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Helping Dancers Who Are Hard on Themselves

Published on August 22nd 2019 by Hillary-Marie

I had a great question in the iTapOnline Community not too long ago during one of my Tap Talks LIVE Q&A discussions.

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Molly from Denver Colorado asked, “how do you deal with the perfectionist students who are really hard on themselves and seem frustrated in class even though they’re doing just fine in terms of growth”

I’ve had many of them over the years

I had one student, specifically, who would get SO frustrated, he was a kid, about 12 years old… he’d growl and hit himself, and I thought to myself "woah! what's happening here?"

When it comes to students like that, I call them out on it.

It’s hard because your first instinct is to be nice to them. You say to yourself, "I’ll only be nice, I’ll only give them compliments, I don’t want to upset them,"

But by doing that, you’re doing them an absolute disservice.

If this is what they’re like in tap dance, then this is what they’re like in life.

Baakari Wilder taught me that lesson. I was talking to him about something different - frustrated about a tap dancer I had hired to work with me - late and lazy - late in emails - lazy in rehearsal - and he said, if that’s how they are in life, that’s how they are in dance

So if this is your student in the dance, angry, short, frustrated, then this means that’s what they’re doing in life.

As teachers, our role in any student's life, whether they’re kids or adults, is way heavier than that of ‘just’ a tap teacher. 

We’re their mentors.

We’re their life coaches.

Sometimes we’re their therapists.

You know what I mean?

It’s real!

So if you have a student who is SO angry, and SO frustrated...

You have to call them out on it - but privately.

Pull them over after class and say "Hey man, what’s up? What’s going on? Why are you getting so upset about something you don’t know? How can you be angry with yourself for not knowing or nailing something I just introduced to you today? And what do you think is the benefit that you’ll sit here and get that angry and frustrated with yourself?"

Have that talk a number of times - it’s not just once or twice.

It’ll be slow. I talk a lot about how teaching tap dance is a chess game - long game - not checkers, it’s not immediate - we have to plant seeds for the long-game. 

It’s worked for me a lot over the years.

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