Recently at a workshop designed for all levels of dancers, I heard after the fact that a few of the newer leaders (Who enjoyed their first workshop so much they came back for more) were made to feel so inadequate by more advanced followers that one of them actually left halfway through, and both felt so discouraged by the experience that they questioned their initial interest in the dance.
This is not an isolated incident, and it is not a one way street. I hear it from followers and leaders, both privately and in front of an entire class.
"The leaders are pulling me off balance." "The followers can't get this rhythm right." "No one is getting the stretch that we talked about"
We've probably all had these thoughts in our head in a class at some point or another, and that's not the end of the world. Sometimes, you might even be right. But when you start to raise your hand in a class, or take out your frustration on other students, then we have a problem. Here's a few things to remember when you have these thoughts.
1. Everyone struggles with something. I'm certain there have been times in a class where you have been overwhelmed, struggled with a rhythm, or been given a concept that just didn't click at first. THIS IS WHY YOU TAKE CLASSES! If you never struggle in a class, then you are taking classes the wrong way.
2. Your teachers most likely already see the problem (it's what they are paid to do after all). Most likely, they only have one hour with you for this topic and there are more glaring issues to address, or they understand that the issue is there, and know this is something people might struggle with at first. Some things just need a healthy dose of failure to get figured out. Again, the struggle is real, and it is why you take the class in the first place.
3. ACCEPT THAT YOU MAY BE PART OF THE PROBLEM.
I won't sugar coat this, as a teacher, 90% of the time that I hear "My partner does blah blah," it can be tied back to something you are doing. It probably isn't all on you, but partner dancing is a 2 way street, and you and your partner are in this together.
4. There are so many better ways to say what you want to say. Feedback is good. We encourage partner to partner feedback. If something you do is uncomfortable and no one ever tells you, then you'll never know. However, and this is the most important part: There are so many better ways to say what you want to say.
- Instead of "The leaders in class are pulling me off balance," Why not say (to your partner or your teachers) "I'm finding myself off balance on count 6, is there something we could adjust to try and fix it?"
- Instead of "None of these followers are getting the rhythm right" you could try "Can we go over that rhythm one more time?" Or "Is there something I can do to help you with the rhythm?" Chances are that if they are not nailing it, they already know it. Offering help is much more efficient than public insults.
It is incredibly disheartening to hear from students that they really enjoyed the classes, but other students are making them feel uncomfortable and inadequate to the point of not wanting to continue with dancing. So, let's cut "Partner Shaming" out of classes. It's self-centered, unproductive, and rude.