Helping Dancers Who Are Hard on Themselves

I had a great question in the iTapOnline Community not too long ago during one of my Tap Talks LIVE Q&A discussions. So if you’re not a member of the group, go ahead and search iTapOnline Community in your facebook app or head to and it’ll direct you straight there. 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 was like woah… what the hell is happening? It’s not that serious.

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 don’t anger them, say to yourself, I’ll only be nice, I’ll only give them compliments, I don’t want to upset them, but you guys… 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, than this means that’s what they’re doing in life.

Another saying about an orange and juice - s

As teachers, our role in anyone’s life in our class, whether they’re kids or adults, is way heavier than that of ‘just’ a tap teacher.  “Just a tap teacher” 0- what?! Absolutely not. 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? It’s tap dance, it’s not that serious, 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 once or twice - it’s a number of times.

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. 

So have that talk a number of times. I say, call them out., 

If you call them out in a very certain away - alone - after class - in a 1 and a format - what’s going on? Let them talk. How’s that helping you? Let htem talk. What’s the benefit of you doing this to yourself? Let them talk. How can you possibly nail something that you just learned? Let them talk. 

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

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