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 Post subject: Re: Touching/ Waiver?/ Contagion!
PostPosted: Fri Dec 22, 2000 10:48 am 
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Location: neworleans, louisiana
Basheva, I don't mean to joke, but, okay, I'm sorry, here it is: I recently cut a cartoon out of the New Yorker showing a little boy crying in a crowded public area, and a man stoops down and asks, "Do you need an attorney, little boy?" <P>I know, it's sick, but funny. I must tell you, even though my family is inundated with legal folk, including a criminal judge, when it comes to making a decision like this, my instincts take over. If I'm in a store, and I see a mother struggling to keep package and children in tow, or if I see a child in distress, I go right on up and let "Miss Chrissy" take over and help -- let them jail me. When I was teaching very, very little ones, it was nothing for me to scoop up two at a time and cart them over to the record player to comfort them while changing music. After class, they were always climbing in my lap for stickers, and I noticed there was a definite difference between the older children I taught who were with me since the early years and the others who came later. The former still wanted hugs and touches. You know, there's a lot of talk about psychology and legality and this and that, but whenever I had any question as to behavior with my students, I simply went back to "what would my mom do?" (This woman had 10 of us and also took in other children from moms who worked outside the home or children who were friends of ours whose parents were incapable or uninterested). What a help that was through the years. You cannot Buh-lieve the circumstances that presented themselves over the years. I once taught a child of a former man of the cloth who had been charged with pedophile crimes. She came to the first class crawling and grunting on the floor in a very inappropriate manner. "Okay, mom, what do I do?" I looked at the child, and simply said, "In this class, we stand up and speak in complete sentences." To which, the child leapt up and said "okay." <P>"What would mom do? It just made and makes so much sense to me.<P>"MISS CHRISSY, I MISS MY MOMMY!!!!!"<P>"I know just how you feel. I miss my mommy too. She lives soooooo far away, I have to take two airplanes and a bus to get to her house. Sometimes I miss her so much, my stomach hurts. Why don't you hold my hand today, and we can miss our mommies together?"<P>Now, I did work with a woman who seemed to think I might have been too tactile, but I think it had more to do with her inability to connect with children than anything else. Plenty of parents had complaints about her, but I never received one myself. If you love children, it will come across as just that to all but the sickest of minds. Quite frankly, I wish I'd received as much hugging from teachers when I was little, as I have given as an adult. <P>


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 Post subject: Re: Touching/ Waiver?/ Contagion!
PostPosted: Fri Dec 22, 2000 11:17 am 
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Location: San Diego, California, USA
Christina - you are of course right. I am going to post in here a link on some of my experiences teaching in a performing arts high school - in which just this issue of touching was a VERY important issue:<P><BR><A HREF="http://www.criticaldance.com/ubb/Forum7/HTML/000199.html" TARGET=_blank>Teaching in a Performing Arts High School</A><P>At this juncture in our history, if I see a child who is lost, wandering about, I will talk to the child, seek help, NOT LEAVE UNTIL THE CHILD IS IN SAFE HANDS, - but as much as it is my first instinct to hug and comfort, I am afraid I will not. I have seen it (stories in the newspapers) where such comfort was misconstrued and the helping person ended up having to defend their actions in a courtroom. <P>


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 Post subject: Re: Touching/ Waiver?/ Contagion!
PostPosted: Fri Dec 22, 2000 11:37 am 
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Location: neworleans, louisiana
Basheva -- that made for some good reading. As a dance educator, I felt empathy. As a journalist, I felt, "this could and probably should make for a piece that should be developed and published for a much wider readership." I mean it. (I always get goosebumps when I read something that I know is potentially good copy). You've got some meat and potatoes that are quite timely. Any of you who have caught an episode of "Boston Common" know what I mean. I taught for exactly one semester in a public school outreach program here. I developed cancer within the year -- okay, okay, folks, as you get to know me, you'll realize that humor is my key to survival through life(and, incidentally, this month is my 5 year anniversary -- cheers!). Anyway, that's all it took to know everything you said is true. Would love to exchange more stories in this regard, but for now I'm posted out,and it's time to relax and enjoy the holidays. Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all my new acquaintances (and future friends) at criticaldance!


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 Post subject: Re: Touching/ Waiver?/ Contagion!
PostPosted: Fri Dec 22, 2000 11:49 am 
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Location: Seattle, WA USA
Christina, I agree with your basic concepts about touching students. HOWEVER, we have to realize that when we teach a group of students, often from a variety of religious, cultural and social backgrounds, our own sense of appropriateness is not sometimes shared. We often have to modify habits. For example, I taught a class once in Detroit at an orthodox Jewish community center. There was no touching allowed between myself and male students and/or their fathers. For example, even shaking hands was a "no no". NOw, I simply ask student if I can give them a hug, or if they approach me with a hug I of course, reciprocate. Asking first is always the logical thing. I wish we could return to the world of our youth where hugging was commonplace and spontaneous, but this is the world we live in. The sense of physical boundaries has changed, in my opinion.<p>[This message has been edited by trina (edited December 22, 2000).]


