Ask out my teacher?

Discussion in 'General Dance Discussion' started by Sackameno, Sep 19, 2012.

  1. toothlesstiger

    toothlesstiger Well-Known Member

    I've run across two sorts of pros so far. The first is the sort who appear to already have a real social life, possibly including peers, but for the most not socializing with their students if they don't have to. The second sort, that I have more recently encountered, have a social circle which appears to consist almost entirely of their students. And maybe it's just me, but I find that very troubling.
  2. fascination

    fascination Site Moderator Staff Member

    I don't find it troubling...it's just that it usually ends up being troubling
  3. toothlesstiger

    toothlesstiger Well-Known Member

    Wannabee's post inspired my comment. What kind of person surrounds themselves with people who "wants to be them"?
  4. dbk

    dbk Well-Known Member

    Wannabe said s/he wants to be around them, and that they are where s/he wants to be in the dance world... not that s/he "wants to be" them.

    It's not unusual to surround yourself with people you find interesting, people you admire, people you get along with well (since, after all, you have to be able to learn from them). Friendship with your dance instructor is not unlike friendship with a coworker - you might not end up as close as you are with other friends, and you might have to maintain a certain level of professionalism, but you can easily be friends if both parties are interested.

    It's only awkward if one person expects a higher level of friendship because of the close business (dance) relationship. And just like dating coworkers, dating your coach/student is a bit of a minefield.
  5. toothlesstiger

    toothlesstiger Well-Known Member

    I didn't say that Wannabee wanted to be them. And my comments were directed at the teachers, not at the students. It is only natural. If someone is living the life I want to live, I would want to hang around them. But if I've got people that want to hang around me because they want to live the life I'm living, I'm not a monster, I will spend some time with them, but having that be my whole social circle would drive me nuts, and I could only imagine a total narcissist would want that all the time.
  6. Wannabee

    Wannabee Active Member

    This is an interesting point. I guess I hadn't thought of it quite like that. I have socialized with my instructors outside the studio from time to time and I'm certain that they enjoyed my company as much as I enjoyed theirs on those occasions. I can say though that I've never made a babbling, giggling fool of myself in their company. They in fact might be quite surprised to learn how much I do admire them, as I've never revealed any such feelings. I'm happy to enjoy their company if they offer it, but I've turned down invitations for social outings with them as well.

    In my particular case, I think if my instructors had a notion that someone wanted to be them and was overt about it, they would go out of their way to avoid such students in any kind of social setting unrelated to the studio. I've seen them do just that in the past and they did it with grace and appropriate sensitivity toward the student(s). They definitely aren't comfortable encouraging unhealthy adoration toward them.

    And just to be clear, I do not want to be them. But I do enjoy being with them. Big difference. And I know no one implied I wanted to be them lol. I didn't get that but I wanted to clarify in any case :)
  7. fascination

    fascination Site Moderator Staff Member

    just occured to me that this is another advantage to living 2 1/2 hours from my studio, it really isn't even an option
  8. Wannabee

    Wannabee Active Member

    That's a good point... Much less complicated that way I'm sure.
  9. danceronice

    danceronice Well-Known Member

    I socialized a lot with teachers and students (and then ended up in a gray area being non-teaching staff as well) at one studio, don't really socialize much even at official studio events at this one. Distance is a factor, as is age/temperament of the teachers. They get to set the tone.
  10. dbk

    dbk Well-Known Member

    Not sure how else to interpret "Wannabee's post inspired my comment. What kind of person surrounds themselves with people who "wants to be them"?"...

    But anyway - my point is that those people don't necessarily "want to be them," just because they want to be friends; they may just want to be around them. That's part of what friendship is, at least when it's mutual. You're assuming that's the only reason a student would want to be friends with their teacher. Sure, if a teacher only hangs out with fawning students that idolize them, it's narcissism. But socializing with students without being forced does not a narcissist make; it all depends on the relationship dynamics.
    Wannabee likes this.
  11. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    Just ftr, I'm finding this thread really hard to follow. The semantics around "want to be them" versus "want to be like them" escape me. *shrug* My take? Seeking mentors/becoming a mentor and seeking friends/becoming friends are both normal and healthy behaviors, as long as nobody becomes a stalker and nobody goes out trolling for sycophants.

    I'm with fasc, here. This topic has been discussed at length and, arguably, beaten to death in many earlier threads, so I've had some time to think about it.

    My take?

    Asking a teacher out? Probably a bad idea, if you want to keep taking lessons with that teacher. But what the heck. Try it, if it's worth the risk to you.

