Toxicity in the Dance World
Let’s talk about the toxic side of the dance because let’s be real, it’s not all butterflies and sunshine on the dance floor. Let me first mention how I feel like the meaning of dance has been lost the past couple of years. I feel as if after 2017 dance has just became one big toxic competition of perfection, instead of it being focused on the journey of improvement and the sense of community. We call the dance world a community, but are we always treating it as such? Community is caring about the well being of the people around you and being a team member. It’s about supporting each other not only during the bright moments but during the dark moments. And trust me, I’ll be writing about mental health in dance soon. I feel as if within the dance world the main goal has become to be perfect. Now yes, I understand that dance is a journey of self-improvement. But that’s the point, it’s a journey. And a journey doesn’t always have to have a destination. Dance is about supporting the people around you through thick and thin while also improving upon yourself. Dance is about expression, storytelling, and unity. Dance is NOT about reaching perfection, because perfection simply does not exist. Dance is NOT about getting called out in class. Dance is NOT about having that leg, or being better than the person next to you. Again, I totally understand that competition dance is a COMPETITION and that dancing as a career does require you to book that job over someone else. But at the end of the day this isn’t what dance is REALLY about. Dance was first created to enhance culture and create unity among people. When did that get lost?
So How DO We Support Each Other?
So let’s talk about supporting other dancers to create a community. Supporting each other is 1) not just in the studio and 2) not just cheering for each other when we get called out in that class. Supporting one another and being a community is what you do for others during the darker or not so perfect moments, and what they do for you during those times as well. Being there for people during their worst moments is KEY to creating a sense of support and community. This is messaging them privately to wish them a quick recovery when they get hurt, not just asking “oh my gosh what happened?” and saying “feel better soon!” in person. It’s about checking up on them privately and genuinely. Another example is when your fellow dancer bombs an audition or messes up a combo a bunch. Go up to them and tell them it’s just one audition, one combo, one class. Maybe tell them about what mistakes you’ve made and relate to them on that level. Relatability is SO important within a community. Compliment something small they did that stood out to you. COMMUNICATE with them not only during bright moments in public but during the dark moments in private. This is what it means to be a team and community. Don’t just be silent when someone isn’t doing well or is having an off day. Talk to them! But make sure that if you are going to support someone to do it GENUINELY. Don’t compliment them just to compliment them. Don’t tell them to heal fast just to tell them to hear fast. Do it with meaning and this means consistency, empathy, and checking up on them over time. Something super easy you can do other than complimenting them not only on good days but on bad ones too, is giving them a hair tie when they need it, or clipping their leotard when they can’t get it, making conversation with someone when they are standing alone in a social situation, responding to their social media posts and making conversation that way, or even bringing in donuts on a long rehearsal day. There are endless amounts of things you can do to support people, but just do it consistently and with meaning! This is how you create a true community, which I feel like is often forgotten about within dance due to the pressure to be perfect or to “win”.
I invite you to check in with yourself and really question how you are approaching the dance studio, because it’s easy to get sucked into the toxicity of it all. And Let me finish this off by saying that there is support in dance and that it is NOT all bad and toxic. But it’s also not all fun and pretty. Dance can also be very cut throat, especially in the industry. And that’s okay! That’s what makes it challenging and exciting. However, that does not mean we have to just be concerned about ourselves and our immediate friends or not so genuinely compliment them just to seem supportive. And it DEFIANTLY does not mean that we should only cheer when someone wins, gets called out, or books that job. Cheer for each other through the cut throat nature of this industry and encourage them to keep going and to keep pushing. That’s what makes it a community.