General Dance Discussion > Ask out my teacher?

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

  1. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    Hmm. I think that, since the dance teacher is most likely the one with most experience in the dance world, that, as fasc said earlier, it's up to the teacher to unambiguously create the sort of environment that works for them professionally and personally.

    That said, when I joined DF, I was almost 100% against teacher/student relationships (because I'd been burned by developing genuine affection for a stereotypically, off-the-charts, user of a teacher. Not romance; he was over-the-top, fabulously gay. Not my cuppa, romance-wise. I felt real caring and affection. I cared about him. (He, btw, no longer teaches dance. )

    But, in my years in DF, I've read posts by SO MANY people who report having comfortable social relationships with their teachers/students, that it's led me to believe that my experience isn't the only valid one. Would I seek friendship or romance with a dance teacher? No. Do I dismiss the possibility that that scenario could work for someone else? No.

    I'm with Peaches on this one.
  2. rain_dog

    rain_dog Active Member

    I think that would be the 'nuclear option' for a problem that could just as easily be solved with a smile and a gentle reminder of what the boundaries are. Now, if he's a complete dunderhead and continues to cross said boundaries, sure, drop him, but I don't see why that has to be the first response.
    Larinda McRaven likes this.
  3. dbk

    dbk Well-Known Member

    I'm not BFFs with my coaches or anything, but I've certainly gone out to small dinners or gone to non-ballroom parties with them on occasion. Maybe it's because we're close in age, or because I started in a team environment (collegiate) rather than pro/am. But it's not awkward... they're nice people, and it's fun to talk to them occasionally about things other than ballroom. And it doesn't seem like they feel obligated to hang out with all of their students, just because they have with various people on my team.
    Wannabee likes this.
  4. Larinda McRaven

    Larinda McRaven Site Moderator Staff Member

    And how do you think someone on the team would feel if they asked your coach out to a non-dance party, and your coach said no, then walked out the door to go to dinner with... you.
  5. Wannabee

    Wannabee Well-Known Member

    I hate to put it so bluntly, but so what? This seems to assume that all students everywhere are too childish to handle themselves appropriately in all social situations regarding their dance instructors. I'm not saying it is the ideal situation but I am saying that if the above scenario happened, I don't think it is accurate to assume that the student being turned down would have a catastrophic meltdown. And I don't think dance instructors or any other professional for that matter should let the possibility of such a meltdown affect their personal lives. I think the instructors are aware of the possible ramifications of socializing with some students and not others. Not everyone needs to be handled with kid gloves. Some of us deserve a little credit for being able to handle a declined party invitation surely?

    And if it means more to said student that a simple declined invitation, that's probably why the instructor felt ok declining this student and not the other. Perhaps in a way, this may even help make the instructor's point that the student's behavior is not welcome.
  6. toothlesstiger

    toothlesstiger Well-Known Member

    It only takes a small percentage of students to be immature about this to make mixing the personal and business not worth the heartache, the headache, and the lost business.
  7. Wannabee

    Wannabee Well-Known Member

    I agree completely. But that is up to the individual instructors to determine. Some may think the risk is worth it, some may not. I don't think saying one choice is "right" and one is not is up to me or anyone else. Larinda's choice on how to navigate her situation is commendable and ultimately, completely up to her. And even though she chooses not to socialize with students, I don't think she would appreciate being told by someone else that she HAD to forego it due to x,y,or z (namely the possibility of a catastrophic meltdown by an immature and emotionally unstable student). She is perfectly capable of weighing the pros and cons. It might be possible, however remotely, that she has lost a student or had one choose a different instructor to begin with because of her stance on the issue. But I'm sure she has considered this and has chosen the best course of action for herself. Other instructors who decide on a different course of action aren't neccessarily "wrong". They may determine later that they agree more with Larinda's position and change their policies, etc. But they may not too. Up to them.
    fascination likes this.
  8. toothlesstiger

    toothlesstiger Well-Known Member

    The OP had to do with a student asking out his teacher. The point of a lot of what I have said is to clarify what things look like from the teacher's perspective. Of course, unless teachers are employees of a studio with a no-frat policy, they can do as they like.
  9. dbk

    dbk Well-Known Member

    I don't think they would be offended, honestly. We (and I'm trying to speak accurately for my team here) are friendly with our coaches, but still aware that they're coaches, they are not obligated to hang out with us just because of the dance relationship, and we should not assume we're more friendly than we are. There have been plenty of invites turned down (on both sides, actually). Again, it might be the team environment, where for the most part we acknowledge that you can't be BFFs with everyone all the time, invited to every event, etc. Another factor is that the socializing doesn't tend to be one-on-one (which would imply a closer friendship), but in small groups.

