(Photo by Nathan Sayers)

Where is the line between tough love and hurtful criticism? I’m starting to feel like the feedback I receive does more harm than good, but I might just need thicker skin. —Cassidy

This is a tricky question. Frankly, you do need thick skin to be a ballet dancer. The point of class and rehearsal is to improve our performance, and corrections are meant to help us. We have to be strong enough to face our shortcomings honestly. And tough love isn’t necessarily a bad thing—it means your teacher has high expectations of you, and it forces you to not make excuses for yourself.

It’s important to remember that different teachers come with different personalities, cultural backgrounds and communication styles. Some have very blunt approaches, and not all will balance criticism with equal amounts of praise. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a bad dancer, or that they have a vendetta against you. In fact, the vast majority of teachers care very deeply about their students. Some of my toughest instructors have also been profoundly supportive mentors. If you’re worried about your progress, ask to speak with them after class.

However, sometimes criticism crosses the line. Does your teacher continuously single you out and humiliate you in front of your classmates? Do corrections feel scornful, as opposed to direct? Are you constantly trying to navigate mind games, or the silent treatment? If you feel paralyzed with anxiety before class, or feel so discouraged that you’re considering quitting, think seriously about finding a new teacher. Never let someone destroy your love for dance.

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