Why I'm Yelling at My Clients

Lately I’ve been getting angry and yelling at my clients.  And that’s a good thing.  I’m yelling because I care, because I believe in them, and because I know every one of them can push the limits and achieve great things.

So often people say to me, ‘you work with only really good dancers’, and yes it’s true I’m lucky in the artist who have honored me by coming through my doors. But the truth is, there’s a knack to pulling out the very best in artists, and I don’t give up until I get it.

male dancer with drape Rachel Neville photographer

Celestin Boutin, Ellison Ballet Photo: Rachel Neville

Occasionally that means that I raise my voice, get excited, get agitated, yell a little – even cry a little – whatever it takes to get my dancers to give me their full energy and engagement and then go beyond what they thought possible.

Why are you talking about this, you ask? Because I want to take a moment from my little corner of the world to encourage you to do the same. Every day. Every class.  Give your full energy and engagement.  Go beyond what you think you can.

dancer in white Rachel Neville photographer Canade

 Allison Lang, National Ballet of Canada School Photo: Rachel Neville

At least once per photo shoot, it seems like my clients think that they can’t do something, some movement, some pose, some line that doesn’t work for their body. And they want to move on. Sometimes this is practical, it’s not a developed area of their technique and we talk about them working on it over the next year to shoot it again. But frequently, I can get them to a place, in that same movement, where they say ‘whoa, I didn’t think I could look like that. I didn’t think I could do that’. Then I say, ‘can you imagine how good you would be, if you gave that much of yourself to your work and your classes and rehearsals everyday?

That much effort, all the time?

Holy Cow!

precision dance white leotard Allison

Courtney Lavine, American Ballet Theater (ABT) Photo: Rachel Neville

Don’t get me wrong, it takes a huge amount of work. And work and work. When I was dancing, I’m convinced I didn’t know how to work as hard as I push my clients to work now. I know I didn’t, and I think that’s why I regularly get upset at dancers who have so much facility and so much to give, but don’t work as hard as I know they can, in order to get to where I see they can and should be. Yes, occasionally it brings me to tears.

Courtney Lavine ABT Rachel Neville photographer dance photo shoot

Courtney Lavine, American Ballet Theater (ABT) Photo: Rachel Neville

I had a moment this past summer when I was shooting with American Ballet Theater member Courtney Lavine. She mentioned that a jump we were working on she nails in every photo because she worked that jump hard. By herself, in the studio, until she could nail it effortlessly every time. Every. Time.

Now is the time, people, auditions are coming up.  It’s time to go beyond what you think possible, as often as possible.  Let this be your recipe for growth, improvement and getting where you want to be.

dancer jumping green skirt Courtney Lavine ABT photo shoot Rachel Neville dance photographer

Courtney Lavine, American Ballet Theater (ABT) Photo: Rachel Neville

For more on challenging yourself, staying connected and staying in the moment, working hard every time, stay tuned next week for an update on the body language experiment.  I think you will be amazed at the results.

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