Wasted Days And Sleepless Nights

So… this weekend brought up a strange issue, one that I never thought I would be discussing with someone in the world of dance that I live in. Now I’m going to write about it. Lucky you, right?

There’s this guy I know in the dance community. Let’s call him Seedling, because it is Seedling. Remember that guy? The guy who said that he didn’t want to leave his current franchise studio even though it was much more expensive to stay there rather than going to another nearby studio and taking drop-in classes, because he loved being around the people who were at his studio?

Well, this particular thread came up again. This time, someone actually asked Seedling directly why he didn’t just get the contact information for these people at his current studio so that he could stay in touch with them. Then they could all talk, and maybe even still go out to dance parties outside of the franchise together if they wanted. After all, there was precedence for that kind of get-together happening, since Seedling has gone to dance parties outside of his franchise studio already and met up with other people from his franchise studio while there.

Caught in that tangled vine, Seedling sighed and said that there was one person that he wasn’t able to do that with. This person was someone who he hadn’t been able to get outside contact information from yet – she wouldn’t give him her phone number, or accept his friend requests on social media so that he could message with her there.

When Seedling said “she” it set red flashing lights ablaze in my mind. Can you guess who he was actually worried that he would never be able to see again if he left his franchise studio? Sparkledancer, also being a part of this conversation, managed to catch it as well. She decided to just bluntly ask Seedling if he was talking about his dance instructor, and did that mean he had a crush on her.

That really freaked Seedling out (I don’t think he expected anyone else to be able to see through his clever cover story). He became all flustered and defensive, saying that this wasn’t just a crush! It was so much more!! There was no way any of us could understand!!! None of us had never seen the way she treats him!!!! And he just KNOWS that if there wasn’t a ‘no fraternization’ policy at his studio, the two of them could be so much more!!!!!

Yup. Seedling thinks that he is head-over-heels in love with his dance instructor.

This is only the second time I have met someone who had developed feelings for their instructor. At least, someone who has admitted to the fact – I may know more people who have done this, but they’ve never said anything about it to me. The first time wasn’t this bad though. True story – a long time ago in my dance life, there was a really young girl that I knew – she was only in her late teens at the time – who admitted to me that she had a crush on her instructor. She would joke about how someday when she was older the two of them would be getting married and Tango down the aisle together.

I knew that the instructor that she was talking about didn’t like girls (it was SUPER obvious). Plus I had also met his boyfriend – who was another dance instructor. The two of them were pretty good at not talking about their relationship openly, but it wasn’t too hard to see. So I made a joke to the young girl and asked how she was going to convince instructor-guy to leave his boyfriend and marry her instead. I thought that she knew! Apparently she didn’t, and was shocked to hear that he liked boys.

Side note: Once I accidentally exposed the truth though, she came back to me a few days later and told me that now that she knew, she could see it so clearly, and she wondered how she had missed all the signs before.

Anyway… that was the only other time I have ever personally known someone who admitted to having a thing for their dance instructor. But that case seemed to me like nothing more than a passing fancy or puppy love, which the girl was able to easily get over. Seedling is… well, he seems to be in full-on ‘pining’ mode. Almost to the point where some of the comments he has made since this revelation sound obsessive and creepy.

Trying to reason with him hasn’t helped either – explaining to the guy that she is going to treat all of her paying customers like they are her favorite person in the world during the lessons doesn’t even phase him in his belief that there is some kind of ‘special connection’ between the two of them. The fact that he knows almost nothing of her life outside of their dance lessons doesn’t deter him, nor does the fact that he is somewhere around eight-to-twelve years older than her (I think Seedling said he was almost 30, and this girl is not yet old enough to go on a date and get drinks with him, making her between 18 and 20).

Plus… based on the stories that he has told, it seems pretty clear, even to someone who is terrible at reading women like me, that she is just not interested in him like that. There is a story he has mentioned a couple of times about how, during one of his lessons with his instructor, he accidentally grabbed something “inappropriate” while they were working on a new figure. He never elaborated further than that on what exactly it was that he grabbed, but he said that she stopped everything when it happened and spent a good bit of time telling him off for the incident.

