Growing up has always been tough. Everyone you love knows that so they do their best to give advise to dancers, catch them when they fall, and bolster self-esteem. But most lessons in life are learned through trial and error and the life of an artist-in-training is certainly no exception.
Last Christmas, I went to visit my first teacher. I remember how angry she made me a million times. I remember not getting roles I wanted or compliments I thought I deserved. She was like a mother to me but she always did what was best for the company which often meant I was denied. But I persevered. I realized rather young that I was no prodigy so I tried to capitalize on my strengths and work on my shortcomings. My own mother was from an era that trusted the teacher and didn’t interfere when I was weeping about some shortcoming I thought my teacher possessed. There were never teacher conferences or talk of changing schools. Each day, I arrived for class and rehearsal, just like the day before. All these years later, I know how wise both my teacher and my mother were. I learned rejection and perseverance from the two people I respected the most. It prepared me for a life that is filled with plenty of rejection and requires endless perseverance. It also allowed me to train and work as a dancer, an artist, and now, a professional dance teacher.
I train dancers because I believe the discipline it teaches is unparalleled. No one has the discipline of a ballet dancer! But that’s only when the process is allowed to work. Often I am confronted by parents unhappy with some perceived injustice and it almost always includes not the comments I made but the comments the student perceived and relayed. This teaches kids how to manipulate those around them and deprives them of the lessons they might learn. A teacher with high standards that has faith in a student’s ability to rise to the occasion should be encouraged to have high expectations, not lower them in order to soothe the ego of the child in front of them.
I encourage parents and students to let the system function the way it has throughout history. No teacher is in this for the money, the fame, or the power. They teach because they know it can lead to a life-long love of the body in movement. That gift is the best thing you can provide your child. They will thank you all of their life and come to respect your wisdom and insight. You will not only improve the quality of their life but the lives of their children as well. It is the gift that keeps on giving if you allow it to.