Get Better at Speaking Up For Yourself in the Studio
When dancers are unhappy or uncomfortable in the studio, healthy communication is essential. Perhaps you feel slighted by a casting decision, dissatisfied with a new rehearsal schedule or uneasy about something a choreographer has asked you to do.
What can you do? Here are three strategies to keep in mind.
Choose Your Battles
According to Patricia Schwadron, a senior career counselor with Career Transition For Dancers at The Actors Fund, you should first evaluate the situation and consider whether you should say something. “Decide if it’s something worth fighting over,” she says. “Think about the structure of leadership and the style of the decision-maker so you know what is going to be useful and what isn’t.”
Ask for Advice
If you’re unsure about the most effective approach, get an outsider’s perspective from a therapist or a close friend. Saying something like “This is what just happened to me; what does it sound like to you?” can initiate a conversation in which you can analyze the elements that created the conflict, think about what information you don’t have and, most importantly, calm down.
“You do not want to fight in a state of upset,” says Schwadron. “Take a deep breath. You should never do something precipitously unless you have a safety concern.”
Schedule a meeting, and as you would for an audition, prepare, Schwadron advises. Arrive with a goal for the conversation—what you want to happen as a result—and know what power you have in it. “Be clear about what your feelings are, what you think happened, what you would prefer to have happened, what your suggestions are for making it better and what your bottom line is for walking away,” she says.
An effective way to begin the conversation might be, “Can we talk about a situation where I think something wrong is happening? I’d like to be a part of the solution, and I think it would be beneficial to all of us if we can resolve this.” Or, “This is what that interaction felt like to me, and I’m just curious to know what the intention was.” These kinds of statements personalize the situation instead of attack the other person.
“It is never wrong to describe a feeling that you have,” Schwadron emphasizes. “Problem-solving usually has to do with one side or the other not feeling heard.”
Leave the conversation calmly, even if it doesn’t go your way. Saying something like “Thank you for your time; I’m going to sit with this a little longer” is a mature way to end the discussion. You can then debrief with the same outside person you talked with before.