Your son or daughter has been begging you to let them take dance classes, but you don’t know the first thing about dance. Have no fear. These guidelines will help your child have a successful, rewarding experience learning to dance.
1. Starting at the Right Age
It’s Never Too Late! Adults can start dance at any time. Their success is based on how willing they are to commit to attending class regularly and stretching every day at home.
•For children, starting at the right age is a key element to the success of their lessons. Some people will tell you “the sooner the better” but this attitude can actually backfire. If a child is put into lessons too soon they may feel overwhelmed and frustrated and want to stop lessons. The last thing you want to do is turn a child off dance just because they had one unpleasant experience, which could have been prevented. Sometimes if the child waits a year to start lessons their progress can be much faster.
1-3 years old
The ideal class for this age is a class with a parent or care-giver. A group dance class that incorporates a lot of creative movement with some structured rhythmic activities will give a child their first experience with listening and following directions. Our Toddler Toodaloo class is the perfect combination of beginning dance vocabulary and creative movement. The parents participate fully in the class and model the behavior the teacher is looking for in the child.
3 – 5 Years Old
If a pre-schooler has a keen desire and wants to start dance, this is the age to try an independent group dance class based on creative movement as well as the beginning ballet vocabulary that is common to all dance styles. This will give them a good foundation in the basics, which will be helpful in later, more structured lessons. In our Dance Stories classes children learn basic dance vocabulary through teacher and student generated dance stories.
5-6 Years Old
At this age, a combination class is often the best way to go. The class can be longer (up to an hour) and should incorporate elements of many dance styles: Ballet, Modern Dance, Jazz and Tap. This gives a child an idea about the differences and similarities between the different styles. Often, after taking the class, children will gravitate to one style or another. Discover Dance! is our version of the combination class and students experience all 4 styles every week.
7 Years and Up
Once children have reached this age, they are ready for focused class work in one particular style. We recommend once a week for this age, twice a week for children age 9 and up and three times a week or more for teenagers. The more often they attend class the faster they will improve in strength, flexibility, endurance and skill. If a student is dreaming of dancing on pointe we recommend that they primarily take Ballet, but other dancers can take multiple classes in multiple styles.
•At Arts in Motion dancers can start at any age and we generally place beginners with their peers rather than with younger students because we feel they will learn faster if they are with students their own age. As long as an older beginner is willing to work hard at first, they will catch up quickly and ultimately be more successful.
2. Take Lessons in a Professional Teaching Environment
Learning dance is not just a matter of having a great dancer as your teacher. The teacher must also understand the history of the dance form they are teaching and have had previous teaching experience. At Arts in Motion, many of the teachers have studied dance in college and have had courses in teaching methods. Those who have not had that experience are carefully coached by Amanda and all teachers receive ongoing support and advice from the Director. For our teachers, teaching dance is not just a hobby or side-line for the teacher but a responsibility which is taken very seriously. Learn more about our teachers here.
3. Making Practicing Easier
As with anything, improving in dance takes practice. Practicing at home can be hard if you don’t have the space or a mirror or a good smooth floor. It is important for a dancer to stretch every day and this can be done pretty much anywhere. Individual steps such as turns and balances can be practiced in a kitchen or bathroom (if it’s big enough). Ballet barre work can be practiced at the back of the couch or kitchen chair. Every little bit helps!
Dance should be something that you enjoy for a lifetime. So, try not to put unrealistic expectations on yourself or your children to learn too quickly. Everyone learns at a different pace and the key is to be able to enjoy the journey.