This will be a short article, but something needs to be said. I’m really tired of people bringing each other down due to dance school rivalries. As more people join a community, they find out very quickly who doesn’t get along, who doesn’t support another school’s events, and who purportedly did what first (or better). Drama should not be the focal point of a dance community, but it so often is. Many people find their passion on the dance floor. Dancing and music naturally radiate positivity and good vibes, so the dance community should be a happy place. People should support and encourage one another whether they are social dancing, performing, or competing. This is how it should be, but something gets in the way. I’m not sure exactly how to define it–whether it’s jealousy, competitiveness, cattiness, or just plain being mean–but for a community to thrive, this attitude has to end. The drama has to stop.
When a community is small and everyone knows everyone, there are bound to be conflicting points of view and disagreements. I’m certainly not disputing that, but there must be a way to peacefully coexist. When people discourage others from attending events, make disrespectful comments during performances, talk smack about other dancers, or post negative comments on social media, this helps NO ONE. Nobody benefits from these actions and in fact, several dancers end up feeling uncomfortable, forced to choose sides, or embarrassed and disappointed by the behaviour of their peers (and sometimes, instructors). In fact, this drama often leads many people to call it quits and hang up their dance shoes. See this article by Melissa West-Koistila for more on the unfortunate reality of dance class warfare.
So what can we do to address the elephant in almost every social dance room? Well, that’s no easy task. I’m not saying I have any clear answers, but I would like to suggest some possible courses of action that at least seem reasonable:
- Try to remain as neutral as possible. Even if you’re part of a dance school, try to attend as many events as you can to support all of the organizers in your area. This way, you will experience social dancing with all kinds of people and this will only help you to advance your skill level. You will also learn from a variety of instructors and sources at different workshops and give yourself opportunities for exposure, whether through performing or networking. I’ll put this simply: if you don’t go to stuff because you don’t like the people running the stuff, you’ll end up missing out on a lot of stuff. You’re only hurting yourself here.
- The next piece of advice is tied to number one, but it is crucial: what you choose to attend is your own business, but don’t ever discourage others from going to an event. Whether for financial or personal reasons, we can’t always go to everything. That’s fair. What isn’t fair is to constantly hear, “Why are you supporting such-and-such when so-and-so has done this and that.” Or sometimes, straight up: “You can’t go to that.” (I’m sorry, but no one should have the power to tell you that unless they’re your parents and you’re a minor!) I’m tired of hearing these stories. I’m tired of feeling like I need to pick sides. I’m tired of feeling guilty for going out to dance with my friends. If I don’t go to something, it’s probably because I’m so tired. ;) Seriously though, I will attend whatever I can and by doing this, I don’t ever mean to hurt someone or avoid going to a different event or to proclaim my loyalty to any particular group. I like to think most people feel the same way. If you are someone who avoids events altogether due to an affiliation with a rival school or instructor, never let this become an agenda. It isn’t fair to your peers, students, or the community as a whole.
- Don’t contribute to the gossip. When people share negative rumours, ask questions such as: “Are you sure that’s how it went down?” Better yet, tell them you’d rather not talk about it or hear it. Obviously if you have experienced conflict, you will need to confide in someone. Talk to your friends or people you trust and rant about what happened, but don’t tell people who don’t need to know. Avoid sharing posts on social media that reflect negativity about other dancers. If you have something to say, confront individuals rather than an online social forum. Share your thanks and your positivity, not your or anyone else’s hostile rants. Many of us are guilty of making this mistake and it’s only human to want to express our frustrations. The problem is, even if you are in the right, your post will be perceived negatively by many individuals within (and outside of) your community.
- Most importantly, encourage one another. Whenever I am part of the audience at an event, you will hear me screaming and cheering (almost obnoxiously so) anytime a dancer from my city or province hits the stage, even if we are not part of the same group or dance school. Why? Because I know them, I respect what they do, and usually, because they’re killing it! I’m not saying I’m a perfect role model for these sorts of situations. I’m not proud of how I’ve handled every frustration or hurt feeling from dance drama. What I am saying is that you can move past the animosity and just dance. If you enjoy a routine, congratulate the choreographer and dancers and tell them you appreciate their work. If someone wows you on the social dance floor, cheer them on! If there are dancers in your community who compete, wish them luck and again contribute to the applause and cheers. Remember that your actions both on and off the dance floor are a reflection of you and a reflection of your dance community. You don’t want to scare people off by pulling them into a whirlwind of childish remarks and behaviour.
We all want the same thing. We all want to dance and to spread our love of dance to others. Let’s bring the focus back to this point because none of this bullshit drama really matters and it will only continue to tear the community apart.