Are you familiar with Wheaton’s Law? Originally coined by Wil Wheaton to promote sportsmanship in online gaming, it is a very simple concept which makes co-existing with other humans so much easier for everybody. The Law states simply, «Don’t be a dick». And there’s a reason I’m bringing this up now.
This week-end, I went to see a burlesque show with, among others, the person whom I consider instrumental in getting me back into dancing. Between the beautiful acts and our common hobby, our conversation naturally turned to dance at some point. And then she said something that made me angry. She goes to a kind of fitness dance class herself and she said, «I’m too old to start learning a proper dance style.»
That by itself didn’t make me angry. Instead, it made me laugh, since she’s a fit woman in her mid-thirties and therefore twenty years younger than many of the wonderful people in my own dance classes. Which I told her. And then she answered that the dance studios she tried out in our local big city all made it clear that she had no business being there. And that made me angry.
I love dancing to death. It’s more than a sport and more than an art. It combines physical fitness with continuous learning, self-expression with personal challenges. It brings so much joy, balance and self-esteem to my life. If I see someone considering joining a dance class or starting out in one of mine, I will encourage them to bits. «Even» if they are 30+, even if they are 90+ for crying out loud. I cannot comprehend what kind of person wouldn’t.
Sure, if you’re in a pre-professional class and an adult beginner joins in, the situation might not be optimal for them and for you. That, however, is the call of that person and your teacher. So, if you think somebody would be better off in a class with a lower difficulty, should you a) flat-out tell the person to quit, b) sneer and otherwise be a dick to the person so they quit on their own or c) ignore the person and hope they just go away?
Neither. It’s neither. You offer advice and encouragement. If you do this kindly and without condescension, they’ll probably even listen to you! Amazing, right? Most people are happy to work to improve. If you tried and failed to find a connection with the person and you feel like they are seriously impacting the quality of the class for you and others, talk to your teacher – still without resorting to options a, b and c. And if the teacher says the student in question is welcome to stay, options a, b and c are still not acceptable. Either get used to it and help that person catch up with the level of the class as best you can or find a new class. Just don’t be a dick.
And especially don’t be a dick to anybody because of their age, be it fifteen, fifty-five or a hundred and five. If some people already manage to sneer at a thirty-something who decides to learn to dance (I cannot fathom this!), imagine what it’s like to be fifty or seventy. Did you ever hear anyone say «Why didn’t that person just do more sports? They’d be much fitter now!»? Dicks are very often the reason for that. Or, you know, the people in question just didn’t wanna do any sports before. Which is perfectly fine. Coulda-woulda-shoulda mentality is bad enough when applied to oneself, please refrain from applying it to others. Accept people for who they are and try to avoid assumptions. You’ll be the first one to profit from such a mindset.
Let me illustrate: I’m currently enrolled in four adult classes at four different schools: jazz, modern, ballet and stretching (which most people there take together with pole dance). I’ve taken hiphop at yet another school. The age bracket for every. single. one. of those classes goes from teens to seniors. Some people (of all ages) take many different classes and work very hard to improve. That is fine. Others (also of all ages) just do it once a week for fitness and fun. That is equally fine. We all enjoy being there. We all learn something. We all profit from the experience. The only time someone brings age into it is when people complain about their own ages. And then everybody else goes, «Nonsense! You can do it! Take your time.» I’m admittedly not dancing at a very high level yet, but I used to be in the national team of my karate style as a teen and I trained very successfully in the same kind of mixed-age, mixed-motivation group. See, there are no excuses for being a dick.
And if by any chance you or anyone you know thinks older people can’t excel, first remember that no one actually has to. Then consider my grandmother who started yoga at fifty and still does it at seventy, headstands and splits and all. She is stronger and more flexible than I am. Over forty years older, too. And for a dance-specific example, take this amazing lady. She’s not necessarily one-of-a-kind, either. I have a couple of ambitious and dedicated 50+ ballet classmates who are well on their way there.To reiterate: don’t be a dick. Thank you. Rant over.
PS: If my friend lived in the same city, I would totally drag her to every single class I take. Since she doesn’t, I hope she finds one of the many dick-free classes that I’m sure exist in her city, too. ❤
PPS: Being a dick to people because of their body size or shape is also a no-go. I could write another whole rant on that subject. Meanwhile, just please don’t be a dick to anybody, ok? The Dork thanks you for your consideration.