“Good manners will open doors that the best education cannot.” – Clarence Thomas
As the dance year begins, teachers will welcome students while poised and ready to teach technique. Dance technique can only be learned in a disciplined classroom, and in order to maintain that discipline, dancers everywhere need to follow proper dance etiquette.
Etiquets, or signs, were used in France in the 1700’s to remind aristocrats not to walk through King Louis XIV’s gardens by forcing them to stay within the boundaries of the étiquets. In the years following, etiquettes, or tickets, were used to invite people to social functions in the court and remind them where to stand and how to behave.
Dance classes have similar rules regarding how to behave and where to stand in the studio and are passed down, sometimes silently. Dance educators need to remember that teaching dance etiquette to students is as important as teaching technique, since it helps maintain order in the studio and helps ensure dancers’ safety when many bodies are moving at once in the same space.
Dancers are expected to arrive early for class and begin to warm up on their own through cardiovascular movements. Students that arrive after class has begun should stand in the doorway until the combination is completed and wait for a signal from the teacher acknowledging the right to enter the studio. The student should then inconspicuously move to a spot in the room or at the barre to blend in with the class. A student arriving late to class should never walk to the front of the room or barre and force others who were on time for class to move. Students arriving more than ten minutes late to class will have missed a portion of the warm-up and will be at risk for injury if allowed to take class. These students should not expect to dance but should understand they must watch class. When watching, they should do so silently and remain focused throughout the class. Much can be learned from observing a dance class, and it can be a valuable experience if treated as one.
Students should arrive prepared to dance. They should be in the required attire with hair pulled back and without jewelry. The importance of following a dress code was discussed in last week’s post, Is A Dress Code ReallyNecessary?. Dance clothes should be clean and washed after every class, and dancers should be certain to use deodorant. Dancers stand very close to each other and sweat a great deal when dancing. Proper hygiene makes class a pleasant experience for everyone. Jewelry should not be worn to class because it can be a hazard to both the dancer and his or her classmates. As an arm accidentally collides with someone’s face, a watch can cause a great deal of pain, and a leotard strap or a finger that catches in an earring can tear an earlobe.
Dancers should leave cellphones in their bags in the dressing area and be sure to silence them while in class so no one will be disturbed.
Dancers should be certain to use the bathroom before class and make an effort not to leave class to use the restroom. If absolutely necessary, the student should wait until the break between the warm-up and center floor work to ask permission to use the bathroom.
Dancers need to be mindful about how they enter the dance studio and do so in a proud and respectful manner. Running into the space, wrestling with another student, or schlepping into the studio implies a lack of respect for the space, the other dancers, and the teacher and suggests that the dancer does not want to be in class. Many schools that conduct auditions say that they know immediately whom they will consider or choose based upon how the dancers enter the space.
It is important that the dancers stand as the teacher enters the room and move to the place in the room where they will begin class. If class normally begins at the barre, dancers should be sure to stand near the barre but never hang on it, since that implies that one is too tired to be in class.
If a dancer has, or is recovering from, an injury, he or she should speak with the teacher before class begins. The teacher must be aware of any injuries to ensure that more harm is not done and to understand why a student may be modifying certain exercises. Additionally, if a student must leave class early, he or she must request the teacher’s permission to do so before class begins. It is never acceptable for a student to interrupt class to tell a teacher that he or she is leaving or to make a big deal of it. When the time comes for the student to leave, he or she should simply catch the teacher’s eye and quickly curtsey or bow before quietly exiting the space.
All of these rules of etiquette can be observed in a dance studio even before class begins. Next week’s post will focus on the rules of dance etiquette that should be followed during the actual class.