    Teacher/student socializing? Eh. That's up to the teacher and student to negotiate. Live and let live. *another shrug*
  12. Larinda McRaven

    Larinda McRaven Site Moderator Staff Member

    Let me say this... I spent an entire lesson yesterday with a student who has been dancing with me for around a year. We spent the time pretty much not dancing but working on "body contact" while simply walking forward and back. I was touching his thighs, his butt, his hip flexors... I was kneeling down infront of him working on his calf and the speed that it swung from his thighs while looking up at him from that position, I was wrapping my arms around his chest in a soft bear hug like grip. My boobs were on him and we talked a lot about hip contact and worked on simply letting our thighs and hips settle on each other, to not shy away and artificially tilt the hips back to maintain a "respectful distance".

    After he left he sent me a text message that I "looked hot today". And while I know him enough NOT to be creeped out by it, as I am sure he was just making a bad joke... how would you feel if you had to do that lesson with men about 10 times a day, and every time you taught it you had to worry if the guy was going to need to excuse himself to the restroom to "cool off", or sent you flirty text messages after, or simply asked you out at the end of the lesson... while you are just trying to do your job???

    Working in that kind of unwanted sexually charged environment endless hours for years on end is not healthy. A teacher must simply turn off any and all social interaction with students in order to draw my line in the sand quite clearly. To constantly have students trying to cross that line, friendship wise or romantic interest wise is taxing... if I let one in then I have to let them all in... and then where would I be?

    Mentoring is quite another thing. A couple that is wondering where to go with their dancing, and guy asking about the future of his pro-am, another teacher wondering how to start a pro career... there is room enough in ones day to take time to give to these people, to help them along the way, to show them a small amount of caring and guidance without calling it a friendship, without opening the door for romantic interests to be falsely encouraged.

    Ya gotta see it from our side sometimes to really understand... I want to work in a safe environment without feeling predatory eyes on me. I don't want students to idolize me as a person. As a past competitor and as a teacher I would like a healthy amount of respect for what I have accomplished. But as a person, when I leave that studio, you have no idea who I am, what my interests are, what food I like, or what movie genre I prefer to watch. How on earth could a student really want to be my friend? Not that I imagine myself in any way close to a pop star, but can you see that Robert Pattinson probably doesn't want to spend his free time with a bunch of love struck fans??

    I want to do my job without people getting all worked up over stuff that to us is just a days work at the office.
  13. freeageless

    freeageless Active Member

    Larinda,
    I read your post. As a male, I do not think that he was "making a bad joke." I would recommend that you drop him as a student. I don't see any need for me to give my reasons for you to drop him, because you probably know what they would be.
  14. toothlesstiger

    toothlesstiger Well-Known Member

    Thank, Larinda, your post captures some of what I am trying to get across.

    For some others that have a difficult time understanding what I'm trying to say: like Larinda says, dance teachers are just doing their jobs, and it's not personal. If they make it personal, I'm sorry, but they are being creepy, and make it difficult for other teachers as well.

    I've been on the receiving end of the sort of attention Larinda is talking about, although generally not as creepy as her experience. I continued to fulfill my responsibilities with a smile on my face, ignoring and deflecting the "hints", subtle and not. In the role I had, since I was entrusted to facilitate their personal growth, I had a responsibility to see that perception of me as a step on the road, and encourage my students to "Kill the Buddha". But it doesn't mean that I wasn't a bit relieved when those sorts of men and ladies would miss a class.

    A mature, healthy person has friends primarily among their peers. Unless they have context outside of the teaching, students and teachers are not peers.

    It is normal for a new dancer to suffer from some illusions in these regards. But what you've got to remember is that a relationship based on the exchange of cash for services is not friendship. And you are naive if you take at face value any words or behavior that could be used to maintain or enhance the flow of cash.
  15. Larinda McRaven

    Larinda McRaven Site Moderator Staff Member

    No, I will not. For several reasons. As a pro of over 20 years I have learned how to tread through minefields like this. His text to me had other stuff in it, and that context is relevant, although I don't plan on sharing all of that here. In addition I wore a pair of tight black jeans that I would not normally wear to teach in, since all of my RS Atilier pants were in the dirty laundry, and that was what he was commenting towards, because it was out of the norm. He has met my husband. He has never made any overt advance towards me, always been very respectful. He does not act like a lovesick puppy. So taking all of that in, I find no malice in what he said. Just a joke. And no joke that my peers did not also make when I walked in wearing tight jeans (very uncomfortable to teach in anyway).

