I would very much like to start a dialogue on something that troubles me quite a bit:
Dancers openly putting down other dancers on public internet forums.
It happens all the time. My perspective is that it’s an unhealthy phenomenon that won’t be fixed if we just ignore it and pretend it isn’t hurtful.
I feel strongly that we are all active members of a close-knit community full of creative performers who all make ourselves vulnerable to one another and to the world. Famous or unknown, advanced or beginner, every time any one of us gets onstage, every time we allow our performances to be filmed and posted online, every time we attempt new choreography or costuming, every time we make a choice to either try something different or continue exploring previously established techniques, we are opening ourselves up. We are offering something of our hearts. It might not be perfect, or even good… but it’s always brave. And that’s something to be honored, not abused.
And yet, so often, abuse happens, and it comes from within this community. It’s one thing when some random, bored kid trolling the internet leaves a comment tearing down a dancer’s performance in a public forum. But to watch a PEER pick another dancer apart with non-constructive, petty language on YouTube, or elsewhere… somehow, that’s always extra heartbreaking. While healthy critique can be a very helpful tool, no one ever seems to benefit from that particular kind of negativity. Not the performer, not the dancer who leaves the comment, and certainly not our community in general.
So… why does it happen so much?
I would like to say something, specifically, to my fellow dancers who leave those types of comments for our peers online:
Our community as a whole is TINY, with a handful of big fish swimming around in it. None of us are immune to unsolicited, unkind criticism. If ya gotta preface a YouTube video remark or forum comment with “no offense, but” or “I’m not trolling, I swear”, it probably means you should reconsider your language. All that preface does is reveal that you’ve made a conscious choice not to keep your commentary gentle and constructive, yet feel JUST enough responsibility to want to cover your ass. That is not being helpful. You will not convince anyone that your intentions are good. Rather, your remark reads like a misguided attempt to feel a bit bigger and better about yourself. But it won’t work. All it will do is make your community a little less kind, and a little less inspired.
Let’s face it, YouTube comments in particular are one of the lowest, most dehumanizing forms of social discourse that modern society has at this juncture. But does that mean it’s not worth trying to improve the way we speak to each other? Why do we let these kind of public put-downs from peers sit there, unanswered and unchallenged? Is it always better to ignore them? Are the instances where (gently and respectfully) responding to these kinds of snipes might encourage better behavior?
What do you think? Have you left commentary online that you felt was useful critique? What made it useful? When does useful cross the line into catty? Have you gotten critique that you felt was helpful? What made it helpful?
As for me, I’ve had good results with speaking to offending dancers as directly and as kindly as possible. How about you? What are your experiences with this kind of thing?
Phew. Thanks so much for reading, and for letting me get this weight off my chest. I’m so grateful to have this forum, and looking forward to your insights.