No more drama!

Can't we all just get along?
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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:

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.

19 Comments

  • Fred says:

    I have a question and comment about this.
    I’ve heard and read about this from various sources, books, social media etc. In NYC it was well documented in the past, but I don’t know the current state. My impression of NYC is that it’s somewhat past this “stage,” which brings me to the question: does this occur as much in larger places like NYC where salsa has been danced and there’re a multitude of schools and companies and really most of the locals are well-versed with the scene, the dance etc? Or, is this mostly a phenomenon that afflicts somewhat smaller scenes mostly, where the dance and industry aren’t as established? Or, is it still a big issue in NYC and I am simply out of the loop as it were?!
    Cause, the way I see it, it’s really ignorance to have such attitudes. Here’s why: it’s competitive, but it actually is beneficial in the long run to have more schools and dance companies. It creates more dancers and builds the scene, which is beneficial to the industry as a whole. For instance, for NYC teachers and schools and companies, it brings in a lot of visitors to learn and experience the scene and makes companies and teachers there more prominent, among others. So, to me, it seems like more teachers, schools, socials etc, is actually a good thing for these teachers themselves and the dancers, too. Yes, it can be competitive and might be stressful to start, but it seems to be positive overall in the longer term.
    So, I wonder, don’t people think this can in fact be a positive thing, and is this phenomenon of conflict more prevalent in some areas or places than others? The way I see it, it seems to be an especially smaller place/new to the industry phenomenon. As people get more experienced they get more informed about the industry, they realize they dont need to get that tribal. Am I right?

    • Sarah Liz Vuong says:

      Thank you for your comment, Fred. I have certainly heard tales of rivalries in larger cities, but I can’t speak to that since I live in a smaller community. I’m not sure if NYC still experiences these problems (I hope not!). I did notice after a trip to Toronto that there seemed to be less tension there between groups, but I was not there for long so who knows??

      You’re absolutely right in that competition can be a positive thing that encourages growth and leads groups to work harder rather than against one another. The more the merrier, right?

      Anyway, I’m optimistic that things will change, despite these long-standing disputes. Thanks again for commenting!

  • Tanzen ist große Übung für jedermann in jedem Alter – Sie bei 2 oder 102 tanzen kann – es ist wirklich eine lebenslange Tätigkeit.

  • Ron says:

    Nice piece Sarah – needed to be said. In fact it needs to be repeated episodically. One could also add to the focus and fill in the blank with “DJ’s” or “Promoters” or perhaps other elements of the the dance community. Staying neutral is a goal and can be more difficult when one enters the community as some sort of “leader” – teaching, djing, promoting, etc. Some can do it for sure, but once one crosses the line from a social dancer to anything else – be it a particular school, performance team, competition, promoting, teaching, djing – then staying neutral is a larger task. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not impossible. It does depend on the persons and their level of involvement If one makes a living in the dance community it’s a bigger challenge as opposed to those who are in it as part-timers outside of their real job. It does become complicated to some extent which makes fodder for drama for sure. The most damaging condition that can occur is usually in smaller communities (my opinion) when it becomes overloaded with varying factions (schools, teachers, teams, etc.) and goals by some who may want to control the community. We cannot really stop this from happening when this is an expression of who the people are – some people just want to control and own the whole enchilada. It’s an ego phenomena and they will employ tactics to hold on to control. We cannot change the people and at times their own drama overlays the entire community and they may prefer to not work ‘with’ anyone else who is a perecieved threat to their goal. It sucks for those who are living a passion. To destroy or negatively impact the passion in the community will eventually either destroy the community, reduce the community or even result in self-destruction of any who partake in such actions. I do believe karma will eventually rule but in the meantime, holding the community together and growing the passion remains difficult and filled with varying levels of drama. Bottom line – leave the ego at home, enjoy.

    • Sarah Liz Vuong says:

      Thank you so much for your insightful comment, Ron. I think you hit the nail on the head. So often, this drama comes as the result of a power struggle for control and it’s so unfortunate that people who just want to dance get caught up in all of this. Leave the ego at home, indeed! Perhaps that’s easier said than done??

      • Michele says:

        Ron & Sarah, I agree with the both of you. I think it has a lot to do with people’s egos and their motivation for being involved in the dance community. Many, myself included, dance simply for the love of the craft, regardless of the level of expertise. On the other hand, there are those that do it for other reasons such as feeding their own egos, filling a void in their lives, raising their own self-esteem, gaining attention from current and prospective followers if they are in any position of authority, looking for people to hook up with, etc. Some dancers and instructors NEED and MUST have attention and praise after a performance. Some even go as far as selecting only those members for their teams that they feel are less attractive or less talented so that they can remain the center of attention. It’s very sad and pathetic in my opinion. I think instructors should encourage their students to be the best that they can be and guide them in reaching their full potential. Most importantly, these negative practices can turn once enthusiastic dancers into very bitter members of the dance community. I think that it’s a great challenge to remain neutral when you see what I mentioned above happen over and over again as new dancers enter the community. I’m not sure what the solution is. I think that attempting to change those that take advantage of and use others, is a fool’s errand.

