Joan Oberndorf | October 3rd, 2012 | Posted in How To, News

It’s equally easy to be polite or rude in dance class. A primer on how to put your best foot forward.

We’ve all been there. You come to class and snag a choice spot at the center barre when a latecomer ducks in and  blocks your prized mirror access. You’re psyched up to head across the floor and someone walks in front of you, breaking your concentration. Or maybe you’re on the other end, and can’t understand why a fellow student is glaring at you or why the teacher seems just a bit aggravated…with you. It’s all about classroom etiquette, an essential part of taking class.

Ok, I’ll say it-I’m a bit old school about manners. I like it when people say please, and thank you, and excuse me, and don’t understand any reason for not doing so (for the record I’m also a big fan of chewing with your mouth closed, but to me that’s more about the gross-out factor than anything else.)  I appreciate the fact that the dance studio is (usually) a mannerly place. I find it reassuring and calming. Unfortunately, classroom manners seem to be slipping these days, and there’s no good reason for this-it doesn’t take any more effort to be polite than it does to be rude (sometimes it takes less).  You just have to remember a few simple,  logical guidelines.

Degas dancers are good listeners!

Show your teacher respect

When you’re in their classroom the teacher runs the show. This is just how it is.  You tacitly agreed to this when you paid for the class. So-

*If you’re late don’t just run in-wait a moment and catch the teacher’s eye. They’ll indicate what you should do (ie join the class or wait until the exercise is over).  Same goes for  leaving early-let them know about this before the class starts and/or catch their eye again as you’re leaving.

*If you’re injured and need to sit out or modify, let the teacher know (preferably at the beginning of class).
*Allow the teacher a clear space when they are demonstrating and don’t stand directly in front of them (very distracting!)
*Try not to walk in front of the teacher as they are watching the rest of the class-it’s not always possible to avoid doing this, but I’m always impressed/appreciative of a student who “ducks” when walking in front of me
*Listen to what the teacher says and don’t talk back (this is different than asking a question, questions are fine!).  What’s the point in talking back if you’ve paid good money for them to teach you how to dance?  I don’t tend to spend time correcting know-it-alls because, after all, they already know everything (or think they do).

Show your classmates respect

Dance class can be a place to build camaraderie, bonding and friendship with the other students.  Or not.  It can also be a place to find work (I got several gigs from people who saw, knew, and liked me from class).  Kind of up to you.

*Don’t block another dancer’s view of themselves. That poor dancer dragged herself out of bed 15 minutes early just so she can grab the choice head-on-to-the-mirror vantage point at the barre, and you come in just as things start and stand in front of her?  Rude.  At the very least, ask if she (or he) wants mirror access.
*Don’t walk in front of someone as they start across the floor.  Would you want someone to do this to you?
*Space yourself appropriately. This one takes a little practice to figure out, but generally allowing a little more space (especially if you’re unsure of what you’re doing) whenever possible is the way to go.
*Don’t go front if you don’t know what you’re doing.  Ditto for going with the “first group” (unless the the teacher puts you there).  You’ll get better over time, I promise, and one day get to go first.
*Don’t cut the line when moving across the floor. Grrr.
*Trade the front spot off. If you’re moving across the floor from the corner and have taken a turn as the one in front (both sides), ask if someone else in your duo/trio wants the spot.  This is also a nice thing to do for center combinations too.  Dancers may not take you up on it but it’s good manners to offer them the option.

And finally…

*Don’t “teach” your fellow students, ie give them corrections, unless they specifically ask you to.  This is a biggie for teachers and classmates.  My dear friend always used to tell me how to adjust my feet and body in yoga class.  In a whisper, but still-I don’t stand by them any more.  Enough said.