"My Teammates Are Letting Me Down"
Members of the Illinois College dance team
Being on a dance team comes with a lot of perks: You get tons of performance opportunities and, often, a built-in group of best friends. But it’s not always a high-kicking blast. “Dancers bring a lot of passion to everything in their lives,” says Jessica Walz, who advises the dance team at Hawaii Pacific University. “When you get a bunch of them together, conflict can creep in.” Whether you’re on a student-run team or your team comes equipped with a coach or advisor, certain situations require a little extra guidance.
DS spoke with seasoned pros about the most common dance team issues—and how to handle them, no drama required.
One girl on the team is always late to practice. Another one keeps missing practice completely—and she has a million excuses.
Here’s where it becomes important to have a clear set of team rules and consequences that apply to everyone on the team, even the captain. Most faculty-run teams, like Sandy Hinton’s at McLennan Community College, have formal agreements or contracts everyone signs at the beginning of the year. Right from the start, team members know exactly what’s expected of them, as well as what will happen if they don’t measure up. On Walz’s team, late dancers have to run up a nearby set of 1,200 stairs (up the side of a volcano!). “The first month or two, three or four dancers will have to do it,” Walz says. “By the third month, no one is late anymore.”
Student-run teams can write a contract together to make sure captains never feel like arbitrary dictators or need to fight with teammates when issues come up. Because all team members agree to the consequences, everyone is equally accountable to each other; there’s no room for drama or hurt feelings.
Outline your team’s attendance policy in your contract, as well as the consequences for too many unexcused absences (three tardies equal one absence, for example, and three missed practices means you have to sit out the next performance). Include a clause about what happens if a teammate’s excuses are legit, like being very sick or doing required academic activities.
Our captain is rude and condescending, and no one likes her. (Think Big Red from Bring It On.)
Learning how to be a good leader can be tough, especially when you’re in high school or college and have a million other responsibilities weighing on you. Unfortunately, sometimes all it takes is one stressed-out captain to crush team morale.
Kate VonDeBur, a junior at Illinois College who currently leads rehearsals for the school’s dance team, experienced this herself as an underclassman. “We tried to make our captain happy by coming to practice as prepared as we could,” Kate says, “and we found that the more prepared we were, the less stressed out and overbearing she was. She had good intentions.” You can also offer to assist with small tasks, like taking attendance, or you can (tactfully) mention that sometimes teammates might take her comments the wrong way. Definitely don’t talk to everyone else behind her back and let the problem intensify—that won’t end well for anyone.
Chloe Cunningham, a junior at Dickinson College who served as the school’s Synergy Dance Team captain, recommends getting to know your captain better as a person. “Our team would go to the cafeteria together for meals after practice,” she says. “That way, we could all hang out without the pressure of rehearsals. If a captain is still rude outside of practice, chances are she’s just rude.” If that’s the case, your best bet is to take a deep breath and be polite until the next captain steps in.
The Synergy Dance Team
getting silly in the studio
My teammates take corrections personally when they come from their peers.
It can be weird to acknowledge that your teammates can see your weaknesses. “On our team, we establish the fact that we all love each other no matter what, but if somebody needs to be called out for doing a wrong move, they’re going to be called out,” Chloe says.
Kate ensures that no one feels bullied in her rehearsals by splitting the team into groups and assigning each teammate one person to watch and give corrections to. “I try to make us all codependent,” she says, “so that the girls rely on each other to get better. Nobody’s being overly criticized, and nobody’s being overly critical. We’re all doing it.” Walz’s team at HPU also does this, with an easy rule to keep things constructive: When it’s time to critique, each dancer tells her partner “one negative and two positives,” Walz says.
One of my teammates is partying too hard and it’s affecting her performance.
Figuring out how to navigate the college social scene in a healthy, dance-friendly way is an issue all students face. On Hinton’s and Walz’s dance teams, dancers promise to follow strict codes of conduct outlined in their team contracts, and teammates hold one another accountable with severe consequences for inappropriate behavior, like suspension from the team.
Student-run groups without a close faculty advisor can also outline appropriate team conduct, but if a teammate is determined to rebel, enforcing the standards as a team might be tricky. Be specific in your contract regarding social situations and even social media, but know that sometimes your teammate may need to learn the consequences of her behavior on her own. And whether you’re of legal age or not, excessive partying will affect your dancing.
One of our teammates is failing. We have to have a certain GPA to perform and she’s dangerously close to the cutoff.
If you have a faculty advisor, this is an issue to let her handle, since students can’t officially request to know one another’s grades. If you don’t, though, and you hear that a teammate’s grades are slipping, try setting up team study sessions or designating members of the team who excel at certain subjects to be team tutors. Be sure to approach your struggling teammate privately, though, because if she’s working hard and still having trouble, she might feel embarrassed.
The McLennan Community College dance team
Some teammates don’t like each other, and their personal differences are interfering with rehearsals.
“Some of the girls on my team just don’t get along,” Kate says. “When that pops up in rehearsal, I try to pull the focus back to the dance. I’ll say, ‘Let’s run this with the music,’ because then they have to stop talking.”
