Here's How to Deal if Your Teacher Doesn't Like You

It's tricky to figure out how to relate to a strict dance teacher. Not every teacher and student will jibe in the classroom, and students hoping to make it as professional dancers need to develop thick skins to be able to deal with demanding directors and choreographers later on. But instructors who target or ignore you inappropriately can be detrimental to your training—and your emotional well-being. "I'm so tense when I'm with a teacher who's intimidating," says Allison Forderkonz, a dancer in Liverpool, NY. "I spend the whole class worrying that I'll disappoint them and get yelled at." How can you cope with these awkward—and sometimes worse than awkward—situations? We asked experts, and dancers who've been there, for advice.

Communicate with Someone You Trust

Issues with your teacher can't be resolved if you keep your feelings bottled up inside. "The first thing to do is talk with a parent or guardian," says Dr. Kate Hays, a sports and performance psychologist. Tell him or her how you're feeling in class and why. Does the teacher give you too many or not enough corrections? Do you feel the teacher yells at you? Are hurtful comments being made? Hash out the situation together.

Ask a friend whether she's noticed the teacher picking on or ignoring you. "One of my classmates tries to joke about always being put in the back corner in dances, but I know it's a sensitive subject for her," Forderkonz says. If your friend agrees with how you feel, ask if she can be with you when you talk to your parents. Having a witness to bolster your account will show them your situation is serious.

Let Your Feelings Be Known

Once you've talked out your feelings with your parents, consider speaking directly with the teacher. If your conflict is relatively minor, that might be the simplest way to fix classroom issues. "One of my preteen students felt picked on in class," says Angela Bates Majewski, of Angela Bates Dance Academy in Newtown Square, PA. "She and her parent approached me about it, and we decided I wouldn't correct her aggressively until she was ready. Two years later, they approached me again wanting me to push her in her technique."

But if your situation is intense enough that you'd be uncomfortable speaking to your instructor, make the studio administrator or owner aware of the problem. He or she can act as mediator, providing support to both you and the teacher. "As a studio owner, when I'm approached about a student, I'll always talk to the teacher about the issue," Majewski says. "Most of my teachers are taken aback and immediately want to fix the problem." Don't want to feel singled out? Ask the owner to bring up the issue without citing your name.

Have a Personal Plan

If, even after mediation and discussion, you and your teacher still aren't getting along, assess the seriousness of the situation. Is it unpleasant but not overwhelming? In that case, come up with ways to feel more comfortable in the classroom. Create a silent signal that you can send to a friend when you're feeling picked on or ignored, so she can stand next to you and offer quiet support. Imagery can also help. "Wrap yourself in an imaginary invisibility cloak, which can act as an emotional barrier," suggests Dr. Hays. "If your teacher yells at you, the cloak can dial down the noise. If the teacher is highly critical, the cloak can filter out the nasty parts and let the useful information come through."

But if the problem continues to escalate, or if it's affecting your progress, consider switching classes or studios. Leaving your dance friends may be difficult, but if your teacher conflict is unresolvable, getting out could be healthier for you and your dance career. Ask the owner if there's another class at the studio you might try. If that's not an option, it might be time to shop around for other studios.

Latest Posts

Project 21 dancers (from left) Selena Hamilton, Gracyn French, and Dyllan Blackburn (Photo by Quinn Wharton; hair and makeup throughout by Angela Huff for Mark Edward Inc.)

How Project 21 Is Shaping the Next Generation of Competition-Dance Standouts

"I wish I had a better story about the name," says Molly Long, founder of the Orange County, CA–based dance studio Project 21. In truth, it's a play on the fact that she was born on the twenty-first of August, and 21 is her favorite number. "I was away on a teaching tour, the audition announcement was going live on Instagram the next day, and I desperately needed a name. Project 21 was just the least cheesy of the options I thought of!"

The fact that fans might expect the name to have some profound meaning speaks to the near-mythic status Project 21 has achieved on the competition and convention scene since its founding in 2014. Long's dancers are all wholly individual, yet jell seamlessly as a group, and are consistently snagging top prizes everywhere on the circuit. Each season brings a slew of new accolades, high-caliber faculty, and legions of devoted followers.

The industry has taken notice of the studio's unique ethos. "Molly gets through to her dancers in a special way, and they have this incomparable level of commitment to their craft as a result," says dancer and choreographer Billy Bell, who's worked closely with Long and her dancers. "That's what sets them apart—it's like a little dose of magic."

Keep Reading SHOW LESS

Dear Katie: What Can I Do to Get More Flexible?

In our "Dear Katie" series, Miami City Ballet soloist Kathryn Morgan answers your pressing dance questions. Have something you want to ask Katie? Email dearkatie@dancespirit.com for a chance to be featured!

Dear Katie,

I'm a strong dancer, but I don't have a lot of flexibility. I stretch every day, but it feels like I'm getting nowhere. What can I do to get more flexible?


Keep Reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks

Enter the Cover Model Search