  • Ohio Salsa says:

    HI….well written…

    You write:

    When people discourage others from attending events, make disrespectful comments during performances, talk smack about other dancers, or post negative comments on social media, People do that ? wth ….

    .”We all want the same thing. We all want to dance and to spread our love of dance to others”

    I think you , I and a lot of people want that….but not everyone..

    Everyone dances for a reason uniquely their own…when I started …mine was to forget about hurt and pain…. ..today the reason is different….

    You can’t save the world…but you have a good spirit….

    take care…..and save me a fast one….

    • Sarah Liz Vuong says:

      Thanks for your feedback–and yes, those things are actually happening. WTH indeed.
      I appreciate your note regarding my use of the word “everyone” and you’re right. I recognize that all of us have a wide variety of reasons for dancing, but I like to think that for *most* of us, those reasons come from a positive place (or the desire to reach a more positive place). 🙂 See you on the dance floor!

  • Joelle says:

    Very well said !! The worst consequence is for the student who wants to grow and improve by attending different classes and events, but ends up just not dancing at all due to all the rivalries.

    • Sarah Liz Vuong says:

      Thanks, Joelle, and yes, that is so true. It’s sad to see people fall off the Latin dance radar but it’s so often because they are sick of all the drama and don’t want to be around it. It sucks!

  • Chris Geiger says:

    Hello I’ve been a dancer for over a decade now. I dance with many different and similar groups and remain with all of them.This article is awesome at letting everyone know these negative behaviors affect everyone.The downfall is everyone has opinion and shares them.Every group I dance with has good and bad comments.Usually the same drama and types of people creating the drama.It happens no matter what you do.The best thing I’ve found is to try and look at all the good comments and opinions going around and try to forget the bad ones.For those creating the bad stuff, let them know.It’s easier to apoligize right away, rather than let things build tIL they are out of control.Face it,were all at fault whether we know or admit to it.We are all able to make mistakes.It is how we resolve the mistakes that make us better.

    • Sarah Liz Vuong says:

      Hi Chris,

      Thank you so much for your comment. I absolutely agree that individuals need to focus on the good rather than the bad–dance is meant to be positive and uplifting! Communication is also very important, as is admitting our mistakes. 🙂 Hopefully, open communication can help resolve some of these conflicts but unfortunately, it doesn’t always work that way when egos get in the way of progress.

      See you on the dance floor!

  • Ron says:

    Thoughtful observations Michele!

  • Michele says:

    Thank you Ron!

  • Cait says:

    It’s particularly bad when people start drama or engage in this kind of “dance class warfare” when things aren’t always under your control. like you pointed out, if you can’t attend a certain event or go to a certain class, it often has nothing to do with the instructor, performer etc…

    I started dancing my first year of college a few years ago, through a school club. The senior members of the club hired an instructor affiliated with the school for weekly lessons. I was (and still am) a broke college student, and it wasn’t financially reasonable to be able to pay for many other classes or even regularly attend events with a cover charge, so I primarily took the free classes offered through the school because I fell in love with dancing and still wanted to do it. And, because the classes happened to be taught by a certain instructor, dancers who learned from another instructor not only refused to dance with me, but on a few occasions openly insulted me. I almost quit dancing.

    More recently, in another city, a local pair of instructors happened to show up at a non-dancing related event in support of a mutual dance friend. They were surprised to hear I knew him from the dance community, confused and annoyed that they hadn’t seen me before and were openly antagonistic towards me because I hadn’t attended their events. I had to explain to them that I had nothing against them and didn’t attend their events because I wasn’t allowed to do so. Their events and weekly socials were hosted at strictly 21+ venues, and I was only 19 at the time.

    Unfortunately, so much drama is manufactured on incorrect assumptions without any consideration to an individual’s situation.

  • GITAGA says:

    Hi Sarah, thanks for highlighting the issue.Personally, have felt it fast hand in Nairobi, Kenya while at a social dance night out. It all started when i asked a lady for a dance which she declined saying she was tired. I truly respected that and walked backed to my seat. Immediately after i had walked away, another guy whom i considered to be pro asked the lady for a dance and the next thing i saw was the lady in the dance floor.Felt really bad. Latter i came to realize that’s its the trend over there. Its whether your in the ” Creme dela creme” that determines whether youll have a dance. Ever since then i shyed away from attending there social night outs.
    As far as what i had experienced, i think this drama comes as the result of a power struggle for control and it’s so unfortunate that people who just want to dance get caught up in all of this. How about if we could all Leave our ego at home, indeed everything will change.
    My suggestion more especially to the elite

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