Monday, January 13, 2014

Be Quiet! You're in Dance Class!

I have ALWAYS been a talker. 

Even though I was a good kid, talking was my downfall.  At sleepovers and at camp, as an only child who desperately craved late night chatter and hijinks, I was the last to go to sleep.  When friends' parents drove me somewhere, I remember getting the distinct feeling that they found me to be the loudest child in North, and possibly South America. And in sixth grade, a few of my pals and I would sit in the back of our English class, run our mouths, and every now and then treat the class to a full-blown rendition of the title song from the 80’s hit Broadway musical, "Dreamgirls."  We deserved to be thrown out and sent to the principal's office, but for some reason we were spared.

The one place I never talked, however, was in dance class. My ballet, jazz, and tap classes were serious business. There were too many corrections being given, and way too much to learn.  I loved my classes with every cell of my being. 

I wanted my teachers not just to like me, but to adore me. I idolized them, and their opinion meant the world to me. My teachers just had to see me as a talented dancer, and a sweet and respectful girl. The thought of them being upset with me for any reason was unbearable.  

My friends had the same attitude. I had many close buddies in class, including the woman also known as my bestie -- we've been friends for 30+ years.  We knew to do our secret-telling, giggling and palling around before class or after.  

During class it was time to work.

Knowing how much dance has always meant to me I am completely bumfuzzled how so many old-enough-to-be-serious dancers of varying ages talk so much in class.  I hear it from my dance teacher friends of all disciplines.  I used to think that jazz and modern, for some reason, tended to invite more verbal spew, but some of my friends who teach rigorous ballet classes at serious schools also have to smack down Dancer Blabberitis.  It’s as though some students literally cannot resist talking between exercises or when corrections are being given. Several times I have watched a student talk when I was giving her INDIVIDUAL feedback.  These people were so consumed with telling so-and-so such-and-such that they had no idea their name had been mentioned for personal attention!

Sometimes students are legitimately talking -- helping each other with an exercise.  Still, they somehow never got the message not to speak when the teacher is.  I always tell students that in almost every company I danced in I was the company clown, entertaining people with accents, songs, and zany mis-interpretive dances.  I always, always knew, however, to shut my yap once the director or choreographer started talking. 

Many of these blabbermouth kids would swear to lie, cheat, steal and murder in Dance's name, and that may be true, but they won't -- can't-- stop talking. They swear they mean no disrespect – dance is their life -- but their lack of focus can be disruptive and rude, not to mention self-destructive.  Humor, lectures, begging, encouragement, the threat of bad grades, the threat of undesirable casting – all useless long term anti-talking strategies for many of these dancers. Gah!

They want to dance, but it’s as though they want to get to the top of the mountain without the climb.  

The only thing that seems to work is time.  Eventually, they self-select out of the art form.  

Or maybe somewhere down the road, having realized that they do want a career, they wish they had shut the hell up.

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