Metaphorical Hats with Emily Bufferd

unisex ballroom dance shoes

Metaphorical Hats

by Emily Bufferd

Recently, I had a conversation with one of my Mentors, Tracie Stanfield, about hats. No, not the difference between baseball and wide-brimmed, but the difference between what environment do I find myself in, what is the role that I am in there, and how do I remove any extra headwear appropriately from that circumstance. This conversation was then followed by a chat with a respected colleague that allowed me to dive even deeper into my thoughts on the matter. I think it’s important for us to investigate what the appropriate actions are for each environment we find ourselves in – it is in our best interest, as well as others, to be as clear in our role as possible.

In class, I wear my "Teacher" Hat – it’s cute, knowledgeable, and generous… it allows room for error, has patience and is compassionate.  This hat is not concerned with the quality of the footage that may or may not come from class and focuses on the task at hand, which is to guide dancers towards their max of that day and then some. Once I am in a classroom, where my job is to educate, the only hat I am going to be wearing is my Teacher Hat.

In rehearsal with my professional dancers, I wear my "Choreographer/Director Hat" – it’s still cute (haha…), knowledgeable, and generous, but it doesn’t allow quite as much room for error, its level of patience went from a very high 10 to a more conservative 3, and its place of compassion, while certainly still there, is more aware that time is money, and money is time. This hat does not want to have to teach, it wants to be creative without having to worry about a dancers’ ability to understand how to do the action. This hat films everything for reference and is often concerned with outcome just as much as the process.

As a Producer, my hat is still the first three things, but that’s where many of the similarities end. In this hat, I am very aware of time and money. This often does not allow a high level of patience due to a deadline that is often imposed by something out of my control, and while compassion is always present…because time may or may not be dictated by a variable that is beyond me, it is probably hovering somewhere around a 5/10 instead of a 9 or 10/10. This hat is most frequently worn when working with people over the age of 18, however, which allows its expectation to be a little taller, so to speak. This is not to say that my "Producer Hat" is unkind, it just often lives in a different perspective.

This last hat I’m going to discuss is where things start to get a little cross-haired.  In rehearsal or production with students, which hat do we wear? For me, I smash those three hats together to find a happy medium. My expectation is high, while still understanding that elements of my teacher hat still need to be present in the process. The expectation, when balanced with compassion, is a powerful combination!

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