Now I probably don’t have to tell you that ballroom dancing is a contact sport. It’s really hard to dance with someone in one of the Ballroom, Swing or Latin styles without some measure of physical contact with your partner. Inevitably, during the course of your dance journey someone is probably going to accidentally grab or brush against something that they shouldn’t. It happens, and if it’s accidental you kind of laugh it off or apologize, depending on how bad the accident was. No big deal.

Myself, I have even been intentionally groped by women I barely knew on the dance floor. Some just wanted to feel how solid my arms or shoulders were while we were dancing, I guess. One older lady (for reasons I still don’t know) felt like it was funny to grab my butt as I was walking away after the dance was over. Old ladies… apparently I have to be wary of them!

For Seedling’s instructor to tell him off about something that was supposedly an accident says to me that this girl doesn’t have the same ‘special connection’ in her heart for Seedling that he does for her. If she is teaching new dancers how to dance, she probably gets brushed up against all the time during the awkward newcomer phase with her students, so she has to know by now that accidents happen, and as a dance teacher you just have to stay professional during awkward moments.

On top of that, in my experience if a girl really like-likes you, and you accidentally brush against her inappropriately, yelling at you or telling you off is not the reaction that she is going to have. Usually you would get a joke, or a coy smile, or a flirtatious laugh. At least, that’s how things went with girls in my youth, before I got to be older and much more suave like I am now (HA!). I mean, I could be wrong about that, and all ladies are different, so Seedling’s instructor could react like this with any student who accidentally grabs something he shouldn’t… but I don’t think that I am. I’m pretty sure that this is a good indication that Seedling’s instructor does not reciprocate his affections.

But the weirdest issue that this is creating for Seedling is an overwhelming feeling of inferiority between him and other male students of his instructor. Take the showcase that he was in last month as an example. I saw a video of his performance, and it was perfectly good. Seedling has admitted that he is really bad at performing and hates getting up in front of crowds, and you can see that by how his body is tense through the whole dance and he has a serious expression on his face while trying to remember what he is supposed to be doing. If performing in front of people is that hard for a person, you would think that they would be twice as proud when they finish because they really accomplished something major, right?

Not Seedling. All he can talk about is another of his instructors students who performed later in the evening. He showed me the video that he took of that performance. The two of them did a ‘Contemporary’ dance, so it didn’t look like any dancing that I have ever been trained to do. Plus, I could only get a vague idea of what was going on because the two instructor and student spent so much time split apart, and Seedling kept his recording tracked on his instructor the whole time as you can imagine.

Only being able to see half of what was happening for large chunks of the video, I couldn’t get a good picture of what the male student was actually doing. The parts where I could see the male student, he wasn’t doing a lot of actual dancing, or even moving a whole lot. The guy shifted around a bit, there were some arm gestures, but a lot of it was him just standing there doing “lifts.” I say lifts, but it was actually the instructor doing most of the work. The guy was helping get her off the ground, but once she was up she was doing most of the work while he just stood there and let her fling her legs around, or she would wind herself around his legs, or other such moves. Nothing too extravagant, really.

Seedling thinks that this guy’s performance stole his thunder just because they got more applause, and his instructor looked like she was enjoying herself during the dance and he didn’t think she looked thrilled in the video of his performance. I tried to tell him that the most noticeable difference between him and this other guy was that the other student was smiling and looked like he was enjoying himself the whole time, which does a lot more to make your dance partner and the audience enjoy the show. Otherwise, all the moves that the guy did (which I could see in the video) were all extremely simple, so there was no reason for Seedling to think that this guy stole anything from him.

