Happy New Year! Keeping our Dancers Safe.
Let’s make CHANGES a PRIORITY in 2022 to keep our dancers safe!
"Unfortunately, ballet’s rigid hierarchy, job scarcity and conditioning of dancers to be compliant makes it a comfortable environment for perpetrators to thrive in. Our dance community needs systemic change in addition to individual action to protect dancers" quote from McGuire, 2021 in POINTE article on why dancers are especially vulnerable to grooming and abuse. https://pointemagazine.com/grooming-and-sexual-abuse-in-ballet/?utm_medium=email&utm_source=pt&utm_campaign=pt1202121&utm_source=Dance+Media+Newsletters&utm_campaign=d1e76c5b94-Pointe+Newsletter_July+29%2C+2020_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_77ee1e3f13-d1e76c5b94-69439722
Let’s be sure to take our “DUTY OF CARE” seriously enough to take responsibility for the way some of our traditional ballet teaching practices can create an environment that allows physical, emotional, and verbal abuse to take place - as if this is normal or necessary for ballet to be practiced successfully - as if it is required in order to push students past their perceived limits - to teach them they have more within them or that they can accomplish greater things than even they thought they could.
It always surprises me that many teachers, students, professional dancers, and even parents and carers of students, excuse abusive behaviours in ballet because they believe that it is an essential part of training for a career in ballet - that harsh behaviours are integral to pushing students so they can achieve excellence, or that dancers need to be bullied to realise their own potential. It is clear that fear of retribution can compel people to do things they would otherwise not be comfortable doing. Students and professional dancers will bear abuse rather than be thought of as weak or unworthy - they are so invested in their art, that they will convince themselves (and their loved ones) that this is part of ballet that has to be endured in order to succeed. Well… it is NOT.
Let’s vow to be part of the solution. Let’s help our students to see their potential through psychological skills. Give them opportunities to explore and experiment with their work to gain self-knowledge that can empower them to excel. Create teaching episodes in which they can make mistakes at a young age while under your care and guidance, so they can mature, try out their voice, make decisions, solve their own problems, consider technical and artistic options to find the best fit for their body, mind, and spirit before being required to perform for others who care little or not at all for their personal welfare.
Be proactive. Be a spoke in the wheel for change so that our young dancers don’t have to suffer at the hands of predators. So they are not quite so vulnerable, because they have had a chance to know who they are, what they need as people and as dancers, and have practiced in YOUR classes to gauge how this information works for them as dancers and fits into their lives as artists. Give your students strategies that they can use to adopt healthy coping mechanisms (see the Psychological Skills for Ballet Teachers Resource and Workbook - https://www.propsforballet.com/props-training) when they are faced with setbacks, exhaustion, burnout, humiliation, embarrassment, or worse - such as behaviours from others in power that feels abusive to them. Give your students opportunities to practise emotionally supportive strategies in YOUR classes as they grow and mature. Allow students to make mistakes and collaborate with them towards sensible decisions that suit THEIR personal psychological tendencies and talents. Assist them to find solid solutions for themselves as dancers and artists, and to find their personal contribution to dance from a healthy, happy, and informed perspective.
We might be surprised what we uncover! Something WE could never have imagined. Something that only THEY could create in their uniqueness that is nurtured and allowed to blossom under your guidance.
What an exciting start to the new year - what a difference we can make - how amazing if we can take these steps towards change for our students and future dancers!