you’re in my space!

Dance classes come with many challenges and unspoken psycho drama. Issues of personal space in a dance class are very PERSONAL!  Rarely spoken of.  Always present.

Doug Varone teaching at SUMMERDANCE '07

There are dancers who want to always take the same place at the ballet barre. As if there’s a “reserved for…” sign written there that should be obvious to all.  Heaven help someone who attempts, knowingly or unknowingly to upset the status quo.  Violation can be a grievous error of unwritten barre etiquette, met with the nastiest of looks towards the offender or an indignant verbal claim to the space.  Of course, there are many dancers at the barre, who just mix it up and grab a hold where they can.  I for one, think these barre issues are telling and can be a general indicator of  how one deals with life in general!

There are also decisions to be made with the command, “Come to center.” This means get in lines. In a modern class, it’s at the beginning of class. In ballet, at the conclusion of the barre. The  sublimely confident and self-assured dancers quickly stake out the front row. They give no tell-tale signs of apprehension of upcoming demands to coordinate, remember and perform.  By their presence in the front row, they silently announce, “Bring it, I can take whatever you have to dish out! ” I could only admire that attitude. There were a few glorious occasions, when I made it to the front row and miraculously maintained my confidence there throughout class.  It was always something to aspire to.

Eddie Taketa, SUMMERDANCE "07

At the other end of the spectrum, others hide out in the back row, on the generally mistaken assumption that the teacher won’t notice them. If there are no corrections to back row dancers, I think it’s partly because the teacher doesn’t want to traumatize the Hiders.  To me, being in the back row, was the equivalent of wearing a sign pronouncing to the world that you didn’t have a clue; you were defeated before it all began.  Back row status was usually reserved for the newbies to class, those who were in over their heads, and those who were sadly out of shape.

My personal strategy, in advanced classes, because I tend to be slow to pick up combinations, was to put myself in the middle of the second or third row, surrounded by dancers who seemed to know what they were doing. Somehow I made the decision that this placement showed I  wasn’t a complete coward or a self-inflated fool.  That perception was bolstered by the knowledge of my ability  to see someone else doing the right moves on all sides of me when the movement phrase required that I change direction.  If you’re in a new class, don’t take a slot at the end of a row if you can help it.  Of course all these space decisions can backfire disasterously if you place too much stock on watching someone who’s more confused than you are.

There is still one more issue of personal space or lack thereof.  It’s the case of the clueless dance student who doesn’t have any concept of the amount of space it takes to perform a move and not knock into the person standing next to them. They obliviously position themselves perilously close to you. You want to wave your arms in front of their faces until they flinch. Hey, do you see me??  Sometimes you want to deliberately hit them to just to teach them a lesson they won’t forget.  More often, you suffer silently and make a mental note to move away from them at your first opportunity.

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  • megan March 25, 2010  

    hmmmm. i am def a complete coward….or a self-inflated fool. not much in between for me. 🙂

  • Elaine Nakashima April 2, 2010  

    I thoroughly enjoyed your unabashed observations–hilariously accurate. Can’t get away from politics anywhere you go! I’m typically one of those “front-row”ers, but judging from the photo here, maybe I should get a clue and move back a few!

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