Ballet Student Personalities: "The Apathetic One"

Ballet Student Personalities: "The Apathetic One"

Attitudes & Behaviors Teaching Tips


Why the long face?

Though some of us would like to believe that we are bringing up the next generation of flawless ballerinas, the fact remains that they will not all love to dance, and they will not all continue to dance after taking your class. Not because they hated you or they hated ballet, but because the world needs doctors, writers, accountants, teachers, and other important occupations, and they may have a greater passion for that. Not only is that ok, that’s great! Despite their apparent apathy toward your class, try to push them to pursue excellence for the sake of excellence, not because they are going to be prima ballerinas one day.

The Apathetic One

This is the dancer that just never seems to care. She comes to class, but doesn’t have a great attitude. The class is just one of those things she has to do, and it may even be that her parents have signed her up for the class against her will. It doesn’t happen a lot, but it does happen. Her apathy is all over her face, shows through in her technique and affects her artistry. How do we handle this?


Correction is the area that takes the biggest hit with The Apathetic One. Going through the class, you may stop and tell her to do something different and she will look at you with the most blank and empty stare that you will probably smile quickly and then move forward before she drains the life from your soul! Ok, so it’s not that bad, but she obviously is showing you that she does not care about the correction you’re giving her, and she probably will not be changing her ways, thank you very much. Her lack of energy and excitement can affect the other students in the class. If she’s younger, most likely no one will choose to sit by her, dance next to her or select her as their partner. Not because they don’t like her, but because she’s just not very much fun! In the older classes, her peers will most likely just ignore her and that will not be very encouraging to the The Apathetic One who most likely has trouble making friends, anyway. In performance, the teacher will find that she cannot depend on The Apathetic One to be in the front because the amount of effort she shows in class proves that she won’t be performing well on the stage either. Her lack of enthusiasm makes her better suited to be in the back, depending on others to carry the life of the piece. Artistry rarely comes out of the The Apathetic One since she doesn’t feel she has anything to express.


There are always positives, even for The Apathetic One! She can be a continual challenge for the teacher. There are, somewhere deep down inside, real feelings to be brought out. There is a story to be told, a feeling to express and a young life to be influenced in this student. This is your chance to learn how to really connect with her and support her throughout her time in your class. She may not stick around for very long, but in the short time you have with her, you can show her what it means to care deeply about something, to perform well, to take responsibility, and to know what passion is.

What Can I Do to Help Apathetic?

Find out what it is that she is going through and show her that you care about her as a person. As it is said, love her “like crazy” and treat her with respect. The background of her life is unknown to the dance teacher. Her family may be going through some really rough times: she may have been forced to take this class, her parents may be going through a divorce, she may come from a broken household, she may be bullied at school, or she may not know whether or not her family gets to eat dinner that night because they don’t have much money. Try your best to show that you desire to understand her and help her. Don’t get upset with her. Remember, not every student in your class will go on to be a professional in the dance world, so instead of being upset with her when she does something wrong in class, treat her with respect and try to understand why she acts the way she does. Make a conscious effort to bring positive attention her way. Shower her with praise when she does something right. Help her to, slowly and carefully, come out of her comfort zone. Try your best not to change your expectations for her. The same level of effort should be expected from each student, if it is at all possible. Ask her how she is doing, and do it often. Sometimes the young ones, with their permission, like for you to give them hugs or squeeze their hands showing that you affirm them. Perhaps her apathy comes from feeling angry or empty inside and you are the only love and affirmation they ever get. Make her feel like she matters, and she may just become one of your strongest students in the end.

Read about the other personalities . . .

DISCLAIMER: Not all students can be categorized in this way. It is not my intention to box anyone in to a certain personality type, and not all the advice I give in this article will work on every student. Each one is made up of a different blend of personalities and will respond differently the advice given here.
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Hallie B says

Ah, this was my daughter. She loved nothing more than dance and worked hard to be accepted into a prestigious academy. By her second year, she was completely burned out, but decided (on her own) to register for the next year --- she'd been promoted and wanted to see what it would be like. After one month she knew she hated it but didn't want to be a quitter. So she expressed her dislike of it by staring out the window during class (and by complaining to me during the rides home.)
Her wonderful teacher contacted me to discuss my girl's attitude. i hadn't realized she had been showing a bad attitude in class! This gave me the chance to talk to my daughter (well, I admit some of it was anger over money spent,) about either sticking with your commitments or bowing out gracefully. She had opted not to quit so I told her she was expected to honor her choice and to do her best while she was there. To take all those classes with a bad attitude would be to cheat only yourself.
She ended up staying the entire year, disliking it but doing the work, and earned her teacher's respect and a huge measure of pride, and learning her own ability to commit and work hard even when it may not be a ton of fun.
A good learning year, thanks to a teacher who cared and reached out. As a mom, that's what it's about...not just dance, but growth.

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