We had a lesson, after which we decided to practice what we'd worked on during our lesson to make sure that it would stay in our muscles. At the same time, the studio started running a group class next to us. They separated their floor into two sections with some chairs - in one section was the class and the other section was meant, presumably, for people to practice and take lessons.
Here's the incident: Derrick and I are dancing a straight line of Viennese Waltz down the floor. As we are going, some member of the class were learning a pattern. They were standing still, waiting for the teacher to count them in to the pattern. It was a large class, and several people were standing outside the dividing chairs. Just as we were passing, one of the follows started to dance the pattern, taking her further into the practice area of the floor.
She trips over Derrick's foot as we pass her, and crumples to the ground hitting her knee and then bumping her head. There's a big hubbub, she's carried to a bench and her husband goes to get some ice. Derrick and I feel awful. Fortunately, five minutes later, she rejoined the class.
In general, the whole situation was bad. We were the more experienced dancers, we should have expected for the newer dancers to be moving in unpredictable or abnormal directions. And even though there were plenty of chairs set up, we also shouldn't necessarily have assumed that all the students would be dancing inside those chairs.
Here's the part that really got to me. Afterward, one of the folks in charge pulled Derrick and I aside and the first thing said was "You guys have got to be careful." Not "What happened?" or "I need your help to watch out for even our intermediate students" or any other phrase to address us as peers. Derrick and I are ALWAYS careful. This is honestly the first time (and hopefully the last) that we've had anything to do with someone else falling. Even at Spectrum when we're dancing, we try to always be very aware of the other dancers, especially beginners. Ok, we bumped a pro once, but she got us back later. We know it's not the competition floor, and we recognize how fast we're going. In addition, we were told that they didn't encourage practicing at this studio, and that if we wanted to practice we should do so at the party later that evening. So here's my laundry list of grievances, because I feel so poorly about the whole incident.
First of all, I really felt like we were not addressed respectfully. Yes, we were the most experienced dancers in the situation which means we're automatically at fault, but in a fair world, we're also customers at that studio. If we had been 50 or 60 years old, and that same thing happened, or even if we'd been very highly-ranked dancers, I don't know that we would have been spoken to in the same tone of voice. We already felt badly about the situation, we apologized sincerely. We didn't need to be reprimanded like unruly 12 year olds. That's the first thing I always recognize when someone's screwed up at work; even if I "supervise" them, they are still my equal and should be given benefit of the doubt.
Secondly, if there's that big of a group class and safety is first priority, then don't allow people to practice at all on the same floor. Kick practicing people off. Also, make people sign release of liability waivers for practice and classes.
Third, if you are going to block off the floor, give your class enough room and be aware of where they are in the room so that you can keep them contained.
Fourth, I hate practicing at parties because to me, parties are about being social and having fun. That's why it's a party, and not open floor time. If anything, it's a less appropriate time to practice and work through figures.
I guess I feel a little better now that I've written about it. The most troublesome part of this was that it could have been prevented in so many ways. I recognize that people aren't perfect, and that we don't always treat each other the way we mean to. I don't think anybody came out of this feeling good, which is a shame because that's never what dancing is about.