Jackrabbit Tips & Tricks

The Instagram Complex

As dance teachers we are constantly thinking of ways to help our kids reach their potential, overcome weaknesses and become CONFIDENT in who they are as a dancer.  This is never easy, but always rewarding.  There are few things in life that generate as much pride and giddy awe as watching a dancer grow and flourish.

However, lately I feel that we have been confronted with a new, silent adversary.

I call it: Instagram.  Sounds random?  I’ll explain.

There are a million ways to be great at dance.  There are a million components to becoming a beautiful dancer.  There are literally millions of beautiful dancers out there working hard toward their own version of perfection.  The problem with Instagram is – all these dance accounts full of beautifully inspiring photos are limited in highlighting little more than two things: BODY and FLEXIBILITY.

Please note, I am not in any way diminishing the importance of those components nor the hard work and dedication it takes to achieve a beautiful body and fierce flexibility.  They are both integral to training and technique, and an important focus to a dancer’s goals.  I also realize that the industry works in trends and waves – similar to the fashion world.  When I was younger it was who could pirouette.  Turners were worshipped.  I was never a turner (sniff…) These days it seems that flexibility and lines are what is valued most.  (These trends will continue to morph with time but it is always most important to be well-rounded, and focus on each student’s specific goals.)

Back at the ranch… the problem I’m noticing is that so many dancers who may not have been blessed with amazing feet, perfectly open hip joints, hyper-extended knees, a rubber spine and long legs are developing an unnecessary inferiority complex, simply because they are not being “shouted-out” or featured on “Tilt Tuesday”.  And I am talking about BEAUTIFULLY TALENTED dancers!  Dancers who hit the stage and leave you speechless!  They begin to feel that they are not as worthy to be called amazing dancers because they don’t have 8k followers.

I want to address those dancers for a minute.  Once again, with absolutely no offense intended to those who were blessed by the dance gods.

First thing they should know is – a photo does NOT make a dancer.  Dance is not a 2 dimensional art form.  One cannot show consistent emotion, quality of movement, character, CONSISTENT technical strength, seamless transitions, musicality, connectivity (etc. etc.) through a photo.  I have seen both dancers who cannot hold their leg much past 90 degrees that can completely envelop me into their performances on stage, as well as dancers who can whack-a-do their body this way and that who have left me feeling totally empty.  (Just examples, not generalizations.) Heck – where are the hip hop and tap Instagram accounts?!  I have seen unforgettable tappers that have LI-TER-ALL-Y taken my breath away and left my jaw on the floor.  I have seen hip hoppers who have so much friggin swag and ferociousness – Beyonce would be jealous.  Yet, can you take a picture in the middle of your wings and get 10,000 likes?  Can you show your crazy-amazing crumping through a still photo?

Another thing that is important for students to remember is that each body has it’s genetic limitations.  We are all born with a blueprint, and it is our job to work to take our students to the best possible model from their specific blueprint.  Some dancers will never have high arches.  Some will never have 180 turn-out.  No matter how hard they work and how much they want it.  And, guess what – that’s life!  And it does NOT mean they cannot be/become an absolutely stunning dancer.  Looking through these photos should be intended to inspire and excite them to see what the human body can be capable of.  But I see too many dancers begin to worship (or hate on) these Instagram phenoms, placing themselves and their abilities far below.  Developing an inferiority complex because they can’t touch their hamstring to their bun when they arabesque.  This has to stop.

I’m not calling on Instagram accounts to stop posting.  I for one find many of these photos beautiful and inspiring!  What I would hope is that dancers around the globe who may not be able to execute the same photographic positions will remember that they are just that – poses.  Not dancing.  If you teach a dancer (and don’t we all) that is closed-hipped, flat-footed, or just has strengths in quality of movement, emotion, musicality or other areas- PLEASE do not let them discount their talents!  Please do not let them believe that the dancers in these poses are better than them, or that they have to be uber-flexible in order to make it in this industry.  Continue to encourage them to strengthen their weaknesses, stretch their legs, feet, spine (within reason, of course!)  But then, encourage them to look at what they have been given and to be proud of it!  Help them feel proud of what they have worked for.  Help them feel proud that they can throw the smack down in hip hop class, leave an audience in tears through their emotion, or execute each sound loud, crisp and perfectly timed in their tap solo.  And remember to teach them – at the end of the day – it’s not the PHOTO, but the DANCE that makes the dancer.

Keep training and much love,


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