    I could very quickly over react, as I did one time with my very first competitive student, who made a joke about helping me get out of my costume, after I had asked him to finish zipping the very top of my costume. When I confronted him about it, he said he was just trying to be playful the way he hears everyone else bantering. He ended up being one of my most loyal, long term, hardest working students for years to come. I had to learn how to assess the situation, and react calmly and professionally. And if the line was not completely and overtly obliterated, then my job is helping the student to see where my line it.

    So my reaction to this joke sets the tone for our future interactions. If I were to joke back and send a winking smilie ;) then I actually do him a disservice my telling him that the door is actually open, even if that was not what he was asking about to begin with.

    He was not aggressive, he did not tell me he wanted to take me out to dinner instead of paying me to do my job, he did not put my job, livelihood, income nor my personal being in jeopardy. He simply made a joke and I responded back without any joke or invitation. And for that we both get to learn a little better about how to interact on a professional level.

    If it happens again, there will be a very quick turnover.
    Sagitta and frotes like this.
  16. fascination

    fascination Site Moderator Staff Member

    and I think this is a very important element; when a student enters a studio, they have no idea that they are going to end up chest to boob, hip to hip, with someone who might not be hard to enjoy....they have no idea what they are in for...and most are not walking in looking for romance, so it is really important that an instructor have boundaries...IME, knowing lots and lots of details about a pro's private life is going to confuse a student into thinking a friendship exists, and also going to foster emotional intimacy....It is just so important that pros realize this and do not create a fertile environment...and if things develop even absent thatsort of sharing, they need to nip it immediately and unambiguously...I do empathize ....grieving people are very vulnerable and dependent...when you help them, many of them begin to see that as friendship...many of them want more time beyond what they need for their grief work...many of them are lonely...I have to be very careful, both with the men my own age, with regard to loneliness, and with anyone who simply mis-perceives the service I offer...it is MY job to be unambiguous, to keep my personal life personal... and my perogative to decide when a productive interaction is no longer possible
    Larinda McRaven and freeageless like this.
  17. frotes

    frotes Member

    I was going to say, there was probably more to that students text than just "looked hot today" that Larinda left out and that she probably knows him well enough to judge the situation. Personally I saw it as the opposite, that he was teasing/making a joke or just giving a complement but I don't know the person and how they act as well as the full context of the situation. Like for myself, I usually complement my teacher when she wears something that looks good on her or that I like and she'll do the same. I say that kind of stuff to everyone and she does the same, It is just how we both act as people and doesn't mean much more than that. So I think we all insert a little bit of our own opinion/experiences/perspective to try to infer what we think something means.

    While there are some good "standard rule of thumb" boundaries for teachers/students, I think that in the end, dancing is a very social activity and you are bound to foster a certain type relationship. But it is up the the individuals involved to decide what is and what the limits are.
    Larinda McRaven likes this.
  18. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    TT and Larinda, I hear what you're saying and agree. I can totally see where you're coming from, and I respect that.

    I would quibble with you, TT, regarding your statement about teachers and students being peers. While I agree that students and teachers are not peers (nor should they be) in the context of a lesson, I don't think it's necessarily true that they can't be peers outside of the lesson/studio environment. Some people may prefer a "bright line" in terms of separation there, and that's fine, but I don't just don't think it's the case that there can never be a peer/friendship relationship.

    Admittedly, I'm speaking from personal experience, and the singular of data is not anecdote. But I've had a teacher who I did socialize with outside of lessons, and it was fine. (And I wasn't the only one he as friends with.) DH and I would hang out with him and his wife and daughter--have dinner, watch tv, etc.--and it was very much a peer relationship. It is possible. Conversely, another teacher discouraged that. Which was also fine. Just sayin' is all.
    pygmalion and Wannabee like this.
  19. toothlesstiger

    toothlesstiger Well-Known Member

    Peaches, as I said, if there is context for the relationship outside of the dance-student/teacher relationship, that is something else. But if the entire context of the relationship is dance, then, no, they are not peers.

    Also, I'm speaking in generalities. Each circumstance will have it's own extenuating specifics. That being said, a healthy person draws from their peers for most of their friendships. A teacher whose friends are all their students is creepy. And if only some students are in the 'friends' circle, that may seem like favoritism.

    A teacher and a student can become peers, if they develop a context outside of their student/teacher relationship. But they sure don't start that way.
  20. GGinrhinestones

    GGinrhinestones Well-Known Member


    Larinda - thank you. Wow. On so many levels, you managed to put down pretty succinctly what I have tried as a student to understand and explain to other students and non-dancers over the years with varied success. Your post should be required reading for all new dancers as they start their journey, and several more established dancers who need reminding.

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