Sam Brenneman posted this in her notes on Facebook not too long back, and I just love how thoughtful it is about the process of leaving a class, teacher, and/or troupe. It ties nicely in with another recent post of mine about communicating with one’s teacher. Since not everyone is on Facebook, I got permission from Sam to repost this here. Enjoy!
How to Leave
by Sam Brenneman
So you’ve been dancing under a particular teacher and you know it’s time to go… how do you leave?
This situation comes to almost everyone at some point. How you choose to handle it can make for a parting that makes virtually no difficulties, or one that causes raft of trouble, bad feeling and ongoing repercussions.
There are plenty of reasons people seek out a different teacher or school, or decide to quit dance, or dance on their own; in most ways it’s not much different from taking a new job. You have to quit the old one in order to move on. Whatever you do, think it through first. Chances are good that you’ll be seeing each other at the same events, so bridge-burning may not be a wise course. If you are able to openly show gratitude and publicly acknowledge your teacher, it shows your class and maturity, completes your dance ‘lineage’, and makes everyone look good.
You may be under the impression that ‘everyone knows’ your circumstances (what led you to depart, who you’ve studied under, with what intention you are moving on), but that’s generally not the case; people do not pay such close attention. So, it’s up to you to make yourself clear and do it properly.
How you leave depends on how far you’ve immersed yourself in the teacher/troupe leader’s activities. Is it your first class session, or are you a troupe member? Taking for fun, or seriously into it? Will you need to maintain a connection to promote larger interests?
If you took a session or two but weren’t very deeply invested in the instructor’s vision, just go, without fanfare. Your teacher, if she’s been at it for any length of time, is accustomed to this; people’s needs and circumstances change all the time.
If you are further in, perhaps as a multiple-repeat advanced student or a student troupe member, it’s a different story. Of course you can do the same and just drop out, but if you intend to continue in the same dance community where you will be seeing each other, it pays to be gracious in a professional sense. It’s harder, but ultimately worth it, for you to be upfront. Tell your teacher you’re drawn to explore a different direction. If you have a vision for a group of your own, share it. Most teachers will support this if you give them the chance; it makes everyone look good as well as maintains a certain comfort level.
For your former teacher to find out you’ve formed a troupe by encountering you with them at an event is less than ideal. For you to do this even as you continue to take with her is trouble waiting to happen.
If you are a troupe member, this gets especially delicate, as there’s a mutual investment of more depth and intensity. For some troupes, there may be a contract in place. You may be part of a regular performance job, or be in rehearsal for an event like a recital or a stage show; be professional and considerate, and see the commitment through. Quit when you aren’t part of an essential plan.
Do it face to face to avoid misunderstanding, or at least be willing to meet once you’ve made your decision. Do not quit summarily by text or e-mail; do not express anger or disappointment even if you are feeling them; do not bring other troupe members in on your decision, though you may and should present it to them in a professional manner once it’s made.
It’s poor form and borderline unethical to work behind your teacher/troupe leader’s back to subvert an existing performance unit due to your own dissatisfaction. Do not under any circumstances mine her student list in order to form your own unit. People may find you in time, but make your own dancers from the ground up if you want to truly earn your credibility.
A note from the essayist: this piece is put together from knowledge gleaned over ten years of dancing as a student and as a teacher, as well as from observation of others’ experiences; I have left, been left, and heard stories of leaving well or badly. The intention is to help others understand how to manage this common situation for the best outcome.
About Sam Brenneman
“Sam began dancing in January of 2002, taking classes with Gabrielle Deschaine at her local Y. She had previously danced with Read My Hips, the wonderful Chicago tribal troupe directed by Stephanie Barto.
Currently Sam is director of multiple troupes: Smoke Tribal Bellydance; Gulbahar, the student troupe based at Triton College; and ruth+barbara bellydance (everyone should), a new venture set to debut in February 2012. She was accepted as a Fat Chance Sister Studio in 2009, committing to Carolena’s vision of showcasing the power, beauty, and strength of women through American Tribal Style bellydance.”
If you want to learn more about Sam, hit up her site at http://www.smallstudiocostume.com/