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 Post subject: Bullying in the dance world
PostPosted: Mon May 08, 2000 4:18 am 
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Location: London, England; Tallinn, Estonia
Last month there was an article in 'The Times' about bullying in the work-place, where dance was identified as the second worst offending industry. <P> <A HREF="http://www.the-times.co.uk/news/pages/tim/2000/04/08/timnwsnws01009.html" TARGET=_blank>http://www.the-times.co.uk/news/pages/tim/2000/04/08/timnwsnws01009.html</A> <P><BR>Today's 'Times' has a letter on the theme by Jeanette Siddall in her role as Director of Dance UK, a membership organisation carrying out research and taking up issues on behalf of the dance profession.<P><BR><u>Bullying at the workplace From the Director of Dance UK</u> <P>Sir, You recently highlighted the relatively high incidence of bullying reported by dancers in research backed by the TUC (details, April 8). <P>Over the last ten years much has been learnt about the importance of psychology and attitude in training and preparation for high-level performance - in sport as much as in the arts. Dance UK's "Moving Matters" conferen ce in October aims to promote a holistic approach to the health and wellbeing of dancers, through highlighting the latest research into exercise, injury prevention and diet, as well as the research into bullying at work. <P>The backgound to this "appliance of science" to the thinking about dance training, rehearsal and performance is a long tradition of concentrating on physical technique to the exclusion of all else. There was understood to be one right way of performing a step or sequence, and dancers were only bodies, with minds, hearts and souls detached. Such regimes are a breeding ground for a sense of being bullied and are, thankfully, fast disappearing. <P>Changing attitudes takes time, and the debate about the most effective teaching and learning methods in dance, as elsewhere in the business, education and professional sectors, continues. <P>Although dancers were the only performing artists included in the research, some of the lessons are applicable across all workplaces. There is growing evidence that democratic approaches that treat dancers, for example, as intelligent, responsible adults are at least as effective as shouting, and help to prevent injury and reduce stress. <P>Significantly, work which is highly competitive to achieve in the first place and likely to be short-term and poorly paid is hardly conducive to a sense of self-worth. Far from being treated like a "luvvie", the reality for too many dance artists is serial poverty. <P>Yours sincerely, <BR>JEANETTE SIDDALL, <BR>Director, Dance UK, <BR>Battersea Arts Centre, <BR>Lavender Hill, SW11 5TF. <BR>May 5.<P>Jeanette reads criticaldance and has said that she would welcome any comments that anyone may have on this issue, either in general or specific examples of good or bad practise that people have experienced. If you would like to know more about the conference mentioned or any other related issues, feel free to contact Jeanette or her Dance UK colleagues at:<BR> <BR>+44 (0)20 8741 1932 (tel.) <BR>+44 (0)20 8748 0186 (fax) <BR>e-mail: danceuk@easynet.co.uk <BR>website under construction.


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 Post subject: Re: Bullying in the dance world
PostPosted: Mon May 08, 2000 5:37 am 
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i hope jeanette will put up the website address when it's ready?<P>interesting you should bring this up, as AUSDANCE (the AUStralian DANCE Council) published an article about research on this recently. a dance student at another board brought up a question as to how to respond to behaviour from her teacher which sounded like bullying...sadly i couldn't share the article with her, because it's not on the web...<P>i'll see if i still have it, although it may be one jeanette is already aware of.<P>

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 Post subject: Re: Bullying in the dance world
PostPosted: Wed May 10, 2000 5:27 am 
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Thanks for that grace. I'm interested to have comments from other parts of the world. I can't believe that the UK and Australia are the only places where this is a problem. Or is it a taboo subject?


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 Post subject: Re: Bullying in the dance world
PostPosted: Wed May 10, 2000 5:56 am 
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happens everywhere, stuart!<P>but i think that the use of the WORD 'bullying' is new in its application to the dance setting, and many people really haven't realised just what it's referring to, yet. the behaviour that it IS, is behaviour that has never been CALLED that before...

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 Post subject: Re: Bullying in the dance world
PostPosted: Fri May 12, 2000 8:20 pm 
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Stuart, it happens in the US too but it is accepted as part of normal routine. If you want to dance, you do what you're told, unless that is you are a big star and sue the company.


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 Post subject: Re: Bullying in the dance world
PostPosted: Fri May 12, 2000 8:53 pm 
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well azlan, there IS a distinction between 'following the company line' (to use an expression: i don't necessarily only refer here to dancers in a COMPANY, but also to students and so on), and bullying, which is an abuse of power.<P>it's just that, in dance, often the boundaries have got blurred in the past, and i think that's precisely the issue that this debate attempts to sort out for people in the profession (and training for it).

