Ballet is the most technically designed dance using precise placement, shape, and coordination for every part of the body. It has endless possibility of movement. Ballet terminology is the language which describes most movements found in dance, and for this reason, it is considered the base of all other dance forms. As a professional dancer of almost twenty years, I am constantly met with ballet's endless challenges. I have come to accept that the true beauty of learning to dance is not the pursuit of perfection, but the pursuit of expression.
As a teacher, I try to instill the idea that technique is a pathway, not a destination. If they learn to overcome the technical processes of dancing while in the classroom, the concern with whether they can or cannot perform the steps melts away, allowing their true artistry to shine. I feel class should be more than just learning steps. It should be an experience in movement related to everyday life. Students must be exposed to art, story telling, history, and music. They must develop an awareness of their fellow dancer, audience, and surroundings. It is only through the understanding of this relationship one can communicate beyond the steps, and reach their audience. A dancer must develop their minds and bodies as one. You cannot discipline your mind, and allow your outward appearance to go unchanged. Just as you cannot put on a smock and call yourself a doctor. This is why in ballet, uniformity through dresscode is so important for artistic development. By limiting all outward forms of expression, students are pushed to explore their inner beauty. At somepoint, each student must learn to love this process and take responsibility for his or her own growth. The teacher then becomes a guide and source for new knowledge in this progression, not a source for approval. This is the pivotal point between being a student and being an artist. It is my sincere desire to see our students achieve this level of artistic freedom; that point at which technique becomes their foundation to paint colors unimagined.
Choosing a studio for your child is a big decision, and one requiring much consideration. You will spend thousands of dollars over the course of your child's training, and will want to make sure it is a solid and worthwhile investment. Every studio is not equal. The quality of any dance program, can be found in its ballet training. Ballet is the basis for all other dance styles, and good technique is expected when auditioning for professional jobs. Without a strong technical base, students can struggle for years. However, with good training, a student will develop self confidence, poise, and discipline which will carry over into many other aspects of their lives. At our school, we follow a time proven progressive syllabus rooted in classical training. Although age is a consideration, our students are placed in levels according to their technical proficiency. Terminology is standard in daily classroom work. At each of the specific levels, emphasis is placed on the development of technique, musicality, portebras, epaulment, use of the head and artistry. Our students are encouraged to attend classes in other disciplines to increase their range of styles. We believe the ever changing expectations placed on dancers, requires they be well rounded, and able to adapt to the demands of the industry.
What to look for:
Ballet takes many years to master and understand. It is encouraged to choose a teacher who has had a professional performance career in ballet. This does not guarantee they will be a great teacher. However, they will have their many years of experience, and connections to bring to the table. This should only be taken as a guide, and you should not limit yourself solely to this consideration. There are many great teachers who have not danced professionally, but have studied in a university or other conservatory type program.
Ballet classes should include a minimum of 1.5 hours of training each (1hr for younger students), and be offered multiple times throughout the week, depending on the students level.
In addition to ballet technique, students of appropriate age should study pointe work, and partnering.
Students should also be exposed to character dance, variations, and dance history.
These classes help to build a student's repertoire for auditioning for summer programs and professional jobs.
Performance and Training Opportunities:
Students should be encouraged to attend summer programs and other opportunities, providing settings for networking.
Performance opportunities must be offered so students gain stage experience and develope their resumes.
Carly Brink, now a professional with Oklahoma City Ballet, auditions for the Joffrey summer program.
Dance promotes neurological development: When a child enjoys music and learns to dance to its rhythms, it stimulates their brain. This improves their cognitive abilities, as well as their neurological health.
Dancing keeps your child fit: Your child can improve their endurance, stamina, and energy by dancing. It also encourages strength and muscle development. Let’s not forget that it’s cardio, so it keeps their hearts healthy, too. Since it’s expressive, it might be an excellent solution for children who have an aversion to exercise.
Dance improves flexibility: Just look at ballerinas. Your child doesn’t have to become a contortionist, but dance can make them more supple. Flexibility can decrease the chances of injury. It also gives you a wider range of motion and improves blood flow to your muscles.
Dancing encourages your child to carry themselves better: Dancing is excellent for your spine. Dancers are taught how to control their bodies to optimally support their own weight. If your child learns to dance, their posture will improve. They won’t slouch and their back, shoulders, neck, and bones will benefit.
Dance improves balance: In line with the above, dancing also gives you better balance. Once you learn how to correctly hold yourself, your entire stance improves. This keeps you centered, and is also necessary for your muscles and back. If you’re more graceful, you’re less prone to accidents and injury.
