Training

How To Cope If You're Being Bullied

Remember: The bully is the weaker person. Photo by Francisco Gonzalez/Unsplash

Being bullied, unfortunately, is still a common experience among dance students, particularly male dance students. But there are a variety of strategies that you can use to help deal with difficult emotions and restore self-confidence.


1. Focus on your passion.

Whether it's dance or something else, we all have something that gets us fired up and makes us excited about life. "Focus on that as hard as you possibly can," says modern dancer Chris Bell. "It helps mute out everything around you."

2. Don't keep your struggles to yourself.

"Confide in somebody you trust," says New York City–based tap educator and performer Andrew Nemr, who admits that he often didn't tell his parents about being bullied because of the shame he felt. Most school systems have resources available to guide students through instances of bullying. "Build support mechanisms around you so that if something happens, there are people who will come to help," says Nemr.

Andrew Nemr giving a TED talk. Photo by Ryan Lash, courtesy Nemr.

3. Reverse the narrative.

Tap dancer Leo Lamontagne reminds dancers that the bully is the weaker person: "You can think, 'That's really sad on their part; poor them that they need to bully me.' "

4. Most importantly, don't stop dancing.

"The days that you don't want to do it are the days that you need it the most," says Alex Zarlengo, a principal dancer with contemporary ballet company CONNectic Dance in Hartford, Connecticut. "You're going to come out of a class with an endorphin rush, an emotional high and a sense of accomplishment."

Broadway
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Sara Mearns in the gym. Photo by Kyle Froman.

New York City Ballet principal Sara Mearns wasn't sure she was strong enough. A ballerina who has danced many demanding full-length and contemporary roles, she was about to push herself physically more than she thought was possible.

"I said, 'I can't. My body won't,' " she says. "He told me, 'Yes, it will.' "

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