the journey to paid professional performing artist

If you’re a dancer, then you either have been or will be in this situation at some point.  There is another dancer in your group who thinks they know everything better than everyone else and feels like they need to correct what they see as lacking.

It’s very annoying, and something I’m not proud to say I used to do.  But I am happy that I figured it out while I was still young, so hopefully I’m not that annoying one any more.

From my perspective, I did it because I felt like the teacher or choreographer wasn’t catching mistakes.  I wanted the piece to be the best it could be.  I didn’t realize that the choreographer can’t possibly fix everything at once, and that he or she was choosing what they felt was the most important first.  Teachers also will do this.  They have a progression in mind and know that students can’t fix everything in one class.

Some choreographers like to get the work out there fast, and then go back and fix it.  Some like to get it out perfectly, not necessarily quickly.  Some plan out every detail, and others make it up on the fly.  Now that I’ve had more experience, I can see and respect others’ artistic processes.

When I teach class or am choreographing, I make sure that the dancers know to ask questions only of me.  I don’t want to create know-it-alls.  I think it can start by others asking questions of the same person all the time, the one they feel always knows the answers, and that person feels elevated because of that.  Especially when choreographing, only the choreographer knows what they want, so why ask anyone else?

Of course, if the choreographer assigns someone to know the piece inside and out, and tells you to ask questions of that person, that’s who you go to!

But sometimes, no matter what, this personality pops up.  So how do you handle it?

I’ve seen dancers turn into the know-it-all types by receiving praise.  All of a sudden they feel like they are the ones who know what they are doing because they got reinforcement from the choreographer.  Not noticing that others have received praise, too, I’m guessing.  There is nothing you are going to be able to do about their perceptions on this.  Try to keep the peace, you have to work with these people until the end of the show.  There is no point in confronting the person, for they probably don’t perceive their actions as you do.

If it’s just an attitude thing, I would ignore it and be nice.  If the person is giving you unsolicited feedback, verbal or physical, take it up with the choreographer or director.  Hopefully what they will do is make an announcement that it is the choreographer’s job to make corrections, and that no one else should.  However, be prepared that the choreographer will call this person out, so keep in mind your specific examples of troubling behavior.  If you can give specific examples, then the troubling person will know exactly what you mean and better be able to change their behavior.

Even if your unhappiness is addressed, the behavior might not change.  Habits are hard to break.  If you can ignore the person without getting boiled inside, that’s fine.  Or, you can gently remind them that correcting is the job of the choreographer, and if they have a problem with something, that’s who they should be going to.

So what if you’re the one who has been pointed to as having this behavior.  Or you’re just noticing that this is something that you do.

A good way to change is that if you see something that you perceive other dancers to be doing wrong, ask the choreographer for clarification of the step.  That way, everyone will be on the same page.  Who knows, you could be the one who is wrong!

Working with people, in any setting, can be difficult.  But realize that the way you approach it makes all the difference.  Being anything but friendly and cooperative can isolate you from your fellow performers, which makes putting together a cohesive show not as fun and successful.  Relax and realize that in the end, everyone wants the same thing.  A great show!

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