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 Post subject: Re: Touching/ Waiver?/ Contagion!
PostPosted: Fri Dec 22, 2000 12:11 pm 
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Oh well -- call me the Leo Buscaglia of ballet teachers. I am cognizant of the truth you and others speak, and I don't disagree. I guess all I'm saying is that, in an all too litigious society, I'm willing to go out on a limb -- in MOST situations (what you described, of course, would call for a shift in my behavior out of respect for cultural differences).


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 Post subject: Re: Touching/ Waiver?/ Contagion!
PostPosted: Fri Dec 22, 2000 2:18 pm 
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i'm with YOU, christina! Image while agreing also with other posters. i'm not as much of a kids' person as you obviously are, but in any situation of difficulty, i will do the common-sense empathetic thing FIRST, (b***er the consqequences), and only afterwards think perhaps that was unwise - not so much on legal grounds, as sometimes on safety grounds - i could tell you some stories.....but not appropriate for here!<P>stuart - just a note about the 'parent signing' bit..it is common these days (in normal schools, for example), to have parents sign things, just simply as a way of ensuring that the parent has SEEN it - it's truly amazing, when you are dealing with kids these days, how UNreliable even the most conscientious child is, when it comes to passing on messages, whether verbal or written! (in fact, it's a PAIN! Image )

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 Post subject: Re: Touching/ Waiver?/ Contagion!
PostPosted: Fri Dec 22, 2000 2:20 pm 
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oops - forgot to say - christina, what an interesting person you are revealing yourself to be - a true asset to this board, in such a short time...glad you're here, with your different perspectives, and your good stories. hope you stay around... Image

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 Post subject: Re: Touching/ Waiver?/ Contagion!
PostPosted: Fri Dec 22, 2000 4:49 pm 
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Location: San Diego, California, USA
Christina - I am glad you enjoyed the thread "Teaching in a Performing Arts High School" and thank you for your kind words.<P>Trina's post about different cultures reminded me of a Moslem woman (in her very early 20's) who was taking a ballet class at the college where I taught. She did wear leotard and tights but always a very baggy sweatshirt and sweatpants over it - no matter what the weather. She also wore a head scarf - but not a veil.<P>Unbelievably there were some studios and teachers who would not bend the rules and allow her to wear this clothing as her religion and/or culture demanded. <P>She would not enter the studio if a male was in class, would never take class from a male teacher and if a man happened to stop and watch the class, she would leave. She was there to learn and enjoy with no goals of a career in ballet, though she really did quite well.<P>Well, one day the pianist was changed to a man, and she had to leave. Everyone felt very badly, but he was the only one available for that entire semester.<BR>


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 Post subject: Re: Touching/ Waiver?/ Contagion!
PostPosted: Tue Dec 26, 2000 7:26 am 
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Y'all are soooooo kind -- and you know, I've ALWAYS depended upon the kindness of strangers. A little post-Christmas humor -- ahem! Basheva, you're going to think I'm just terrible. You write these sincere posts, and I feel like the kid who's always laughing in church. But-- your story about the Moslem student and her layers of clothing reminds me of a woman who started taking at our studio a few months back. It has nothing to do with any religious or cultural belief, but simply that she's a few burritos short of a combo plate. She comes to class (in our tropical clime), arriving on a one-speed bicycle, resembling Mrs. McGregor (from Peter Rabbit), with two straw hats, one on top of the other, a bandana covering her face, sweatpants, sweatshirt, etc., etc. She throws herself front and center, dancing with abandon and passion. She asks dozens of questions at many inopportune times. When the teacher squirts water on the wood floor, she bellows, "Merci beaucoup!" This has all irked a few other students who have nearly gotten into fisticuffs with this woman. Although this woman is in her 40s, she behaves in a very childlike manner, so I decided to communicate with her much as I do with very young children, and she seems to be rather taken with me. The teacher and I have discussed this a bit, and despite some of the inappropriate interruptions, he too, gets a bit of amusement out of the situation with her as there seems to be an innocence that comes through with this rather different student. (Of course, the writer in me has a somewhat different outlook than my classmates -- e.g., "Thank you, Jesus, for sending me yet more fodder for my future GREAT SOUTHERN NOVEL!"). The point of all of this is that many different kinds of people love ballet, and it takes a certain kind of open mind to make room for them all. The other point is -- I'm curious as to how the rest of you deal with these rather INTERESTING students. One more thing about that -- while some could argue that a ballet class is not a place for someone like the above-mentioned woman to display her idiosyncracies (as well as what may appear to be downright rudeness), I can't help but ponder that many of the people doing the complaining, who are far more erudite about proper behavior, take a FEW liberties in class themselves -- e.g., doing a bit too much catching up with one another in between center combinations, arriving late, and dashing into the studio mid-exercise to place themselves in the center, instead of the end, of the barre, not really listening to each correction as if it applies to everyone and not just the person being addressed, etc. What do you think?<p>[This message has been edited by Christina (edited December 26, 2000).]