Dance develops spatial awareness: Likewise, dance teaches spatial reasoning — not something in which all children are accustomed. When you dance, you learn to gauge the space around you. It works on your judgment and awareness as well.
Dancing is rhythmic: You might think rhythm is something you just feel or enjoy, but having a sense of it can improve your overall health. Like with music, it improves your cognitive reasoning, which in turn strengthens your brain. It also helps you stay relaxed, and improves your mental health.
Dance is a release: Dancing takes energy. Your child shouldn’t be dancing to the point of exhaustion, but it’s an outlet for pent up hyperactivity. This can also improve their sleep, focus, and routine.
Dance boosts confidence: This is a no-brainer. If your child is welcomed into a group and is allowed to shine, they’ll feel good. Dancing allows your child to take the lead. They’ll grow accustomed to an audience, and their self-esteem will get a boost. This can help them in other areas, like public speaking or performance.
Dance encourages art appreciation: It’s only logical that if your child practices an art, their understanding of art itself will improve. This broadens their knowledge and tastes. Kids will be exposed to many different music styles and cultures in dance.
Dance keeps your child motivated and inspired: As with any other sport or activity, your child will learn to persevere. One thing often overlooked is that dance will teach your child to learn from their mistakes and keep going. This in itself is a confidence booster.
Dance Encourages good habits: Dance is based on routine. Your child will learn to be on time, to stick to their commitments, and to practice. There are other life skills that are taught too, like following instructions, cooperation, and preparation. They’ll also learn to be dedicated, and will take on a “work hard, play hard” attitude.
Dance strengthens cognitive ability: I touched on this in the physical benefits, but these are mental traits too. Dance can build your child’s focus, concentration, memory, and pattern recognition. It can even teach problem solving and innovation. Once your child is comfortable enough to experiment, they’ll probably start choreographing their own pieces.
Dance can improve communication: With all of the cognitive benefits of dance, combined with the confidence boost, your child will become better at communication. Dance is a form of self-expression and story-telling. These skills will translate into other areas of their lives, like speech.
Dance is creative: Here’s another one I don’t have to explain. Dance is an art. If your child participates in it they’ll stimulate their creativity. Dancers are always encouraged to freestyle. When your child learns to express themselves as an individual, their creativity will become a force to be reckoned with.
Dance improves self-worth: Think about how this can improve your child’s self-awareness. If they have something to be proud of, they’ll love themselves more. This could even be an important method of fighting bullying, depression, anxiety, and trauma. Dancing also teaches empathy, which has the potential to reduce these problems even more
Dance is fun: It sounds cheesy, but wouldn’t you rather have your child in a dance class than wasting away in front of a TV? Or falling in with the wrong crowd? Children don’t want to be bored. Dance can improve your child’s mood.
Dance emphasizes body language: Dance can (and will) strengthen your child’s ability to communicate non-verbally. Not only will their body language improve, but they’ll also learn to read others better. This is a valuable life skill.
Dance is an emotional outlet: Everyone needs something they can pour their feelings into. Dance serves as a vent for your child’s emotional needs. Dancing is cathartic. It can greatly regulate your child’s behavior as well as their feelings. In doing so, it releases stress and built up frustration.
Dance can keep your child on track: Any hobby or activity can give your child’s life more meaning. The motivation or desire to excel will give them a sense of purpose. Remember that even though your child doesn’t have to pursue dance professionally, it can open many doors of opportunity. Simply put, it gives them something to work towards.
Dance is a social activity: Dancing encourages socialization. Dance classes aren’t typically one on one. Your child will have an opportunity to make new friends. This will give them a place to fit in and feel connected to others. Dance teaches us to synchronize, which promotes empathy as well.
Dance involves teamwork: This means everyone has a part to play in a performance or routine, and this will foster a sense of teamwork and cooperation. When it’s not serious or professional, dance is not competitive. Everyone has their place and forms an important part of a bigger picture.
Dance takes practice: Everything your child learns in a dance class, from discipline to routine, to respect, can be applied in a classroom. This is a major advantage. For example, If they learn time-keeping, dedication, and discipline, their grades could improve. Dancing inspires them to work harder, which is sure to reflect in their schooling.
Dance builds character: If dancing teaches your child better behavior and confidence, this will also show in their schooling. They’ll be more relaxed, confident, and outgoing. They’ll also learn how to follow instructions, respect themselves, their peers, and authority. Their demeanor will improve, and they’ll become better people.
Dance is a skill: Don’t forget dance class is academic in and of itself. Your child is learning and growing and developing a new skill or talent. If they enjoy it, you might find that they’ll pursue it seriously. It’s as valid a career as any other, and there are many opportunities to explore.