Over the years, I’ve come to realize that for many dancers, the most anxiety-filled performances they’ll ever have are those that are done in front of their teachers. Whether in class or on stage, the thought of performing in front of an instructor that is looked up to is often met with dread.
Oh, how clearly I remember the nauseating waves of pure horror that would engulf me when I spotted one of my teachers in the audience… or even when I was getting coached in a private lesson! It took me a long while to realize that I wasn’t alone in this experience. Many years later, after numerous conversations with professional dancers, I discovered that many of my peers- and even those who had instructed me- felt exactly the same.
For years, I’ve seen this neurotic –but extremely common- behavior rearing it’s head in my own classes…even though I do everything possible to make my students feel comfortable. But students still sometimes feel nervous and uncomfortable when the teacher observes them.
During one workshop, the paranoia was so widespread among my students that as a last resort, I taught the rest of the class wearing a pair of sunglasses ... so none of the students would be able to tell who I was looking at!
In my classes I strive to provide a supportive atmosphere and make learning dance fun… and I’m not alone. Of course, there are as many teaching styles as there are teachers; some instructors are a little tougher or more blunt than others. And unfortunately, there are definitely a few crazies in our profession. But for the most part, pretty much all of the of the teachers I know – or have had the pleasure of learning from- feel the same way as I do about teaching!
So I’m going to tell you a few things about the way we teachers view our students, and hope it will put your mind at ease next time you get nervous about having one of your instructors watch you during class or in performance. Here goes:
None of us were born great dancers, we all had to work for it- and work hard- for years, same as you!
We really appreciate all of your hard work in class, during your extracurricular practice at home, and when you’re on stage. We want you to succeed and become the best dancer you can possibly be!
When we correct your technique in class or rehearsal, it’s not to make you feel bad, it’s for a particular reason.
Sometimes we want to make sure that you are dancing in a safe manner so you don’t hurt yourself. Other times, we want to see that you’re getting the right feel down, finishing every movement, and performing to the best of your ability. As teachers, we want you to learn, and almost nothing is better for us than to see you understand and execute whatever we are teaching.
There’s a reason the terms Baby Dancer and Dance Mamma came into use.
Basically, we teachers see our students as our kids. Handing down our knowledge of the dance is like continuing a family bloodline- we want our family to be healthy and strong in future generations!
We see many of you “at birth”, we see you taking your first tentative steps- or shimmies, as the case may be! We teach you how to “talk” ( string single movements together into combinations) and we “diaper” you by giving you costuming hints! Sometimes, we even deal with "teenage rebellion"- but that doesn't mean we don't still love you. We just wanna raise you right!
When we watch you in performance, we are not judging you.
Even if we don’t know you very well, most of us can tell right away what level you’re at, and what you’re capable of at this specific moment in your dance training. And though it might surprise you, a lot of us can also see what you’ll be capable of in the future. We love to watch you grow and change, and we respect what you are doing- at any level. Remember that whatever you’re going through before or during a performance, be it pre-show jitters or dealing with onstage mishaps; we’ve all been there! Every one of us has had bad performances, and whether some of us will admit it or not, many of us have failed spectacularly onstage…and we don’t want that for you! We’re with you. We want you to shine.
Nothing makes us happier than seeing our students succeed!
When we see our students run into the dressing room elated after their first performance, we feel the excitement. Later on, when you kill it onstage, win contests, get gig offers, terrific reviews, or start teaching your own classes, it fills our hearts to a bursting point in a way that absolutely cannot be described to someone that hasn’t started teaching yet. Many of us get teary eyed and emotional.
It’s a huge deal for us to see you do well; it means we that we did our job and did it well. Lots of of us have taught students that became our peers, or even surpassed us. Seriously, there is nothing better for a teacher than to know she’s had a hand in shaping the career of a phenomenal dancer.
Feel a little better now?
My brand new book, “The Belly Dance Handbook” is out! Get a signed copy here:
If you live outside of Los Angeles, you can still “attend” my book release party and see all the performances on Friday, Feb. 27, 2013- IT’S STREAMING LIVE at 7:30 PM Pacific Standard Time at www.justin.tv/Iqaat
If you happen to be in LA, you’re invited to this free event.
Fri. Feb. 7, 2014, 7:30pm at Studio Iqaat, 3515 Eagle Rock Blvd, LA CA 90039