When You Aren’t Getting Enough Corrections

My perspective on equal class attention (for any serious dancer who is frustrated by lack of teacher attention):

There are a few reasons, despite my goal to help everyone improve in class, that I would stop correcting dancers or correct some less. In my classes:

1. The least-skilled dancer gets the most corrections. This is more true at the beginning of the year. I need to bring everyone up to a similar level of competency so I can push the entire class with more difficult concepts and combinations.

2. If I have a dancer who is excellent at applying public corrections, I may focus individual corrections on dancers who think what I’m saying is not for them unless I TELL them it is. (I LOVE dancers who know every correction is for them and try to apply everything!)

3. If it doesn’t seem like the dancer is trying, after repeated attempts to state the correction in as many ways as I can conceive of it, I often back off.

4. If I have given a game-changing correction – something big that needs to be applied in EVERYTHING ALL THE TIME – I often won’t correct other things while the foundational concept is being mastered.

5. If the dancer looks stressed or unhappy in class, has received any of my corrections in a bothered or skeptical way, or seems to berate herself for errors, I don’t want to pile on criticism so I avoid those dancers until it I feel they are more open. (It takes me forever to make this mental shift. I want everyone to get everything in class that will help them dance better. But sometimes I have realized I’m just bugging a dancer that may not care, and my time is better spent on other people in the class.)

6. If a dancer consistently messes up combinations which I have designed specifically to BE the correction they need, I don’t give additional tips until the steps are right.

7. A dancer may be struggling with things I feel are outside of my competency. I shy away from giving corrections unless I’m fairly certain they will help.

I have ALSO observed some teachers have legitimate favoritism issues, only correcting those they think have the greatest potential, or those with whom their personality clicks best. This is reflective of many (if not most) directors of professional companies. Few (in my experience and observation) regard it as part of their job to develop the entire company.

So if your dancer is under-corrected in class, a few things:

1. If the content of the class, if the environment of the school, and if the other dancers are good or better, it’s not a bad thing to tough it out and learn from the experience. Dancers must learn how to get really good at solving their own dance shortcomings. Watch the better dancers in class and try to look like them. See if anyone before or after class has thoughts about how you could do this or that better. Take video of yourself and correct what YOU can see. These habits are how most dancers in companies progress and land roles.

2. If the content of the class is NOT making most participants better dancers, if the favoritism is twinged with shame or resentment or mind games, or if your dancer is not surrounded by peers who can inspire her, it may be wise to look elsewhere if/when alternatives are available.

3. If you are up to trouble-shooting, the open conversation ideally should be approached this way: dancer asks teacher if she can visit at some point with teacher about dance goals. (Ideally, especially if there is a mind-game history in the school, the parent is there for this conversation.) The dancer shares what he or she is hoping to get out of his/her training that year and beyond (land a role, get into an intensive, master a step, become a better jumper/turner, whatever). Don’t make it too general (get better) but don’t throw out too many specifics either (because then the goal really is just get better, and that’s simply assumed). Ask the teacher for advice on reaching the goal. He or she may address aspects of class, OR they might share things you can do outside of class you hadn’t thought of. IF they don’t mention anything related to class, you can follow up with, “Is there any advice you have for my class work that can help with this goal?”

Plan to do whatever the teacher recommends, but prepare to be disappointed by this conversation. Its content isn’t the point, although if you get good feedback, even better! The conversation helps the teacher know the dancer is thoughtful, intentional, assertive and willing to work hard and take corrections. If absolutely nothing changes (and there’s a good chance it won’t) the exercise of being thoughtful, intentional, and assertive will STILL benefit the dancer.

As he or she continues to work in this way, if the studio is the problem, alternatives will arise (born from other teachers taking note and making suggestions, or conversations with moms of other serious, hard-working dancers, or your own willingness to look for solutions, or summer intensives elsewhere, or some combination of all of the above, or something else).

I hope that helps. I suspect many professional dancers have had similar experiences. I attended a good, local, but very political school. That experience encouraged me to audition for pre-pro programs. At the pre-pro school I landed at, my personality was not a match with the director. The teachers advocated for me and I danced leading roles there anyway. My friends in the same program, who went on to be principle dancers with ABT and Houston Ballet, told me later that they were also not the favorites of the school. That shocked me. If these superstars of the ballet weren’t the obvious favorites, who WAS? (I guess the director had a personality he liked and apparently none of us fit it.) They were not negatively impacted at all by their lack of favorite status because they were at a good school with good training.

As for me? I got a job with a company that didn’t encourage continued development, felt after a few years that I’d gone about as far as I was likely to go given the leadership, and retired to begin the next chapter of life.

All of that to say that one set of circumstances does not determine outcome. One teacher loving you does not make you a star. And escaping one set of challenges doesn’t mean you’ll be able to avoid them all. The PROCESS of navigating is one of the biggest blessings you’ll take with you in to the rest of life. Be thoughtful, intentional, assertive, and work your butt off. Then, no matter the outcome, you’ll be a better PERSON for having taken the journey.