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  • Writer's pictureHolly Derville-Teer

Putting the Kiboshing on Sitting and Watching

Updated: Jul 27, 2019

The absolute last straw occurred in the middle of the intermediate teen jazz warmup. Before the warmup started, one dancer informed me that she would be sitting out due to illness. She sat on the side and I began the warmup. After the first song, another dancer timidly approached and confided that she, too, felt ill. By the time the warmup was through, I had eight dancers sitting and a mere five still dancing. I imagine patient zero was actually sick. However, I darkly suspected the rest of being only tired.

I knew that allowing ill and injured dancers to observe their classes was standard. However, I had always felt that any audience impacted the classroom environment. First, it made the class feel less safe. I always endeavored to push my dancers way out of their comfort zones. Once a dancer sat down to watch, I often saw my whole class become guarded. An audience (even of one) suggested that someone could be judging. Second, the onlooker was usually distracting in some unfortunate way. Third, if I let one person watch, I had to give the same consideration to everyone. Watching became contagious. 

As I finished the class with my eight dancer audience, I decided to put the good of the participating group before the good of the sitting dancers. The next day I sent out an email announcing that there would be no more watching classes. If someone was sick, they needed to stay home and make the class up. If someone fell ill during class, they would be asked to to call for a ride home.

In the following weeks when I explained to a dancer that they couldn’t watch class, I was careful not to make it sound like a punishment. I told them quietly that there was a new policy that didn’t allow dancers to watch for any reason. I asked them if I should call a parent to pick them up or if they thought they could make it through. Sometimes just telling me that something was bothering them was all they needed to feel better. Other times they did need to go home and were grateful that I forced the issue. I found that if I applied the rule to everyone, no one felt singled out. If I explained the rule in an apologetic manner, no one was offended.

I made this rule at my studio ten years ago and it has served me well. Teachers who taught for me were grateful for the new rule and one even adopted the policy in their classes at another studio (with the other studio owner’s permission.) After I sold my studio, I continued to enforce this rule in all my classes. One exception I have made over the years is that sometimes I will let a dancer take a short break in the lobby.

The only downside I’ve experienced was that sometimes, if a child had a long term injury like a broken leg, they got out of the habit of coming to class. This could result in their quitting. However, I still believed the policy was worth it.

Saying no to sitting out has been one of the best decisions I have made as a teacher to maintain a supportive and hard working classroom environment. The dancers are more focused and less distracted. Also, those dancer who always have an excuse are no longer disrupting the whole class. If dancers sitting out is becoming a problem, I recommend putting the kiboshing on sitting and watching.

-Holly Derville-Teer

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