then they won't need the dance instructor any more. Or so the rationale goes. So the object of this sick and cynical game is to keep the students off balance, always having to come back to the instructor for more validation, acceptance, whatever.

    These instructors, again in my experience--and I can't even give examples because much of what I know was given to me in confidence--treat their pro partners much the same way. They rely on keeping their self-esteem low so that the poor girl has to keep looking for validation from her partner. The one who assaults her dignity is also the one who provides her sense of self worth. The Partner giveth and the Partner taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Partner.

    And it's not that the instructors who do this are bad people--they learn it from the business practices of the studio they work for and from some of the professional associations they've made. Often they're very nice guys to know--many abusive men are. But what they do is still a form of abuse.

    So does context determine what is acceptable professional behavior? Of course it does. But the question that I was addressing was this one:

    The answer is, you betcha that's a possibility. As you've pointed out, it's also possible to contextualize the comment in another way. But if I didn't see abusive relationships between particularly women students and male teachers as a serious problem, I wouldn't have responded as I had. It's a serious problem even in a small community like Nashville. How much more so in the larger world?

    I agree with you that the first thing one ought to do, before getting a lot of hurt feelings, is ask whether the comment was meant in "the nicest, friendliest way." But I don't see how "your dancing has gotten terrible" can be construed as nice or friendly. Presumably, MS knows well enough what her teacher is like, and if she didn't think that it were possible that he was trying to make her feel "insecure" or "just being nasty" (her words), she wouldn't have asked. The problem with going to the teacher and directly asking is that, like the classic abuser, it allows him to backpeddle, explain everything rationally, control. Laying something out in front of a relatively objective group of people allows an individual to judge the behavior independently of any possibly self-interested justifying context.

    It's quite possible that the more discussion of this sort of thing that goes on, like the discussion of prices, business practices, etc., the more students will feel empowered and ask pertinent questions about their teacher's behavior towards them. There was a time in the academic community where professors were hopelessly arrogant, but as education has become more competitive, that arrogance is more difficult to sustain (although at certain august universities it still goes on).

    So I'd say it's a good thing that dancers can ask questions like these in an international forum. How else are we going to know what we can accept and what we can't accept than by asking other people what their own experiences have been? Some teachers may not like it, but industry owners didn't like it when their workers organized either. Too bad, here's the Internet, the great opinion leveller. We've all got our personal styles and preferences. But bottom line, the bills in my wallet are green, and any teacher who wants some of that had better bloody well treat me with the respect that I demand, display, and deserve.
  14. etchuck

    etchuck New Member

    There's not much I can add to this discussion except that honesty aside, there's a way to say things that make business-sense. Really, I can respect someone giving me a blunt and honest opinion, but if it's to try to entice someone to give me money, you have to wonder. Could you imagine if a former personal trainer came up to you and said, "Hey, fatso, why don't you hire me to make you thin again?"
  15. SDsalsaguy

    SDsalsaguy Administrator Staff Member

    Well said etchuck.
  16. tj

    tj New Member

    Lol! Harsh!
  17. Hank

    Hank Member

    My teacher is brutally honest with me, which is what I want from her. Otherwise, I'd feel like I'm not getting my money's worth. I pay her to criticize me for an hour.

    I have watched her female students cry in response to her instruction, usually in the context of feedback after a performance or competition. But, she explained to me that competitions are stressful events where emotions are high, and it isn't all that unusual for women to cry at them. It doesn't seem to both her, and it hasn't caused any of her students to leave her.
  18. etchuck

    etchuck New Member

    Well, sure... I would expect some honesty with a private teacher I am paying. On the other hand, part of it is that the teacher must have some modicum of tact or "bedside manner" as it were. I'm not saying that teachers have no right to be rude if they think it were effective as a teaching tool, but I'd only do that if I knew that my student had the constitution to take such criticism properly and not personally. Certainly if I were to make a pitch for a potential student, I wouldn't be that rude.

    That goes back to the old joke:
    Patient: "So, doctor, what do you think?"
    Doctor: "I think you need surgery."
    Patient: "I want a second opinion."
    Doctor: "Okay, you're ugly too." (rimshot)

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