This story originally appeared in the April/May 2015 issue of Pointe.
There are a few girls at my studio who really bully everyone else. I want to stand up to them, but I'm too intimidated. I know I should talk to an adult, but then I'll be accused of “telling" on them. What can I do to tell them to stop their behavior? —Andrina
First, I'm sorry that you and your classmates are going through this. Sure, ballet is competitive, but that shouldn't equate to cruel behavior. And research shows that bullying can lead to depression. While you don't have to be best friends with everyone you dance with, this type of intimidation and harassment should have no place in the dance studio.
Even though you're not one of the bullies, doing nothing (or worse, laughing along because you feel intimidated) only reinforces their behavior. According to stopbullying.gov, it's better to make it clear, either verbally or through body language, that you don't find their behavior interesting or cool. Even a simple "I don't think that's funny" or shake of the head can get your message across. (Although it's important to remain calm and under control while doing so—bullies thrive on goading emotional responses from their victims.) And the National Bullying Prevention Center says that one of the best ways to stand up to your classmates is to support the student being picked on. Console her, let her know that she doesn't deserve to be treated cruelly or invite her out for lunch. That lets her know that she's not alone.
You should also rethink your definition of "telling" on someone. According NBPC, "telling is done to protect yourself or another student from getting hurt, whereas tattling is done to purposely get someone in trouble." If there's some serious mean-girl action going on at your school, your teachers need to be aware of it. Confide in one that you especially trust. Or, if you don't feel comfortable, write an anonymous letter. Your studio should be promoting a no-bullying atmosphere. If your teachers don't do anything—or worse, encourage this type of behavior—consider going elsewhere. For more information and resources, go to stopbullying.gov and pacer.org.
Have a question? Send it to Pointe editor in chief and former dancer Amy Brandt at firstname.lastname@example.org.