I always wondered why some dancers are so critical of each other when we are already overwhelmed by critiques, corrections and our own looping internal monologue that speaks to insecurities about appearance and technique. I have often taught classes where I have witnessed dancers laughing at another classmate who was performing an exercise. Perhaps I too have been a culprit of this sort of subtle cruelty. However, as a young dancer, my awareness of others judgments and criticisms made me feel insecure. I never knew what lied behind the smirks, giggles and low whispers. It was easier to hide from an instructor during a difficult exercise, but not the many dancers who surround the studio. Many times I have found myself in awe of another dancer and eager to share my thoughts with the nearest listener. I have also found myself walking away from negative discourse or ignoring a discourteous remark. I grew less tolerant of destructive criticism with maturity. The keen awareness of my own insecurities also made me sensitive and empathetic towards other dancers. When I did infrequently make a negative remark regarding another dancer, I found it was often to cover up my own insecurities. So the question arises: when has bringing another individual down really ever made you feel better? The answer is invariably: Never! No matter the skill level, I have always been a firm believer that you can learn something from everyone, be it footwork, port de bras or just work ethic and determination. It is so much more rewarding to learn from each other than to tear each other down.
Now whenever I have an opportunity to teach younger dancers, I try and make it a point to teach them to be oblivious to the eyes around them. However, applying the cliche: "dance as if no one is watching" is much easier said than done. Some people are able to ignore these watchful eyes quite effortlessly -- oh how I envy them! I think when we teach young dancers the etiquette of the classroom, we should include respecting and supporting fellow dancers as well. I know of many teachers who are already instilling this important lesson-- I applaud you!