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 Post subject: Re: Bullying in the dance world
PostPosted: Sun May 14, 2000 4:20 pm 
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i can see i need to give a bit more thought to your points, dirk.<P>you and i are looking at this from two different perspectives i think, ...maybe?... actually i'm not SURE! Image<P>i don't understand the connection you make in the second paragraph.<P>as an educator i'd have to agree with your researcher's analysis, but diasagree with your conclusion.

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 Post subject: Re: Bullying in the dance world
PostPosted: Mon May 15, 2000 10:50 am 
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Location: Seattle, WA USA
As an educator, and former dancer, company artistic director, I have a multiplicity of perspectives. I always tell students, dancers , etc "if you treat me with respect, I will treat you with respect" . needless to say, there's always a few (particularly teens) who love to "test the waters". What to do? Frequently there simply isn't time in a 1 1/2 hr. rehearsal to sit down and "hash out" behavior issues. I have to "get tough"..I have to call them on it---disrespect, talking during rehearsal, goofing around I don't tolerate. I never resort to physical or verbal abuse.<P> I have to say that anyone who's studied dance history knows that "bullying" is as old as dance history itself...cruel ballet masters, mean choregraphers who make dancers cry are as old as ballet and contemporary dance itself. What will happen in the future is anybody's guess. We need only look at coaches in college sports to see that this is not an issue confined to the dance world. Any coach/teacher who pushes a great dancer or athlete to the limits of human performance may frequently stray to "the edge" of univerally acceptable behavior. I'm not saying it's right........but it does exist.


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 Post subject: Re: Bullying in the dance world
PostPosted: Mon May 15, 2000 3:14 pm 
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trina - i very much appreciate your perspectives, some of which would derive from experience similar to my own.<P>re the 'behaviour' issue with students: this year i wrote a 'contract', which ALL parents, & ALL students OVER 8, have to sign at enrolment. it has 3 columns:-<BR>1) The teacher agrees to....(the longest column)<BR>2) The student agrees to...<BR>3) The parent/s agree to...<P>it also has clear consequences spelled out. 1) any breach of the above will result in a Reminder Notice (these are VERY pleasantly worded, just AS reminders of any section of the agreement they are not complying with).<BR>2) 3 Reminders in any term leads to loss of any discounts in the following term<BR>3) 1 more, and they're excluded for the rest of the term - no refunds. (it's never happened)<P>as you can see, part of the ploy here is to make the parents also responsible for their child's behaviour in my studio.<P>i have only a tiny school, and VERY nice people in it, but it only takes one student (usually a teenager) to cause havoc with your emotions, your time, the other students feelings - and then THEIR parents become involved too...in other words, as you say, direct confrontations with one student are best avoided in the public setting, and one really WANTS to avoid them in ANY setting - in other words: one REALLY does not want that in one's professional life! but it happens!<P>"these things are sent to try us"! i rationalise that it's punishment for having been a wayward teenager mySELF! now i get to be on the other end! Image<P>obviously, strategies such as this are intended to be 'modern, progressive' approaches to old problems, in order to avoid the kinds of reactions which used to occur (including bullying). such contracts are common in the secondary schools here.<P> <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>What will happen in the future is anybody's guess. <HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P>the australian dance council, ausdance, has collated submissions from the dance profession and written both "A Code of Ethics for the Dance Teacher" (1 page only, just principles) and "Australian Guidelines for Dance Teachers" ( quite a comprehensive booklet which also includes a "Parent's Code of Behaviour"). <P>These are distributed free in Australia, to lift the standard by educating people. it is expected that compliance WILL become legally compulsory at some future point when there is general community acceptance of the whole package - which will probably include Dance Teacher Registration by a government-affiliated body, as well.<P>i have been 'saving' this topic until we had more readers to get a worthwhile debate going, but since this issue has come up, if people are interested they can see all of the abovementioned documents at <A HREF="http://sunsite.anu.edu.au/ausdance/teachers/index.html" TARGET=_blank>http://sunsite.anu.edu.au/ausdance/teachers/index.html</A> <BR>-the Dance Industry Code of Ethics is Appendix B<BR>-the Parents Code is Appendix C.<P>hope someone is interested enough to read a LITTLE of it, but one day the WHOLE thing warrants it's OWN thread! Image<P>

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 Post subject: Re: Bullying in the dance world
PostPosted: Mon May 15, 2000 4:12 pm 
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Although I don't think I've ever been a victim of bullying myself, as the student of a Russian, I feel qualified to comment Image. I think the closest I've come to being bullied was my summer at SAB~~because of the pointe shoes I wore, of all things! I wore Grishkos, and literally everyone else in the school wore Freeds. The first day of classes, Susie Pilarre came up to me and asked "what those things on my feet" were. She said that I should wear Freeds because they're quieter, softer, and have a more pleasing shape. Well, I can't wear soft shoes because they cause me to roll over my arches, and I find Grishkos to be extraordinarily quiet. She was very condescending throughout the entire five weeks, and not a class of hers went by, when she didn't mention "those awful wooden blocks" I wore. I hardly think it's up to her to dictate what shoes students wear, just because she favours a certain type. And all this was over pointe shoe brands! It was just ridiculous, and made her classes unnecessarily unpleasant for me. However, the other teachers didn't seem to care. Mr. Kramarevsky was even pleased that I wore Russian shoes Image! <P>------------------<BR>~Intuviel~

