Mailbox Missives

The Student Rustler

by Shira

Dear Shira:

I am a student/performer. My teacher does workshops at a particular studio. The studio informed her that another teacher would like to meet her. Teacher #2 started soliciting her students, right after my teacher's class was over. She claimed she was coming to the workshop to observe. Well she never showed up until after the class was over. But that is not all, this woman, behind my teacher's back, already booked the space and advertised it. She (in my opinion) was very under-handed. She was getting names and numbers of my teacher's students, blatantly, right in front of her! This woman was also criticizing my teacher's style of dance, even though she had never even seen it.

Teacher #2 claimed she just moved here a few weeks back and wants to teach in the area. I know belly dance can be an aggressive market, but was it ethically correct to do this and right in front of another teacher? My teacher was polite about it. I think she was a bit hurt, but she never showed it. Do dance teachers do this to others? This is the first time I have come across it. Advise me please....

signed, Offended Dancer

Dear "Offended",

You already know the answer to the question you asked. Of course, what Teacher #2 did was absolutely, positively unethical, underhanded, rude, and slimy. I hope your classmates all recognized just how unethical her tactics were, and realize if they get involved with her, it will be only a matter of time before she stabs them in the back, too. If I were in your position, then I would probably say to my classmates (where my teacher would be able to overhear it), "Can you believe she did that? I wouldn't trust her any farther than I can throw her!" Or something similar to that...

There's nothing wrong with someone who moves to a new community trying to set up her own dance business, even if there's already someone else teaching there. Even booking times of her own in the studio isn't necessarily unethical -- if it's the only studio in town or if it's the most affordable one, that's fair enough. Competition is a way of life in a capitalist economy. Of course, if there are many studios in town and they're all pretty much equally affordable and equally desirable, then her decision to choose the exact same studio as your teacher looks rather suspect. The problem in this situation was that the newcomer lied about her reason for coming to the workshop, attempted to steal the students that someone else had worked hard to develop, and tried to disrupt people's loyalty to the other teacher by making negative comments. She's using tactics designed to damage someone else's business in her attempts to build her own, and you're right to be offended by that.

It sounds like your own teacher was trying to take the high road, and she's smart to do it. If she were to openly criticize Teacher #2, it would make her seem just as predatory as the other person. As a student, you are much more free to say what you think, and that's why I'm suggesting you encourage your classmates to think twice before they support the efforts of someone who would use such tactics to get their attention. You may also want to tell your teacher privately that you admire the way she kept her cool in this unfortunate situation. Something tells me that your support would mean a lot to her. Vote with your dollars for the teacher you respect, and encourage your classmates to do the same. May the honest, ethical person win!


Jealousy in the Seraglio
1874, Besancon


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