Then he started to go on about how next time he wants to do a showcase that would make her happy. He wants her to let him do lifts with her (she apparently already gave him a hard “No” on that when choreographing this showcase), and to do more challenging steps that she would think were fun. That turned into a plan of doing a showcase where she didn’t actually know what figures he was going to use, but that would be fine because she is apparently a good follower and she would be able to follow what he was doing. Sparkledancer asked him if she was the one choreographing the showcase, which he said yes to. Then the question was: how would the figures be a surprise to her if she was the one giving him the choreography?

He didn’t have an answer for that, because he hadn’t thought of that.

To be honest… I don’t know what to think about Seedling being in love with his dance instructor. It’s a foreign concept to me to mix thoughts of romance in with a customer/service provider relationship. I understand that dance can draw people out of their shells and let them live a life that they never would have imagined before they started dancing. On top of that, there are dance styles that obviously lend themselves to romance, and many performances of those styles can portray the idea of the two people dancing being in love. But that’s all supposed to be an act, a performance – not reality.

To fall in love with your dance teacher rather than fall in love with the dancing itself? Is that a common occurrence that I just never really hear stories about?

Maybe I’ve just been in a lucky position that I never really had to worry about this bug biting me like it bit Seedling. After all, when I started dancing I spent much of my time in group classes, and then I was fortunate enough to find another amateur that was willing to split the cost of lessons with me. That simple circumstance allowed me to take lessons from male instructors, which prevented me from ever having to worry about falling for my instructor since I’m not attracted to men. I’ve never spent much time in the world of Pro/Am. Does this happen often in that environment, where students fall in love with their teachers?

I am honestly asking. I am curious to know if Seedling’s case is unique, or if this sort of thing is commonplace.

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4 Replies to “Wasted Days And Sleepless Nights”

  1. I have seen both sides. I am more similar to you – while I am friends with my dance instructor, it has always been very ‘clincal’ while dancing. I can’t imagine being interested in someone teaching me to dance.

    That said, I have seen the other as well. In the end, it really comes down to how people deal with it. Some take it in stride and work to ensure boundaries (on both sides) are maintained. Essentially, it is just not something they really consider or talk about. In that case, it seems to really only become a problem when someone decides to talk about it (usually the student). Then it goes one of two ways (generally) – the student gets embarassed, angry, frustrated, or other negative reaction and leaves completely, or there is some time of embarrasment or anger at feeling ‘led on’ but then the student considers it in perspective and realizes perhaps they were seeing what they wanted to see and gain some closure that allows them to continue working together.

    It also comes down to individual circumstances too I think. Depending on what else is present in your life, you might not even be looking or considering because your attention is directed elsewhere or at someone else. Or the opposite – you are lonely and looking to fill a gap so you are vulnerable.

    Stuff happens. But how it is dealt with makes the difference.

  2. Its a complicated relationship and all the personal attention can maybe start to feel like something else. Never had true romantic feelings for an instructor but certainly been guilty in one case of assuming a deeper connection than there actually was. But then I also know of two cases where a student and teacher ended up married so it is certainly possible although, in those cases, there would certainly have been signs of interest from the teacher.
    This is just some wild speculation on my part because I’ve also done the accidental “bad touching” once or twice and it never drew that type of reaction. So it kind of leads me to believe that (a) his actions weren’t as “accidental” as it seems or (b) he’s already giving off enough of a creepy vibe to make his instructor believe his actions weren’t “accidental”. Either way, it is clearly a sign that there is zero interest.
    Poor guy. I fear there is no way this ends well for him. I know studios don’t like to lose paying customers but if he becomes too much of a creeper, they might move him to a different instructor.

  3. I think you hit the nail on the head with the creeper comment. Currently, he’s obsessed (honestly, no better word to describe it) with the fact that his instructor won’t perform lifts with him. He’s currently trying to think of ways to convince/force her to let him do it it, and goes on and on about how she’ll let other male students lift her, but not him.

    It’s a bad situation all around, almost to the point where I wonder if I should contact the instructor to give her a heads up on the situation. I think he’s harmless, but very, very socially maladjusted. He’s about to take a month or so off from dancing, so hopefully this fixation will diminish some, but still… creepy.

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