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 Post subject: Re: Touching/ Waiver?/ Contagion!
PostPosted: Tue Dec 26, 2000 9:00 am 
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Location: San Diego, California, USA
Well, Christina, I think that all of us have come upon people in dance class who seem to cross borderlines of what the book tells us is "proper" behavior in class. But that's the book - not life. Some of that behavior is done through ignorance and some through innocence, as you mentioned.<P>I am not sure that people are all that different in dance class than they are in other arenas of life. They do lend color to the human situation don't they? I think I would rather be one of the colorful ones, now that I think about it!! <P>There is room for all of us in dance. It is up to the teacher to make that room. As long as the behavior does not negatively impact on others, at least to meaningful degree, where's the harm? In a professional class, the atmosphere is quite different, but even there room needs to be made to meet the human beings within its confines. <P>When I walked into class as a teacher, I felt it was incombent upon me to try to foster the passion I felt for the ballet/dance within my students, not to stifle it with often archaic and sometimes autocratic rules. Rules of courteous behavior are always necessary, but some rules are just plain autocratic. <P>On a lighter note, I remember one young woman in class who certainly fit the mold of "different". There was a high platform in the downstage of the studio diagonal. She was in the habit of climbing up onto it and bracing herself against the corner, whilst doing a handstand. (No, I am not making this up). So, when I was doing some turn combination down the diagonal I would find myself spotting this upside down face. <P>The first time this happened, I almost fell off my pointes. But she was harming no one.....


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 Post subject: Re: Touching/ Waiver?/ Contagion!
PostPosted: Tue Dec 26, 2000 9:35 am 
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Re your comment -- in a professional class, the atmosphere is, or needs to be, quite different. There was this very entertaining teacher "Rodney" at the Ruth Page School in Chicago who loved to talk about his experiences at ABT class (I'm almost positive it was ABT he was talking about)where there were people reading newspapers, drinking coffee and even lighting up cigarettes in class. We used to drink up these little anecdotes. And the other day, I was chagrined to find that a classmate of mine who used to dance with Feld (retired early even though he's still brilliant) and who now practices law, smokes cigarettes. He said to me that it's really just a holdover of his NY days when everyone smoked in rehearsal, if not also in class. So,the idea of proper and/or professional behavior is often relative, I guess.


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 Post subject: Re: Touching/ Waiver?/ Contagion!
PostPosted: Tue Dec 26, 2000 10:40 am 
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Back a bit closer to the subject heading of this thread........<P>When I was teaching in a public school - this was a class for elementary children, it was quite a common thing for the little girls to need their hair pinned up. They came right from their regular school classrooms with no chance to have their mothers help them. So it was not unusual for me to be standing there before class pinning up little buns on little heads. It was also a nice chance for me to talk to them and I enjoyed that.<P>Then one day I was informed that all head touching must stop. One child had been found (not in ballet class) to have an infected head and the school didn't want an epidemic of this to spread. So, from then on no more pinning up of little buns on little heads. <P>Also, children often tend to want to share things with others - little girls liked to exchange dance skirts or hair ribbons. This too had to be stopped. It was difficult to explain to them why they could not share with one another, because in other instances we encourage sharing. It was also difficult to explain why I could no longer help them with their hair, or even lend hair pins.