    Actually, thinking back, I had a friend who dated one of our coaches for a brief time. No hard feelings were had among the team (at least, none based on the fact that it was a coach/student relationship). I'm not advocating coach/student relationships, but I am saying that it can happen without every other student getting catty about the attention

    And if it does cause drama, I agree with Wannabe: so what? Unless it's the coach's personal choice, or it's written in to their contract, no one has an obligation to walk on eggshells around their students. If a student gets upset that their coach is more social with another student, maybe it's a much-needed reminder that a business/dance relationship does not entitle them to a social relationship. (Assuming, of course, that it's not actual favoritism that would effect the quality of teaching).

    I think of it like office coworkers: working together does not guarantee you a friendship, and office friendships often need to have stronger boundaries than regular friendships, but they're certainly possible between mature individuals. And, again like in an office, dating is much more of a minefield than friendship.

    (Edited to add: If anyone behaved like the student Larinda described, they would get a stern talking-to about boundaries and respect from other team members...)
  10. GGinrhinestones

    GGinrhinestones Well-Known Member

    I think Larinda has it right here. Maybe things are different in the college dance world, where it is all about the team. I have known way, WAY too many students of both genders and all ages who have had perceived and real problems with EXACTLY this scenario. Even I have to catch myself at times.

    If the teacher refuses all invitations, great. If they accept some that are offered by groups of students, great. If they refuse an invitation by one student and then walk out the door with another one...*shudder*.

    Favoritism doesn't have to be real to be real. It only has to be perceived.

    SHOULD teachers (and students) be free to be mature and responsible adults and make their own mature and responsible choices? Absolutely. And in a perfect world, it all works out. But dance teachers teach people, and people are immature and irresponsible and stubborn and blind and do stupid things based on emotions that they don't understand, which dance - bringing a physical, emotional, and mental intimacy with another human being which many people aren't used to or don't get anywhere else in their life - inevitably complicates.
    fascination likes this.
  11. Larinda McRaven

    Larinda McRaven Site Moderator Staff Member

    "so what?" Such a luxurious statement! Your lucky you get to feel that way... but hey, you are the one going to dinner with the teacher, right?!? So no need to consider that others might percieve a slight, impropiety, or have their feelings hurt... it's not your feelings we are discussing...

    No teacher has the privilege of being so flippant and nonchalant as to the feelings of their students that are created by their actions, especially since it directly impacts their livelihood. But hey, it's not toying with YOUR income, "so what", cause it doesn't really matter if others are hurt, now does it?
    toothlesstiger and freeageless like this.
  12. samina

    samina Well-Known Member

    That dimension of the job has got to be challenging...

    I know from personal experience that it's possible to engage in that kind of physical closeness in a clinical, non-sexual way, but I know especially amongst new dancers how fraught with meaning that kind of closeness can be.
  13. samina

    samina Well-Known Member

    This sounds wise to me. I know that just because someone says something doesn't mean it's fraught with the meaning it implies when taken out of context.
  14. samina

    samina Well-Known Member

    I absolutely agree. I very much enjoyed and valued a social connection with my instructor outside of the student-teacher relationship. I never felt confused about the relationship being other than what it was, even though I felt a heart-felt affection.

    I am social and affectionate with quite a number of work colleagues out of the workplace, as well, including my boss and my subordinates. The "trick" is to have a respectful mindset that takes no relationship for granted, that seeks to do no harm and doesn't seek to "get" something from the other long as the other party has similar values. Then it can work. Boundaries can remain in place for student-teacher, boss-employee relationships, while friendships can develop outside of those boundaries.

    frotes likes this.
  15. dbk

    dbk Well-Known Member

    I don't see how a person, student or otherwise, could legitimately feel entitled to another person's attentions just because those attentions are given to a third person.

