By Mia Lyndon (of auditionquest.co.uk)
It’s bizarre how dance, which often begins so purely and innocently in our youngest years, can grow to become so cut-throat. Enrolling in junior dance classes- with the only intent to enjoy ourselves- is gradually moulded into a world of competitiveness and hierarchy. Yet for most, we dance only because we desire to be moved both physically and mentally. We ultimately just want to enjoy ourselves.
The unkindness associated with the dance industry seems to be a side-effect of stopping at no lengths to be the best.
If I have learnt anything from this industry, it is that kindness is a characteristic that can make you visibly glow. Forgotten or abused by many, simply being ‘nice’ can get you so much further than unpleasantness. Kindness opens up opportunities to help and be helped, ultimately allowing you to learn and build new contacts. As dancers, we must be workable: choreographers, teachers, directors and peers will be attracted to positivity.
The trick is to know how and when to inject kindness, without being trod over by other individuals.
1. Say Thank You
This is perhaps the most obvious example of being kind, yet it is so often forgotten. I’ve regularly shaken my head at auditions, classes or exams when vast numbers of dancers have failed to thank the teacher or panel members at the end. Studio etiquette is something that all dancers are familiar with- so being appreciative should be at the forefront of this.
But, it doesn’t stop there. Most dancers will remember to thank their superiors, yet will completely forget to treat their peers, or their inferiors, with the name politeness. It doesn’t matter who somebody is, what relation they have to you or how highly you regard them as a dancer- every individual that invests time in helping you should be thanked.
2. Stop Turning Everything into a Competition
The only thing you should treat as a competition is an actual competition- you know, the ones with actual judges, actual scores and actual winners. Everything else, should not be made competitive.
Competitiveness breeds rivalry, insecurities and can poison relationships with both peers and teachers. With so many dancers already insecure about their own qualities and abilities, adding an air of competition into everything can only be destructive- and unkind.
It seems that many dancers feel the need to prove themselves to others, so they go about this by trying to compare everything. We all know that one dancer who won’t allow you to speak of your own achievements without shutting you down by telling you something ‘better’ that they’ve achieved. It is unpleasant and can be damaging, as well as being utterly unnecessary.
Dancers are artists- we use sensitivity and emotion to create characters and engage an audience. So, if this is a skill that so many of us possess, why not treat other dancers with the same emotional understanding?
It is so important that we empathise with other dancers and try to understand how they may be feeling. People experience things in completely different ways to ourselves and that is okay- we must respect this.
Perhaps one of your peers has failed to land a spot in a show, picked up and injury, or has been unsuccessful in multiple audition attempts. Regardless of how you perceive the situation, you must treat an upset person with kindness and sensitivity- now is not the time to start rubbing in your own achievements.
However, this stretches further than just your peers- empathising with a teacher or director is crucial too. If you have had a bad lesson or rehearsal, try to understand why and also how the people around you may be feeling.
4. Listen and Appreciate
Nobody likes being ignored. Nobody.
I’ve seen numerous situations when a dancer has had a good idea, yet has been completely shut down or ignored by peers. Some dancers seem to think they hold all of the decision-making keys, utterly dominating any rehearsal or choreographic process. Not only is this unfair but it is also damaging- it can make others feel worthless and unvalued.
If somebody has something to say, even if it is the worst idea in the world, listen and appreciate. Thank that person for their suggestion and discuss alternatives or adaptions necessary. The worst thing you can do is to ignore somebody or undermine their ideas.
Dance is about creativity and collaboration- there are simply no wrong answers. The only barriers that exist within the dance world are man-made ones, built by individuals who are far less than kind.
Almost every dancer I have come across has identified as having some sort of insecurity. It’s human nature to dislike aspects of yourself, and this exaggerated within the competitive dance industry. With so many young performers insecure and lacking confidence, we should be building each other up, not shutting ourselves down.
A mantra that I always respect is that of: ‘Be the person that you would want to meet’.
As cliché as that may be, it’s so important. Complementing somebody can ooze kindness and can literally make somebody’s day. As dancers, we face constant criticism and corrections, so receiving a kind-hearted complement from somebody, regardless of who they are, can make us feel so much better about ourselves.
Compliments are free and limitless- spread them generously.
About the Author
Mia is the founder and director of Audition Quest, as well as a freelance writer. Having written commissions for dance institutes, various dance magazines, professional dancers, casting directors and industry leaders, she has a large amount of knowledge and experience within the written dance scene.
She is also a guest blogger for a variety of online blogs and publications.
For inquiries, commissions and queries, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org