Is correct classroom etiquette still relevant in today’s society? I do believe that now more than ever it is important for teachers to teach their students not just how to dance but also how to conduct themselves in the classroom. It is a great way to give young people lessons on how to exist in society and extremely helpful in developing self-discipline in our students.
From the minute a student enters the studio or school it is important that they know exactly what is expected of them and how they can contribute. Students need to understand that displays of disrespect or rudeness towards a teacher or fellow dancer are not only unacceptable but also something that can eventually be very self- destructive. Dancers who are polite and respectful understand the importance of the people around them because classes just as a performance are the result of a group effort. It is so much more fun to teach a student who understands the importance of working together than with someone who thinks that it is all about them! So what do you have to do to get students to buy into your way of thinking? First of all I think it is necessary to give them some boundaries, they don’t have to be rules that are unreasonable. In fact the more reasonable they are the better! Every student needs to know their boundaries. They need to know up to what point they can go before their actions turn into a negative. In this era of entitlement we do a disservice to young dancers, even those who are purely recreational to not guide them in the basic niceties of life. So often they do receive parental guidance in any type of etiquette. How many times has a parent come up to me to thank me for disciplining their child? I can tell you I have lost count. I always want to tell them that they are welcome to jump in at any time to help!! The reality is dance teaches them so many more things than just dance, how to give and get respect, how to co-exist peacefully, how to be gracious.
Of course the leadership must come from the top. The studio or school owner has to establish the rules, the teachers have to do their part in making sure that they are followed and the students have to be recognized when they do the right thing and when they do something out of line. The key to all of this working is to keep the mood positive and upbeat so that everyone is happy to go along with what you require.
Some teachers are not in favor of a dress code but it can be very helpful for a number of reasons. It definitely looks more professional when dancers are in the same attire or that there is some definition of what they can and cannot wear for class. It also is helpful for students who perhaps do not have the money to buy numerous outfits. Dance clothes should close fitting as any teacher needs to see the dancer’s body to be able to give them corrections and the student also needs to be able to see their own body so that they also can give themselves corrections and be aware of their line. Jewelry can be dangerous, rings, bracelets, watches, chains and dangling earrings can all become a hazard for obvious reasons, so eliminating them from the classroom is a good idea.
The way your students wear their hair tells a lot about them. Why not designate how you want your dancers to wear their hair? Any time a dancer is trying to execute any type of turn they are going to run into difficulty if their hair is constantly in their eyes. Plus if your students are in a ballet class and know that they are expected to wear a bun then they will experience what a real ballerina feels like, they will feel the part. In a Hip Hop class they will feel more ready to get into the street mode if their hair is in a ponytail. It’s all about what works to help the dancers not only feel the music but also to be able to execute the technique in the most advantageous way possible.
Simple things like not chewing gum, talking, sitting down, coming in and out of the room, slouching against the barre are all practices that have no place in a dance studio. There is a good reason for not doing any of those things but of course because it is common sense and often students have not developed that yet, you really need to spell it out to them with the explanation of why these actions are not appropriate.
It is important for teachers to let students know that it is not a good idea to be late for class because if they miss the warm-up they run the risk of injury. That if they are doing an exercise it is not ok to stop whenever they feel a little tired, that they need to keep going until either the music stops or the teacher tells them to stop!
It is important that each student thank their teacher before leaving at the end of class both verbally or by doing a curtsey or bow, it help the dancers to understand what respect is all about.
The studio and the classroom is a place where young women and men have the opportunity to develop into young adults, a place where they can study and discover new things. A place to understand what it takes to succeed in both dance and life and how to be a positive member of society.