    If a student is able to see their coach as a human being rather than a commodity whose attentions they are entitled to, they are able to accept that their coach can form friendships or social relationships - or not - when they want.

    No one said anything about being flippant or nonchalant, and no one is suggesting it's a super duper idea the a coach walk around rubbing their social engagements in the faces of students who weren't invited. That's just common courtesy. But withholding your personal attention or friendship is not an intrinsically hurtful act, and you can set your boundaries while being kind about it.

    As for livelihood? It's entirely up to the coach to define their boundaries. For many, like you're representing your own, those boundaries are 'no socializing at all'. No one here is suggesting you should endanger your livelihood and befriend students when you don't want to; only that there's nothing wrong with you doing so if you want. If you prefer to avoid all social contact with students to humor those with a jealous eye, that's entirely your choice to make. If another coach doesn't mind seeing some students in a more social environment, they're not doing anything wrong.
    frotes and Wannabee like this.
  16. dbk

    dbk Well-Known Member

    This is very well said. :)
    samina likes this.
  17. Wannabee

    Wannabee Well-Known Member

    Believe it or not, I do understand your sentiment and I even agree with you for the most part. The part about no teacher having the privilege of being so flippant, I disagree with 100%. Every teacher not bound contractually has the privilege of doing just that. Whether or not they do it and whether or not it is wise, is up to each instructor. I am going to assume instructors are aware of the ramifacations of perceived or real slights. That I wholly agree is "not my income" and hence, not my problem.

    And just to clarify, my instructors do not socialize very often with their students. I have never seen them display the kind of behavior being discussed here. I was using the scenario to prove a point, not to imply that the situation was an actual event in RL. I can count on one hand the number of times I've been out socially with my instructors and even at that there were other students present. I have NEVER and will never ask them to dinner, etc. that didn't involve invites to other students, instructors, etc. For example, I invited them to a Christmas party once, along with most of the studio (our Christmas parties are legendary :). They didn't come because they were at a comp, but most of the students and other instructors did. I doubt anyone felt slighted then. I would not feel comfortable extending an exclusive invitation to dinner or the like. My point was that if my instructors did want to accept an invitation to dinner from one student after rejecting another, that is totally their choice. Maybe they lose said student, or substantial income because of it. But I'm sure the instructors have weighed those outcomes.

    I just don't feel like as a student, that I should put my instructors in a position to have to put aside all social interactions with ANY student, even those they have a genuine friendship interest in, simply because they are afraid to hurt my feelings. That's not fair to the instructors. Which is why I said "so what?". I'm not saying it is likely the best course of action to disregard the feelings of their students, but if they did say "so what?" to any catastrophic meltdown me or any other student may have, who could blame them? Just like loss of livelihood on their part is not my problem, catastrophic meltdowns on my part is not their problem either. It is just that most instructors make it their problem because they do value each of their students. But my reactions to situations are my own. Most of us are likely lucky enough to have instructors that try their best to treat everyone equally.
    frotes likes this.
  18. Wannabee

    Wannabee Well-Known Member

    This... Exactly my thoughts.
  19. samina

    samina Well-Known Member

    Isn't this just "life happening", though? The answer could be "sorry, I have other plans" rather than "no", and there is no way to guarantee that anyone, under any circumstances, will not be offended or hurt, either in the dance community or out.

    I've seen this exchange occur (and work) in the dance world, with instructors being invited to one place while having plans with other dancers elsewhere. C'est la vie.

    Though I can appreciate why it *could* become fraught with drama and difficulty, and an instructor may decide to draw clear boundaries about not fraternizing.
  20. Joe

    Joe Well-Known Member

    Plus, having to deal with that sort of thing happens anyway, whether people are teachers and students or have a different relationship--colleagues, acquaintances, what have you. They're called social graces.
    Wannabee, samina and dbk like this.

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