The other day, and the inspiration for this piece, I was in a group class subbed by my private teacher. While he knew everyone, I was the only student present who is one of his private students (the others being private students to the other teachers of the studio). And it showed.
No, no, not in the levels of dancing. In many ways, the others are more experienced and advanced than me, having danced much longer. It was in the way he and I interacted. In the way he had me demonstrate each step with him. In the way he would ask the class a question and then say to me “I know you know” or do just the opposite and quiz just me, knowing I had a ready answer. How he preluded exercises to “Luna knows what’s coming.” How he let inside jokes creep into conversation. It felt like he wanted to make it clear to everyone, like he was silently saying. “See this girl? This girl’s my student.” It felt…well, like he was bragging about me.
Perhaps it was all in my head. Perhaps it’s my secret ego. Perhaps he was just being pragmatic, using the student he was most familiar with as a teaching tool. Perhaps he was just interacting with me how he always does, and I only took special attention because of the situation.
Perhaps I wanted it to be so because I brag about him.
And you know it’s true. I do it here all the time. I am insanely proud of him, as a person and a dancer, and I’m proud to represent him as his student. I also feel a fierce sense of teacher loyalty for him. When other students meet him for the first time, students of the other teachers, I can’t help but follow up with “That’s my teacher.” When someone compliments me on my progress, I’m likely to say “thanks, my teacher’s really been working with me on it.” When I hear he’s teaching another class or performing at another event, I get eaten up with guilt and frustration that I can’t go, and get unreasonably excited on those rare days I can.
I feel it important to note that loyalty does not mean idolatry. It doesn’t mean I feel obligated to accept all his ideas and to reject the differing ideas of others. It doesn’t mean I feel obligated to “stay faithful” by only taking his classes or of classes he approves. Nor does he expect these things of me. In one instance I was telling him of a class for a dance I love and he hates. So much that just saying the name got a reaction from him, prompting me to say good-humoredly, “We’re allowed to have different opinions.” He readily agreed, “We are!” before jokingly adding, “…slightly.” Were it a different way, rather than loyalty I’d likely feel trapped.
On the flip side, I want him to be proud of me too. I want to be worth bragging about (secret ego). And while I can only hope I make him proud, what I am sure of is his sense of student loyalty. “My students always come first” is a phrase I hear all the time, and it’s something he proves with his actions, from working with my schedule, being sensitive to my physical health, to simply asking me out onto the dance floor.
At my studio, I see this a lot with everyone: a fierce sense of pride and loyalty. I see it in the good-natured way we discuss and compare our teachers. I see it in the way teachers seek out their students at the socials, and in everything they do behind the scenes for them. I see it in the way we take care of each other. It’s what keeps our small, independent studio going strong.