“Good manners will open doors that the best education cannot.” – Clarence Thomas
Last week’s post focused upon the etiquette that should be followed before class begins. This week’s post will focus upon expected behavior during the actual dance class.
The learning that occurs in dance class is largely based upon observation. It is important to pay attention to and carefully observe each detail as a teacher demonstrates combinations and ask as few questions as possible. Dance is mainly visual, and students need to train themselves to carefully watch and internalize combinations.
It is for this reason that dancers must remain focused in class. Talking during class disturbs the necessary focus, and since someone is always dancing in class, talking is considered to be rude. Those who are not dancing are expected to act as audience members and watch their peers. A large part of learning in class can, and should, occur while watching others dance and observing their successes and any difficulties they may be having with the combinations.
Respect for others is paramount in class, and it is illustrated by where the dancer stands in class and how he or she moves through the space. When standing at a barre that accommodates dancers on both sides, dancers should place their hands pinky to pinky with those on the opposite side of the barre. This formation allows dancers on either side of the barre to freely move their arms forward during exercises that require weight transfers without hitting each other.
When standing in the center, dancers who are in front during a combination should rotate to the back of the room when the combination is repeated, offering those who were in the back a chance to move to the front of the studio.
When performing combinations that travel across the floor, dancers need to be ready to begin when it is their turn. It is not acceptable to stand at the front of the line but not begin. This behavior is unfair to the other dancers who are waiting and forces them to either continue to wait or jump in at the last minute. If a dancer is unsure of a combination, it is best to move to the end of the line and watch other dancers go first. It is also often helpful to dance in a group with someone else who knows the combination well. If a dancer makes a mistake or gets confused when going across the floor, he or she must never stop in the middle of the floor. Other groups will have started moving across the floor and a collision will likely occur. The confused dancer should simply keep moving across the space, trying to jump back into the phrase. The same should occur if a dancer falls. As long as he or she is not injured, the dancer should stand back up and rejoin the dancers.
When entering the floor before a combination or exiting after a combination is completed, dancers should move quickly so no time is wasted. Dancers should never turn and walk backwards through other dancers who are moving but should instead exit the floor by moving forwards and to either side of the space. Dancers should also make every effort not to cross in front of the teacher while he or she is watching another dancer.
It is never permissible for a dancer to sit during class. Sitting implies that a dancer is too tired to be in class and also relaxes the muscles and body in a way that signals the brain that movement is coming to an end.
Dance class often involves some waiting while the teacher demonstrates a combination, discusses a correction or other groups are dancing. Those who are not dancing should never treat these times as an opportunity to relax. Just as a dancer who is posed on stage must keep performing, a dancer in class must keep working. When a teacher is demonstrating, the students should be “marking” the combination along with her or him. Although while marking the phrase legs do not have to be held at full height and jumps and turns do not have to be fully executed, arm and head movements should be performed completely. When dancers are waiting for another group to do a combination, they should be watching and learning from the other dancers and working on parts of the combination that they are finding difficult.
When it is the dancer’s turn to perform a combination, he or she must always put forth his or her best effort and dance full out. The worst thing that a dancer could do is to hold back while dancing in class. Class for a dancer is equivalent to a practice for an athlete. It is in class that new skills are learned, practiced and mastered, but that cannot happen if a dancer approaches combinations hesitantly or tentatively. Dancers make mistakes and fall all of the time and that is the purpose of class. Working in the studio allows the dancers to perfect their skills for the stage.
When a mistake is made, it gives the teacher the opportunity to give a correction and help the dancer grow. Corrections are compliments as was discussed in my post, Correction: Compliment or Insult? When a dancer is corrected, he or she should thank the teacher and try the exercise again immediately while implementing the correction. This action helps the teacher be certain the student understands the correction and gives the student the opportunity to internalize it.
At the end of every class, the students should applaud and either curtsey or bow to the teacher and the accompanist if there is one. Dance etiquette also requires that each student walk up to the teacher individually to verbally thank him or her when the class is finished.
Etiquette is a large and necessary part of any dance class. It shows respect for the art form, the teacher and the other dancers and is part of the discipline required to keep dancers safe when they are all moving together in the same space.