OK, I’m just going to talk about it. We all know it’s a topic we need to address and are sometimes afraid to because it could infringe upon what is politically correct or appropriate to discuss with our students. Nobody wants to overstep or upset parents, BUT, the studio is an environment where it should be safe to have candid and frank discussions about body hygiene, etiquette and respecting the fellow dancers we share the space with. Boys, girls, it really makes no difference. We are all faced with dancers at that tender age where body chemistry and hormones start to change and getting into good hygiene practices are necessary with this sudden shift in maturity. Not to mention for us, the teachers who have to be exposed to it as well! So how do we go about it? I interviewed Simone Depaolo, Artistic Director and teacher at the D’Valda & Sirico Dance & Music Centre on the topic and she provided some enlightening and non- threatening ways to go about….the talk….
Simone, we all know this is an issue that is going to come up in every dance studio. What is your advice on addressing the topic? I find it’s always easier to address this issue when you’ve gained a bit of friendly banter with your students, and know their personalities better.
Should teachers be the one having the talk? Or is it more appropriate for studio owners to address it? I find initially it’s easier for a teacher to have a general conversation in class. If it continues, then bring in the “Big Guns”-the directors.
If general talks, letters home, etc, don’t work what are the next steps to ensure proper hygiene and a pleasant dance space, locker room space, etc? When giving out holiday surprises make it “soap-on-a-rope”, or a car hanging deodorizer, then say you’ll be offended if you don’t see them being used!
What do we do if parents are opposed to the suggestion of things like deodorant, shaving, feminine hygiene, for personal, cultural, religious reasons, etc? Unless they’re opposed to soap…on-a-rope, which is sold fragrant or natural, you might just need to keep Lysol spray very close at all times.
How do we handle parents complaining about other parent’s children as the cause of the problem? Let them know you’ve addressed the situation, but if they feel as a parent they need to say something to another parent about their child, tell them go for it, independently.
What is the best way to delicately yet assertively speaking with a specific child on the topic for a second or third time? Call them to the side/office, during the class to class turnover,if possible, ”Sweetie, you’re funky, go fix that with some soap, water ,and deodorant before you head into class, glad to know you’ve been working hard! ;-)
Any final thoughts on this tender life change or advice for the adolescents themselves? It’s a natural progression and a part of growing up, being an athlete means being prepared, so always try to stay a step ahead of the funk!
Thanks so much Simone for your candidness and insight on a tricky yet necessary conversation that we are all going to be faced with!
Just remember, always be well intended, kind and have your dancers’ best interest at heart! And remember, we’re not only here to teach how to dance but how to be a dancer All these uncomfortable yet necessary sub-lessons are going to help your dancer to grow up and be a well rounded person! They’ll thank you for it in the end!
See you in the dance studio…