According to Hinton, running a tight rehearsal is the best way to keep the drama outside. “Having your practice planned solves 90 percent of your problems,” she says. “When the team walks in the door, the dancers will be so busy they won’t have time to worry about anyone else.”
If drama does find its way in, address it with a conversation immediately after practice. “When it starts festering in the studio and you don’t discuss it, it builds until eventually someone snaps,” Walz says. “You don’t all have to be best friends, but you have to figure out how to work together.”
Kate stops upperclassman/underclassman conflicts before they happen by doing team bonding early in the year. Walz does this, too, by pairing upperclassmen with underclassmen in a buddy system—each first year member has an older girl to look out for her and show her the ropes. “We have what I call buddy day,” she says. “They have to show me that they went out and grabbed lunch or did something fun together, just to check in with each other. One year, two of my girls partnered up and posed for all of these pictures baking cookies together or taking walks together. It was really funny, but to this day, they’re still great friends.”
CRAFTING YOUR CONTRACT
You can avoid most team conflicts by writing a contract at the beginning of the year that each team member must agree to and sign. Here are a few things you’ll want to include:
- Attendance policies for both practices and performances
- Cost requirements for being on the team (you may need to pay expenses out of pocket or be asked to fundraise)
- Grade requirements or academic standards team members must uphold
- A code of conduct
- Social media rules
- Consequences for breaking the contract
It's time to get your pirouette on! From September 5th to September 30th, we're hosting a contest to find out who's the best turner of them all.
Put together your most impressive turning combo. Post a video online. Share your turns with us and thousands of other dancers around the world. And if our editors think you're the top turner, you'll win a fabulous prize.
All of 18-year-old Kaylin Maggard's dreams—from scoring the title of National Senior Outstanding Dancer at New York City Dance Alliance Nationals to winning the 2017 Dance Spirit Cover Model Search—are coming true. And to anyone who knows the gorgeous contemporary dancer, that's no surprise.
From the moment the Dance Spirit staff met Kaylin, it was obvious her humility and talent would take her far. Not only did she go full-out during the photo shoot and class at Broadway Dance Center, but she was always cheering on, laughing with, and supporting her fellow CMS contestants Haley Hartsfield and Michelle Quiner. During the voting period, the social media world was abuzz with praise for her work ethic, positive attitude, and generosity.
Since her CMS trip to NYC, Kaylin's moved from her hometown of Columbia, MO, to the Big Apple for her freshman year at Juilliard, and is busy getting acquainted with the city. As for the future? She's taking it one opportunity at a time, but something tells us we'll be seeing this contemporary queen reach new heights every year.
New York City principal Lauren Lovette has become an icon thanks to her emotional maturity and exceptional musicality. The 26-year-old quickly rose through the ranks after joining the company as an apprentice in 2009, reaching principal status in 2015. A Thousand Oaks, CA, native, Lovette started studying ballet seriously at age 11, at the Cary Ballet Conservatory in Cary, NC. After attending two summer courses at the School of American Ballet, she enrolled as a full-time student in 2006. Last year, she made her choreographic debut with For Clara, her first piece for NYCB. Catch her latest work this month during the company's fall season. —Courtney Bowers
In our "Dear Katie" series, former NYCB soloist Kathryn Morgan answers your pressing dance questions. Have something you want to ask Katie? Email firstname.lastname@example.org for a chance to be featured!
I know I'm not getting good enough dance training from any of my local studios. But I'm not sure I'm ready to move away to study at a big-name school, either. How do you know when you're ready to leave home to pursue your passion?
Instagram star Kylie Shea has built a following of nearly 170,000 with her playful workout videos, which combine traditional fitness activities, like jumping rope or running on the treadmill, with pointe shoes and sassy choreography. Shea's effortless cool-girl-next-door vibe and solid ballet technique make her vids totally irresistible.
Now Shea's using her platform to address the body image issues that tend to plague dancers. In a poignant video, she sheds her clothes and tugs at her skin. The caption explains her relationship with her body and the pressure she feels to maintain a certain aesthetic as a dancer.
Physical discomfort is inevitable when you're spending tons of hours in the studio every day, but some pain shouldn't be suffered through. "Dancing through pain can make an injury worse and lead to more time away from dance," says Dr. Joel Brenner, medical director of dance medicine at Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters in Norfolk, VA. "Failing to rest and recover when you're in serious pain could even lead to the point where you're unable to dance in the future."
That may sound scary, but there's good news: If you take precautions and listen to your body, many injuries can be stopped in their tracks. The first step? Knowing what's normal—and what's not.
Think about it: How often do you see a ballet pas de deux for two women? Almost never, right? Sometimes, choreographers will forgo the traditional danseur-ballerina pas to make a duet for two guys, since they can lift and partner each other easily. But a dance for two ballerinas is a rare thing.
That's part of what makes "Duet," a new video by director Andrew Margetson featuring Royal Ballet beauties Yasmin Naghdi and Beatriz Stix-Brunell, so compelling.