I recently attended The Pulse On Tour convention and in our luncheon, a teacher asked the group, “what do you think about studio-hoppers?” I am frequently asked how I feel about dancers taking at other studios. There is no good answer this question. If I say I have no problem with dancers taking class elsewhere, it’s viewed as an admission that our studio can’t meet their needs or that there are better opportunities outside of our studio. If I say that I don’t want them to take elsewhere, it is perceived as egotistical or possessive of the student. Neither is true. The fact is, there are lots of great opportunities for dancers. I believe in my teachers and our programs, but ultimately I am a supporter of dance in general. Since I am at a loss for a good answer though, I was thrilled to hear Pulse faculty member Tessandra Chavez answer this in the most perfect, pointed, “hit the nail on the head” way. I’ve decided to share her response since it is so much better than mine. I’m going to do my best to remember it as closely as possible, so apologies in advance if I paraphrase, but I think you’ll get the message. It is about respect. Respect for your teacher and the time they have put in to teaching you. Students now have lost that. If I saw my teacher today, I would still bow down to her. I would literally bow. I would kiss her feet if I could because I have that much respect for her even now. That is something that we are losing in today’s students. It is not about whether you take a class from someone else. A good teacher wants you to experience anything and everything you can to make you a better dancer. It is about going to your teacher and talking to them with love and respect. It is about asking your teacher what they think about another opportunity and taking their opinion seriously. It's not about getting everything you want right now and moving to a different studio if you don't get your way. It's not about trying to be the best and going where you think you'll get more attention. It is building a relationship with someone and allowing them to invest in you because you are invested in them. And if a dancer needs to move on to another studio for any reason, it is about going to the teacher and telling them thank you. Thanking them for all that they have invested in you and showing appreciation for what they have given you and explaining why you are choosing to go another direction. But students don’t do that, they just move on or don’t show up or take another class without saying anything. That is when it is hurtful and it disrespects the time your teacher has given you. Dance is a gift and they are sharing it with you. You should bow down to that gift and be so thankful.
These are exactly the thoughts I have that I couldn’t find the words to express and I am so thankful to Tessandra for finding those words. I want my students to experience anything and everything that will enrich them as dancers, but with respect for their foundational teaching. Every dance teacher who is truly invested in their students will support their training and give good advice. Go talk to your dance teacher! If you are thinking about going to an outside class, a convention, a competition, a workshop – ask your dance teacher! They are there to help and support you. The best dancers have a support network behind them and if you want your teacher to be on your team, let them be. It is about building a relationship based on mutual trust and respect. You can't just take from your teacher, you also have to give. If you want to receive their training and wisdom, you have to be willing to give of yourself and allow yourself to be taught. If you want your teacher to invest in you, you need to be invested in them. With total respect to all of my teachers and to Tessandra Chavez for teaching me just the right words.