Ignorant Dance Teachers

(Someone has been irked by this post, so she ANONYMOUSLY accused me of making MANY assumptions in this post and insinuated that I did not understand the difference between ID and ballet training… obviously not a regular reader of this blog. As I state at the beginning of the post below, I was sent off on this rant by a post on dance.net, but day after day I receive emails from parents and dancers asking for help, recounting their stories and their injuries. Up until now my dance kinesiology posts have been about the body as a way to encourage dancers and parents to take responsibility for their own body knowledge. I have been thinking that I should also say clearly that it should be the professional responsibility of every dance teacher, no matter the discipline, to understand the human body and how it moves. So, I say it now.)

Ok, can’t take it anymore…got up this morning, perused the web a bit to wake up, and unhappily came upon this:

“im 19 and have been dancing since i was 4. I have beautifully turned out feet but recently i have been getting serious pains in my knees and ankles. i went to an orthopedic who was shocked at how bad my leg alignment had become, presumably from ID. I was always told to ‘push my ankles forward’ in order to turn out my feet. Nothing was ever mentioned about my hips. I have never heard anything about using my hips. This might be the underlying cause to my problems. can anyone please shed some light on what i’m supposed to be doing with my hips when turning out my feet and trebling etc??? Any advice is welcome.”

PUSH FORWARD IN THE ANKLES TO TURN OUT!!??!! NEVER HEARD ABOUT USING HER HIPS!!??!! This teaching stupidity is stunning. Poor thing!

Why is any ignorant moron allowed to mess with young developing bodies just because they call themselves a “dance teacher”???!!!

I have always had a problem with bad teaching, regardless of the subject matter. I have walked out of many lectures, workshops, studio classes and university courses…I make no bones about ill-prepared lecturers, lazy presenters, and ignorant “teachers” of all kinds, no matter the guru they profess themselves to be. As a university professor, I probably shocked many a student when I would take their former teachers’ ignorant and dangerous ideas and teaching methods to task. What inflamed me more than anything were the “chronic injuries” that dancers owned as if they were badges of honor…these injuries were a sign of bad teaching, of damage done to them by ignorant teachers… they were not good things!!

Dance teachers work with the human body, therefore they should know how it is put together, how it works. They should know the bones and their articulations. They should know how each and every joint is constructed and how it is meant to move. They should understand the role of bony formations and ligaments in supporting and restricting movement in the joints. They should know the difference between ligaments and tendons and muscles, and they should know what bursae are for. They should know how muscles work by acting as the forces that move the levers that we call bones. They should know how muscles create movement by working with or against gravity. They should know the physics of jumping, turning, kicking, leaping, etc, etc, etc. They should understand correct skeletal alignment and effective and safe dance posture inside and out!

They should know how turn-out is accomplished if they want their students to use it. They should know how to strengthen a dancer’s legs and feet, and that it takes a few years of concentrated, specific training before a dancer should be put en pointe. They should understand how much stronger an Irish dancer’s feet really should be to perform toe stands in shoes that are not supportive or designed for such a maneuver. Irish dance teachers should understand the particular demands that the very specific Irish dance technique places on the body…the fact that dancers’ heels are not to contact the floor and that their knees are always to appear straight is very stressful on the legs. The fact that they are required to jump with out the benefit of the full use of the foot lever OR the arms requires unbelievable strength. They should understand the stretching that should be a MATTER OF COURSE for any dancer. If Irish dance teachers are going to continue to borrow movements from other dance techniques (ballet, in particular), then they themselves should be taking classes so THEY are trained to perform these steps. What has ID taken from ballet? Changement, entrechat quatre & six, cabriole, pique, pas de bourree, gargouillade…don’t know what these are? Then why are you trying to teach them to your students!!!!??

It should be a GIVEN that dance teachers understand the human body completely! Period.

There are bad teachers in every dance form. The mind set that the art of dance and the science of dance are mutually exclusive was quaint 75 years ago when the dance star of the day was no better than the average intermediate-advanced student of today. But as the athleticism of dance advances, so should our understanding of movement, of motion. The dance training needs to be more specific, more careful, more focused as we try to defy gravity in more and more complex and innovative ways because the HUMAN BODY DOES NOT CHANGE AS THE DANCE FORMS EVOLVE!!! Our bodies are put together the same way they were 50, 100, 1000, 10,000 years ago. This is not new news…so why is knowledge of the human body not a given?

If your dance teacher will not take responsibility for your body, then you take it. And find a new teacher. Good ones do exist.

Click for more kinesiology info: Dance Kinesiology
To start educating yourself, try here.

Client from Hell

(Any former clients of mine who read this, I am NOT talking about any of you! Any folks who were this rude, did not get a dress…and I do thank Susan for keeping the pitch fork in my behind until I came to my senses.)

A dressmaker on the Celtic Flame board asked for perspectives on a situation with a client…a client that should now reside in the “former” category but instead has been allowed to bulldoze her way into the “current and continuing to be rude, condescending, grasping and non-paying” category. As I wrote in my short reply to the original post, this chaps my ass!!!!!

