Catitude 3: Leaving a troupe/class gracefully
I’ve been teaching for decades now and consider myself a matriarch of belly dance. I’ve seen a lot of things and had a lot of adventures. Most of my dance experiences have been very positive, uplifting and I dare say, fun!
There have been some less than positive times in my dance career, and most of them were due to students and troupe mates leaving in a less than graceful manner.
I once wrote an article about this and got tons of feedback from teachers and troupe directors with similar experiences who appreciated that they weren’t the only ones!
I’m going to share some of these incidents and also share how these ladies could have done things differently. Some of my stories are composites, based on my experience plus that of others.
Sometimes students outgrow their teachers, and sometimes they just become too big for their britches. I think that as teachers, we’ve all had such students. When teaching a new step in class, they tell us we’re doing it wrong or they argue with us about terminology or anything else.
I once had a student who became such a problem that I encouraged her to start teaching on her own since she seemed to think she knew better than me.
She thought this was a great idea, and so did I until she couldn’t get her own students and decided she wanted mine.
I’ve always encouraged my students to take from as many teachers as possible and often have guest teachers and sponsor workshops so that my students receive the opportunity to become as diverse as possible.
I’ve also had several students start taking from me and then meet another teacher in the area and switch to her classes. This is fine with me because we can’t all meet everyone’s needs.
What isn’t okay is for another teacher to take my students aside and tell them she is a much better teacher and they should take from her, putting me down and making false promises. There are plenty of students to go around which I’ll be addressing in my next blog.
And, yes, this happened to me and it was so blatant that it became a joke among my students. “We must not be any good because she hasn’t tried to get us to take her class.” And the students who did switch never danced again and were too embarrassed to come back to my classes after having a less than positive experience in hers.
So, if you feel your teacher has taught you all she can and you want to leave, please do so gracefully and be respectful. The graceful way to make an exit is the talk to your teacher and let her know you are moving on. This way you don’t burn any bridges.
Remember, your first teacher is the one who gave you your start on this amazing journey of dance. If you want to go further, that’s okay. It’s not okay to badmouth her which makes you look bad. There is an old saying that if you discount the teacher, you are also discounting the lesson. Be grateful for what she has given you and move along.
As troupe directors, we’ve all had dancers leave our troupe.
I once had a small troupe of three dancers. My most dedicated dancer started missing practice without calling as she always had in the past. It was strange, but I was busy and didn’t think too much of it.
One day, I stopped by another friend/teacher’s studio to drop off some music and when I walked in, there was my troupe member, who was also a good friend (or so I thought) practicing with my friend’s troupe. Unfortunately, I was young and sensitive and I was devastated, feeling they had both gone behind my back instead of just being honest. When I tearfully asked them why they didn’t tell me what was going on, they both said they didn’t want to hurt my feelings.
Really? I call bull shit on that one.
Another gut punch came when I had three ladies quit troupe because they ‘needed a break.’ I asked them if they were going to continue dancing together, and they said, no, that they were just taking some time off.
I walked into a dance festival just in time to see them performing on the stage. It felt like a punch in the gut as well as a stab in the back, and I had to just stop, breathe, and put on a supportive face.
So, what is a good way to leave a troupe? For heaven’s sake, just be honest. If you want to dance somewhere else, who cares? Good for you! It’s the subterfuge and lies that cause pain, and dishonesty is always a bad way to start something new.
While I hate losing troupe members, because I love and miss them, I appreciate it when a member talks to me or the group and tells us like it is. One dancer said, she was just spread too thin and had to make the choice to leave troupe so that she had more family time. One left us for the roller derby. True story. A couple of dancers left to dance with other people because they felt the need for a change or fell in love with a different style.
Honesty is always the best policy in any relationship. It’s not always easy to tell someone you are leaving, but it’s better to leave with a clear conscience rather than deception.
And, what I said about burning bridges? Wouldn’t you rather maintain a good relationship with your past teachers and troupe mates then be crossed off their list? You never know what the future holds. You might want to make belly dancing your profession and your reputation will depend on how you treat people.
Always let honesty and kindness be your guides.
Taking the high road,
P.S. Please feel free to comment or email me and please feel free to forward my words to anyone you feel might benefit.