Those that come to musical theatre primarily from a dance background are lucky - they know where to stand, how to act, and what to do when taking a dance class. The rest of us have probably dabbled in and out of dance classes for years, getting by with enough dance training to avoid tripping over our own feet during the dance break in a show, but don't have enough experience in dance classes to understand the sacred, unwritten rules of dance etiquette. Nobody likes it when someone walks in and stands right in front of you, isn't watching where they are going and slams into you, or enters late and forces the instructor to repeat themselves. Let us help you out - walk into your next dance class feeling confident and prepared by following this simple set of guidelines.
Respect your teacher This should go without saying - they are there for your benefit. They are taking the time out of their day to teach you and help you grow, so show them the utmost respect. If they correct you, take it as a compliment (they are paying attention to you!), don’t get mad or upset, just try your hardest to make the corrections because they are doing it to improve your dancing. Turn off your cell phone, give them your undivided attention, and absorb their genius.
Don't talk during class Save the gossip for after class! I know you haven’t seen each other in a while and you want to catch up on all the juicy details of this past weekend, but don’t do it in the middle of class! Pay attention to your teacher for the entire duration of the class. You can catch up later I promise.
Be on time Not only does it disrupt class when you are late, but you end up missing important parts of the warm-up that are essential for your body. Your teacher and classmates will be irritated if choreography or instructions need to be repeated because you missed them.
Be aware of your space It can be tough when you are in a crowded room and there are dancers everywhere, but respect the space of those around you and don’t come in and stand two inches away from where someone is already standing when there is space further back in the room. If you want the space in the front or in the middle and there’s no room, arrive early.
If you haven't taken a class before, don't stand front and center Leave front and center open for regulars who know the warm-up routine and the way that the class is run. I know you are an amazing dancer and should be seen, but if you are an amazing dancer, you will still be seen. Wait until you have taken more classes from that choreographer to move your way towards the front.
Don't lean on the barre Unless you are 85 years old, you should not be leaning on the barre. Body language is everything and when you do this, you come across to the teacher as lazy and disrespectful. You may be tired and it’s conveniently there for you to lean against, but come on, you’re a dancer! If you are able to grand jete across the floor, I think you can handle standing up straight on your own two feet without assistance.
Preserve people's windows This gets tougher if the room is crowded, but make an effort when you are standing and looking in the mirror, to not only find your own window, but to make sure that you are not blocking someone else’s in the meantime. Be aware. Shift around so that all dancers are able to see themselves in the mirror.
Avoid stopping unexpectedly When doing choreography, and especially across-the-floor, if you don’t remember part of the choreography, at least keep moving so that you don’t create a traffic jam. It’s ok to forget a couple counts, it happens to all of us, and you may want to freeze up, but remember – part of being aware of your space is knowing that if everyone is moving together, one person stopping will create a pile-up on the dance floor.
Dress appropriately Your image makes an impression, and dance teachers are often choreographers and directors that might be potentially casting you in the future, depending on how large or small your local musical theatre community is. It's well worth the investment to purchase a few high quality dance basics, such as tights, a rehearsal skirt, a top or leotard, and well made shoes. You'll not only be comfortable but you'll show that you take your craft seriously. We recommend a few products on our dancewear page.
Don't fix your hair and clothes If you are in the middle of doing a routine and your hair falls out, leave it. If you shirt starts to ride up while dancing, who cares, wait until the end of the routine. Please don’t fix yourself in the middle of dancing! It comes across vain, unprofessional, and makes you appear unfocused, which won't make a good impression with a choreographer who might be scouting the room for potential casting in his next show.
Ask questions when appropriate This is a two-part rule. If you are being taught choreography and don’t understand part of it, please wait until the teacher is done teaching that section and asks if you have questions. Many times your question will be answered by the time your teacher is done going over that section. If you stop their teaching to ask, it can be disruptive… just let them finish and then ask. The other half of this is rule is: if you don’t understand a section and the teacher asks if there are any questions, PLEASE do ask at that time! When the teacher asks if there are questions and the room is completely silent, they assume you know what you are doing and move forward. It becomes frustrating to them when the room is silent but then right afterwards, dancers were clearly confused about a certain part. So please don’t be afraid to speak up! Chances are someone else had the same question.
Good luck in your next dance class - take the above guidelines in with you, and your class will run smoothly. Dance class should be a fun and positive environment, so let’s keep it that way! Leave comments below if you can relate or if you have any other rules of dance etiquette that we forgot!
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