I feel bad for the dressmaker. She has allowed herself to be badgered into this situation…yes, it is her fault. But this happens a lot because the smaller dressmaker does not want to make anybody angry, does not want an idiot client like this to say bad things about her because it might affect her business. I understand that…I bet most, if not all of us understand that. In fact, I’m sure many of us have found ourselves in situations when we are completely taken aback by potential and/or current clients who make the astoundingly condescending assumption that because we are not a BN (big name) that we are there solely to be taken advantage of, to work for nothing, to spend our own money making them happy just so they might pass our name on to other prospective clients….what do they call that crap? Oh yeah, EXTORTION!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I found the definition of extortion here in this internet law library:

EXTORTION – The use, or the express or implicit threat of the use, of violence or other criminal means to cause harm to person, reputation, or property as a means to obtain property from someone else with his consent. USC 18

The Hobbs Act defines “extortion” as “the obtaining of property from another, with his consent, induced by wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence, or fear, or under color of official right.” 18 U.S.C. S 1951(b)(2).

Sounds dramatic, doesn’t it? Well it is. The feelings that this behavior from clients brings on are depressing & overwhelming! And it has to be downright mind-blowing when you get clients who are bold enough to actually threaten you with a bad review as I have heard about from dressmakers but thankfully not experienced…I have this image of my head exploding were I ever to be confronted by such subnormality! Where do they get off treating dressmakers so badly?

So what is this behavior?

This current story goes like this (I have made things a bit more obscure to protect the dm, NOT the client who should be locked in the stocks and pelted with rotten eggs): The dressmaker sold a semi-custom dress 3 months ago, an OTR (off-the-rack) that was bought during construction, so it was fitted to the dancer and a couple of time-consuming design enhancements were made at their request at no extra charge. At the final fitting, 2 days before a feis, they asked for another whole “addition” to the dress and that was delivered, also no extra charge. Should have been the end of the story.

The client called not long ago to say she was dissatisfied with the dress as the side panels were not laying flat. She wanted it fixed in less than a week. The dm offered to look at the dress to see what needed to be done, not wanting to have a dissatisfied customer sharing her opinion with all who would listen. The problems were OBVIOUSLY caused by the dancer – an obvious crease line across the panels from being sat in and side panels that were distorted because of the dancer’s particular way of pushing forward with her arms. The dm agreed to take the dress to flatten the panels and pull it up a bit at the side seams to make it harder for the dancer to distort the panels as she danced. Then, the mother says that the (emergency) “addition” was not what she had asked for.

Here is when the dm should have said that seeing as how the “addition” had been thrown in free of charge, if the client wanted a new one, she was going to have to pay for it…and the alterations she was about to do. But she did not. She spent more of her own money, spent valuable time fixing the dress, and gave it all back. At this point, even though our dm had not said up front that there would be charges for her work, an ETHICAL HUMAN BEING would have asked what the charges were. But this piece of work simply took the dress. THEN the dm saw her at a feis, and the client mama from hell and her dancer complained that the “addition” still wasn’t what they wanted -they liked one her friend had better- and they told her how to make it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The dm had one last question for us: “Do you other folks think I have any obligation to spend another day and $20 in materials to make her another gift???”


Here’s another: The dressmaker spent hours consulting with an entire family on a dress. (Right there, Susan would have fired the clients!) The dm went out of her way to help them, spent hours searching the world for their desired fabric. She made a mock bodice which fitted perfectly, did two fittings, and at the final one, the girl had the dress on for at least half an hour. There was never any mention about the dress being tight, uncomfortable etc. 6 months later, they are not happy with the fit of the dress. And this is all her fault, and they want the dm to alter the dress. For free.

This dm is getting ready to tell them a firm NO, thank goodness. She says, “I provided a well tailored, perfectly fitting dress made to their requirements. (Dealing with this dress is) NOT AN ONGOING SERVICE. It is not my problem if the girl has had a growth spurt or wants the dress to be as loose fitting as her pajamas. This time I am going to be firm and not be taken for a ride.”

One of my dressmaker friends had a former client come to her to say that the dress did not fit and it was her fault…although they were happy because it fit “so perfectly” when she danced in it at the Southern Region Oireachtas 6 months earlier! And, in the same incredibly long and convoluted email, the client went on to blame this dm for the fact that a dress she had bought from her 18months EARLIER was not selling…and she really was hoping not to have to resort to telling folks what a bad dressmaker my friend is!! It was the weirdest piece of deluded rationalization I have ever read.

Idiot dressmaking clients (if you are not an idiot, please disregard this question), would you call Gavin or Siopa Rince or Elevation or etc, etc, etc to tell them that you no longer like the cape/applique fabric/lining/tutu or that the dress that they made for you 6 months ago/ 1 year ago/ 18 months ago does not fit now (because your daughter grew, but you don’t admit that) and that IT IS THEIR FAULT AND THEY HAVE TO FIX IT? FOR FREE???!!! And then threaten them with smears on their reputations if they don’t? No, of course you wouldn’t! So, why do you do call your lone dm and tell her that? Why is her work of less value? What is it that you think she owes you?

I choose to believe that this kind of client is not the norm…if it was, there would be no lone dressmakers. I have really been lucky with the clients I have worked with so far, knock on wood. But, I know there will be a time that a loony gets by Susan’s PITA radar (she IS my first line of defense), and it will be my luck that the fireworks will start after Susan is done with her part, so I will have to figure out how to handle it myself. I know it will not be easy, believe me.

After writing this, I am thinking I should finish my contract and state very clearly where and when my obligation stops. Perhaps we all should.