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 Post subject: Re: Bullying in the dance world
PostPosted: Wed May 17, 2000 5:53 am 
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glad you mustered the energy to write some of your post again, dirk! thanks.<P>one question: "except for the "ab", " - what's 'ab'?<P>and actually i DO know what you mean by students considering actual personal thought and effort painful!!<P>and re para 2: there are drugs, and ineffective laws on drugs and other things, everywhere...actually i saw an excellent TV program just last week about that very issue: it was called "The War Against the War Against Drugs" (no, that's not a typo!...). it was about how previous approaches haven't worked, can't work and will never work, so why do we keep doing them...an unusually intelligent program!<P>anyway, so now i 'get' your second para: thanks.<P>i don't think you and i are disagreeing about anything. just maybe it seems like i take a more optimistic view... Image<P>

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 Post subject: Re: Bullying in the dance world
PostPosted: Fri May 19, 2000 2:19 am 
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jeanette & others: what has struck me most about people's responses to this topic, is the confusion or varying perceptions of just WHAT bullying is...(as in the examples referred to).<P>dirk, i would hope that you might see my student contract up above as one new-ish way to approach situations which in the past may have given rise to overbearing 'dominating'-type (bullying) behaviour?<P>without giving it a lot of thought now, i would define bullying as an abuse of a position of power. <P>it seems to me that strategies such as this contract one, and also the tone of mutual respect which underlines the australian teachers guidelines (linked to, above) are examples of a more equitable responsible approach, in order to push aside the 'old style' bullying responses (which i'm sure we've all seen). <P>what do you think?

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 Post subject: Re: Bullying in the dance world
PostPosted: Sat May 20, 2000 4:02 am 
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i'm not sure i 'get' all of your connections again, dirk, but things HAVE gone kinda haywire in all sorts of ways...<P>for example, some (dance) schools forbid teacher/student physical contact - for fear of innapproriate sexual conduct-type of perceptions, or the suggestion of 'violence'/abuse. <P>this is quite a challenge to dance teachers, who have often used tactile methods in the past...one of the best ballet teachers i know of, says she regularly ASKS dance students' permission before touching them (their foot, their leg, their arm, whatever) whenever she is teaching master classes/guest classes, away from her regular students, as a safety measure. i can't really imagine how you can efficiently get on with a class this way, but i can see the need to do it.

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 Post subject: Re: Bullying in the dance world
PostPosted: Sat Jul 08, 2000 5:49 pm 
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would love to get some feedback from jeanette here, after all our various contributions on this subject..... Image

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 Post subject: Re: Bullying in the dance world
PostPosted: Sun Jul 09, 2000 7:15 am 
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Looking through the range of views about 'bullying' that have been expressed indicates the range of cultures that exist within dance. Traditionally, the dancer was viewed as a silent instrument - to be seen and not heard. This kind of culture creates a climate in which it is easy for dancers to feel bullied and victimised. <P>Increasingly choreographers work with their dancers, rather than simply 'on' them. The creative process involves dancers contributing ideas, improvising and developing movement. In addition, we now know more about the physical and psychological factors that contribute to the dancers' health, well-being and optimum performance - and expect dancers to take more responsibility for their own health and fitness. For both these reasons, we are seeing an increasing interest in developing 'thinking' dancers. In my view, this new climate will result in a greatly reduced incidence of 'bullying', and will have benefits for dancers, choreographers, managers and audiences. <P>Dance UK's Healthier Dancer Programme disseminates research and good practice through talks, workshops and publications (for example, our quarterly newsletter includes a special bulletin - HDP News). The Moving Matters conference (14 / 15 October, Royal Opera House) celebrates ten years of work. I remember the first conference - held in the old Royal Opera House that was itself something of a health hazard for dancers - where there was a reluctance to even admit that some dancers might be too thin and the notion that dance companies might benefit from the services of a regular physiotherapist, nutritionist or counsellor was radical! Ten years later we have a new Royal Opera House that puts the working conditions for dancers at the top of the agenda, and the profession is engaging in debates about the full range of health issues and talking about the importance of the dancer's self-esteem! This way our dancers will surely be fit for the 21st century!<P>If anyone wants a Moving Matters conference programme, please ring Dance UK on 020 7228 4990, or email danceuk@easynet.co.uk. <BR>

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