My heart hurts because I feel the need to write this article. Bullying seems so senseless and unnecessary, and yet, it still occurs in seemingly all environments: school, extracurricular activities, via social media, and, yes, even at dance competitions. Social media outlets have removed accountability and personal connectivity from today’s youth, allowing them an impersonal way of criticizing and degrading others in a very passive manner.
I have heard stories of bullying occurring at dance competitions for the past few years, but it was not until recently that I actually observed negativity at an event. Via social media, an older student from one studio was blatantly criticizing much younger students from another studio. With the social media message, the older student had other dancers joining in the conversation, and it felt so unnecessary and inappropriate.
What made this student feel as though this was an okay choice? As instructors, we have to instill values of respect in our students. These values should transcend the studio classroom and reach other studios, peers, and life endeavors. Our values become our lifestyle, and I would like to think that studios would never condone this kind of behavior.
Most competitions and conventions encourage appropriate behavior, and I appreciate and applaud the steps they have taken to guarantee students are learning and growing in a nurturing, supportive environment. Studio Owners, parents, instructors, students, and peers have to support and encourage that mission, too. Ultimately, we are all in this together, and, personally, I know that I want every dance experience to be positive, meaningful, and productive for each and every one of our students.
Dance Spirit featured an article in 2011 entitled Beat Bullying. While this discusses the issue from an in-studio perspective, it is relevant to discuss in regards to attending outside events and encountering other studios, too.
At the end of the day, we have to lead by example and make sure that our students are aware of their choices, actions, and consequences. We are all working hard, striving to do our best, and encouraging our students to grow. Each individual is on his/her own dance journey, and we have to be respectful and supportive of each dancer’s work and achievement as an individual. As J.K. Rowling said, “It is our choices…that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” Let’s make the choice to be kind; after all, we are all in this together.