Monday, October 21, 2013


Picking a relevant picture for "favoritism" is really hard
so I settled for a picture of one of my favorite hobbies:
decorating desserts

Favoritism is much more complex than I originally thought. I used to think, "How hard can this be? Treat everyone equally. Duh." I also used to think that treating everyone equally would look the same across the board. I now think "Treat everyone with dignity and respect." And dignity and respect demand flexibility.

It's an unavoidable fact: every artistic director (and, to a lesser degree, every teacher) has their favorite dancer(s). Some bodies work better for certain styles of choreography than others. Some personalities work better together than others. But, for me, as long as every dancer in the room has space to achieve their personal best, dignity and respect are still maintained. Remember that class I took that made me mad? The teacher wasn't respecting the potential of all her students. That was favoritism.

As a teacher, I get asked to do a lot of favors for parents. I'm sure that if I owned my own studio I'd be asked to do even more. I used to think that if you were going to do a favor for a mom who was a friend of yours outside of work, you should be equally willing to do a favor for a mom you don't really know. (Or dads. I know a lot of excellent, involved dads.) I am rethinking this. Granted, it would be a no-brainer if they were asking for the exact same favor, but that has yet to happen to me. The decision to do someone a favor is easier (for me) the more I know about a situation. And, obviously, I know more about my friends than I do parents I only know in passing.

Honestly, I don't want every detail about every parent's life. I already get more information than I want from some people. And, again, sometimes some personalities just click better than others. I don't want parents to feel like they need to buddy up to me just to ensure that their child gets a fair chance in class. So this is one area where things just aren't going to be exactly equal. As long as I'm not mean, I'm at peace with this.

Equality in choreography is basically impossible. Interesting dance simply will not be perfectly equal for all people. Not everyone can be center stage. If I had to ensure that each dancer spent exactly eight counts front and center, the dance would cease to be dancing. Tall dancers in corps work will be behind short dancers much of the time. It can't look equal to everyone.

If I worked my pieces so that they were homages to my favorite dancers with everyone else being just human scenery that would be favoritism. And horridly boring. (And I've totally seen it happen.) If my focus is on creating something beautiful where each person contributes to the whole, I am honoring the artist and potential in each dancer. It won't look perfectly equal, but I will be respecting everyone's contribution equally. 

There's one more element that needs addressing: just as you deserve dignity and respect, I also deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. I recently had a mother hand me her contact info so I could "arrange a carpool for [her] daughter." Nope. I am not your lackey. Every time a child comes up to me in between classes with her hair a mess and says, "My mom said you could do my hair," it is disrespectful to me (I have things to do) and to my other students (who deserve 100% of my attention and their allotted class time.) I have more examples, but I'll spare you. 

I think favoritism hurts everyone. The favorites aren't critiqued or challenged as much as they could be; the "others" aren't given as many opportunities to try new things; no one's potential is maximized. Favoritism also requires me, the teacher, the one enforcing favored status, to make sure that I am absolutely, unquestioningly the authority. Frankly, I'm uncomfortable with that. I make mistakes and I want to have the freedom to grow and change. But I also hope that you will give me the benefit of the doubt and assume that I'm trying my best to show dignity and respect. Because it will never look equal.

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