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 Post subject: Re: Touching/ Waiver?/ Contagion!
PostPosted: Tue Dec 26, 2000 11:16 am 
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OOOOOOOOH. You've hit on an interesting aspect of the "to touch or not to touch" aspect of teaching. I too was a bun pinner, in addition to hand holder, etc. It was through Divine Providence that I never caught something. I did, however, make a point of never touching my face until I made it to the rest room after class and washed with very hot water -- my assistant and I would remind each other to do so, just in the interest of preventing spread of colds, etc. With regard to how to explain certain things tactfully, why is it always easier to explain such things to children, rather than to adults -- at least in my experience. Our administrator was constantly fretting about how to talk to children about delicate issues. The result was that she wouldn't do it until she was at a boiling point and then blurt out something angrily -- "you all need to start using deodorant!" My approach with very young children was something like: "Mary Lou (assistant), would you please take Sally to the dressing room and help her wash her hands? Girls, ballerinas do not put their fingers in their nose. It's yucky and germy, and I can't let you take class or hold hands with each other if you do that. I know that Sally just forgot this time, but we're all going to try to remember, okay?"<P>When addressing hygiene issues with older girls, I incorporated it into the rehearsal process while giving make-up instructions for Nutcracker. I explained to them about not sharing make-up, particularly eye make-up and why. I told them if anyone pressed them into sharing they should tell me and I'd give that dancer "what for." If they try to tell me it's too expensive not to share, I tell them it's going to be a lot more expensive to have a doctor treat them for infection. And just to pique their interest (children and teens love stories), I'd tell them a little anecdote or two about how, when modeling, I'd have to deal with this with other models or make-up artists. It is unbelievable how many adults are unaware or just plain lax about these things, and it's up to us teachers often to take the reins and be educators to the parents as well. We have to explain that we're looking out for their children's welfare, and hopefully, they'll take it the right way. <P>Incidentally, the lice and scabies problems is multiplying radically in this country and the epidemics are often resistant to traditional treatment. Treatment often needs to be given again, and therein lies the risk of harm to the central nervous system from the treatment. This has resulted in a parent-formed National Pediculosis Association (headquartered outside Boston), and I urge all educators who have any questions about this problem to call, write or e-mail. It's a rare teacher who isn't affected, and I thank Basheva for bringing up this particular aspect of the hazards of touching. <P>The reason I'm particularly adamant about getting the word out in this respect is that although I never contracted anything while teaching, my fiance did contract the mite from the hospital where he works in the past year and, although I was not infected, was urged, simply as a precaution due to my association with him, to "take the treatment." I had checked with several doctors as to whether it was safe, and all seemed to feel that if I followed the directions to the letter, one treatment couldn't adversely affect me and was the wise thing to do. Two days later I began experiencing serious balance problems, which took nearly three months to heal from. To have suffered in this manner all in the name of taking a "benign" preventive measure has compelled me to alert parents and teachers alike about the new strains of mites and lice and how much more prevalent this problem is in our schools, as well as the fact that there are new, safer treatments out there. Thanks for listening to this post about a not very pretty but important sub-topic of the touching question. <P>[This message has been edited by Christina (edited December 26, 2000).]<p>[This message has been edited by Christina (edited December 26, 2000).]


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 Post subject: Re: Touching/ Waiver?/ Contagion!
PostPosted: Tue Dec 26, 2000 1:44 pm 
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Christina - that is a very interesting and important post. Every teacher has to be aware of these things. <P>Children also like to share combs and brushes. I even had two of them about to exchange leotards (they each liked the one the other had on), when I caught them in the nick of time. They were little and it seemed like a fun thing to do to them. So of course I had to explain that we don't share clothes. It's hard for them to understand, because we also like to teach them to be helpful and be willing to share on other levels. <P>Which brings up another part of "touching". We often, as performing dancers, end up sharing costumes - of necessity. Sometimes there is time for cleaning and sometimes I suppose the germs just get time to die - but many times - not. The costume is still literally a bit damp from the matinee. <P>oy


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 Post subject: Re: Touching/ Waiver?/ Contagion!
PostPosted: Tue Dec 26, 2000 2:43 pm 
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Your comment about ballet costumes not always having time to dry, followed by the "oy" reminds me of an old joke I remember modifying one night about 5 years ago during a grueling tour in France (it was actually about 2:00 a.m., and another dancer and I were punchy with fatigue, trying to wash out our costumes in time for 9:00 a.m. call). <P>A salesman goes door to door selling "New Blue Cheer." The lady of the house at each home is asked to give him a piece of soiled laundry for demonstration. Each time he chants:<P>"Washy,washy, washy, New Blue Cheer.<BR>Rinsy, rinsy, rinsy over here.<BR>Hold up to your nose,<BR>Smells like a rose!"<P>Finally, he gets to the door of a dancer. She hands him her costume. The following ensues:<P>"Washy, washy, washy, New Blue Cheer.<BR>Rinsy, rinsy, rinsy over here.<BR>Hold up to your nose,<P>Washy, washy, washy ..."<P>I have very vivid memories of us sliding down the floor laughing hysterically in a pile of lather and water and costume. Aren't you glad to have been a dancer, even with all the nonsense!?!<P><BR>


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