Politeness cannot be overstated in the performing arts as a best approach to relating to all persons one comes into contact with. Not only is it the friendliest, most moralistic, ethical way to relate to others; you never know when that person may pop up on your career track again. Politeness will always be appreciated by good people. Politeness is a sign of an educated and civilized person. Politeness is a universal language of gratitude and respect for other people.
When working with others, as we do extensively in performing arts, it will always feel better to be treated in a polite and kind way rather than a careless, insensitive, or even mean way. Directors do not like crass and disrespectful actors who approach them without the proper regard an actor ought to look to his director with. Your politeness to your director will get you more of what you want; your lack of manners will grate him the wrong way and may get you on the wrong side of the one in charge, your leader. Be polite to your leader, your boss, your fellow colleagues and you will get more of what you want from them. The egotistical actor is not only a bore but a real turnoff, the same for the egotistical director.
Dance teachers can sometimes be demanding, just like coaches, but know the difference between a good note of instruction or direction from your teacher and the offensive personal criticism; a good teacher, choreographer will never make things personal in the studio. Some “old school” teachers will seem rough and unreasonable today, but remember the teacher is not there to praise and be polite, as my generation of teachers reminded us often.
Teachers are there to assist your development; it is up to the student, the actor, the dancer, ect., to have a solid backbone and a feeling of confidence. If you go to find your teacher expecting praise and politeness you may find a lower level class; teachers who are determined to really teach are not praise givers, they are instruction manuals that speak, mirrors that talk back to point out your flaws, people who know that a good note of criticism is much more beneficial than a comment of praise. Teachers also can be and are polite when it matters, and no criticism should be impolite, sarcastic, defamatory or self-indulgent. The teacher is direct and honest. When one accomplishes what one wants to, no praise is necessary; the inherent feeling of well being swells inside and one knows without any need for confirmation, that one is good.
Children, as we have been told often, do not need praise as much as a real opportunity to do their own work and a chance to achieve what they want; self directed in their learning that shows them what they need to learn. The old Russian dance teachers, who were a breed of elite, firsthand knowledge givers, had a reputation for saying “don’t ask questions! Just do it!” They knew in their bones that doing is the secret to learning and that dance is best learnt when doing the work and not getting heady and mental about it steps themselves, when executed, will teach the dancer almost all they need to know. One of my favorite ballet teachers was an extraordinary dancer and professor, Bobby Blankshine, from the Joffrey Ballet. Bobby rarely gave any instruction, but his class structure, his combinations, his choreography, his way of demonstrating, all, were some of the best instruction I ever received. His class had a mystical sense to me as he was really initiating us into a richer world of dance without saying a word. He did not concern himself with being polite, he was himself and he was a nice person. When you got his work, were able to really execute his steps, feel the rhythms and find the flow, Bobby would smile – that was all that was needed.
Regardless of what kind of training one is participating in, politeness will be a key to success both as a person and as a young professional. Remember, the face you bring is the face you get back. Bring politeness and you too will be treated more and more politely.