Forum: Advice / Injuries

Help with an unreasonable teacher!
By joycesammy
On Tue Jun 12, 2018 05:16 PM

I am about to tell an extremely long story, so any feedback will be greatly appreciated.


I love my ballet teachers. Unfortunately, it wasn't until now that I realized just how stubborn and unreasonable one of them (I'll call her S) is. I will say that she is an amazing teacher (since she taught for many years at a very well-known ballet company) and my technique has improved SO much since I began studying under her. Most of the time, S is very positive and encouraging, which really motivates us to work hard.

I have been on pointe for about three years now, and I have always worn shoes that are acceptable according to our company's policy, including Freeds, Repettos, and Blochs (S wants us to wear Freeds or Repettos since the everyone at the company where she used to teach wore those shoes). For three years, I felt excruciating pain when wearing those shoes: my bunions grew rapidly and became abnormally big and I was continuously injured. I almost broke my ankle many times because I kept rolling over the box. It got to the point that I didn't attend her class for an entire year because I had so many injuries in my feet and ankles.
I decided to get fit with a new fitter in April (Josephine from The Pointe Shop). When she saw the way I was standing in my old Freeds, she told me that I have very weak, flexible ankles and extremely compressible feet, of which the rounded platform on the shoes I previously wore was not supportive enough. She gave me Russian Pointe Rubins. When I put them on, I instantly felt stable and that they supported my feet and bunions without constricting them. My feet didn't even collapse inside the shoe. These were the first shoes that supported my feet without any unnecessary pain.

The first day I wore the Rubins to class, S absolutely LOVED me (which was strange because she is infamous for hating Russian Pointe and Grishko). She complimented me like she had never before. My strength and technique improved greatly. Through all of April and half of May, S was extremely pleased with my sudden improvement and even told me that I was "blossoming" and that she wanted to see me in class more because I was "worth her time".
One class, a week before our year-end recital, we were rehearsing our recital piece when she suddenly pointed at my feet, saying very loudly to another teacher that my shoes "look terrible". The next day I had her, she was extremely bad-tempered and went off on a tirade saying that if we don't wear the shoes she wants us to, we should quit ballet (literally nobody in our class has Freeds and only one person has Repetto). A couple days later, when we were rehearsing in the theatre, my friend's mother told me that she overheard S saying to other teachers that I "look so ugly" and that I "dance like a grandma in those shoes". I have emailed her and talked to her about my shoes, but she always just tells me that Rubins look so ugly because I can't roll through the shoe (which is totally untrue because of their Flexible shanks) and that I should get Freeds or Repettos. I really don't know why she doesn't understand that I'm not purposefully going against her rules and that the Rubins were a last resort.
If anyone could give me some advice about how to deal with this teacher or if you have past experiences with teachers like S, it would be so greatly appreciated if you could share them with me! Also, if you know of any shoes that are similar to RP Rubins (tapered box, low profile, flat platform) please share them with me! Thank you!

5 Replies to Help with an unreasonable teacher!

re: Help with an unreasonable teacher!
By Sumayah
On Tue Jun 12, 2018 06:48 PM
Are you in a company where they buy your shoes?

No?

Then her opinion doesn’t count?

Wear the shoe that makes you stable and allows you to improve. If it were a valid complaint againt the shoe - ie it was not strong enough/you were sinking/wrong shape/etc then okay fair. But if she’s being a brat because it’s not her preference? Welp. You do what’s best for your health and what will improve your technique. And wearing ill fitting shoes isn’t the way.
re: Help with an unreasonable teacher!
By WantJazz
On Wed Jun 13, 2018 09:30 AM
Clearly the teacher is acting non-professioanlly. First of all, she should be providing an advice, not hating-like comments on any products that students use. Secondly, and more importantly, negative comments to the attire/shoes should be provided privately, not publicly like she did, as per your story.

If this happened to you, this probably happened (or will) to other students as well.

I think you should bring it up to the SO and have a discussion. The teacher needs to be reminded, that the world rotates around students, not teachers. Some have a tendency to forget from time to time.
When you talk to SO, don't get too defensive, or don't set forward acquisations. Ask for an advice. This way it will be received in a better way, and hopefully some action will be taken.
Ideally, I would expect an apology from the teacher for her actions.
If you don't solve this issue, you will feel miserable every class, and the negative relationship will result in the unpleasant experience for you.

Good luck.
My story
re: Help with an unreasonable teacher!
By joycesammy
On Wed Jun 13, 2018 10:27 AM
Edited by joycesammy (309046) on 2018-06-13 11:09:31
Edited by joycesammy (309046) on 2018-06-13 12:46:59
Thank you guys so, so much for your feedback!

WantJazz, I think this situation has happened before. Actually, on the first day S pointed at my shoes and said they looked terrible, she berated another girl for her Grishkos after class, humiliating her in front of maybe 40 other students.
There was also a girl who was extremely talented in my class last year. She had large, very flexible feet with very high arches, and naturally, would need a harder pointe shoe to support them. She had Grishko Triumphs. This year, she suddenly disappeared, which surprised us because we knew she loved ballet. I recently heard a rumor that S had confronted the girl, snatched her brand new Grishkos away, and broke the shanks. She was crying because she couldn't afford a new pair. We think this is why she left our studio.
There was another girl who got fitted with Gaynor Minden, as her old shoes were giving her a lot of trouble. She went to show S the shoes, and upon seeing them, S exploded in anger. She took her GMs, threw them on the floor, then took her old Freeds and broke the shank.
S is really big on rolling through pointe, so she insists that we kill the shoes as much as possible before wearing them. I don't think she understands that none of us dancers have enough money for a pair of Freeds per day.
As well as this, she taught the company at San Francisco Ballet for 20 years, so she expects all of us to have the unreal bodies of the ballerinas at SFB. She plays favorites so much. Sometimes she will only care about the girls with long legs, great turnout, and banana feet in our class. This also leads to my next point: She never got mad at two girls with Gaynor Minden and Grishko, for who knows what reason. Maybe it's the favoritism thing, or maybe she doesn't care enough about them to bring their shoes up. I really hope that she keeps yelling at me because she cares about me and thinks I have potential, but maybe she is just being petty.
I was thinking of bringing these instances up to the artistic director, but I do not know if he will do anything. I know he is afraid to lose her because it's rare to have such an esteemed teacher at a small studio.
re: Help with an unreasonable teacher!
By WantJazz
On Wed Jun 13, 2018 12:18 PM
I am a SO. Don't worry, from your Artistic director perspective, the "such an esteemed teacher" who crosses the line can be let go, if she forgets that her job is to teach, not to belittel students.

Like I said, if you discuss this with AD in a right way, he/she will need to address this with the teacher. She can't afford to have negative feedback about her business because of unresolved issue.

Moreover, when she will take action, the teacher may realize that she was wrong, apologize, and continue to teach. We are not talking about firing or quitting here, right?

When you talk to AD, don't bring up other cases/students. Just discuss your case. It's an AD's job to be up to speeed on the studio atmoshere, and I am certain that AD will appreciate you bring this issue up. I certainly would if this would happen in my studio.

Good luck,
My story
re: Help with an unreasonable teacher!
By joycesammy
On Wed Jun 13, 2018 12:51 PM
Thank you so much for your advice WantJazz. I appreciate it so much!
I will schedule an appointment to speak to the artistic director soon. Thank you for helping me feel more confident about my case!

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