Ballet's the Way to Gain Dance Skills
If your child wants to learn dance, get ready for her to slip on some slippers, because studio directors say she will benefit from a background in ballet.
This classical dance style allows a child to build a strong foundation of balance skills. Don’t worry, though, if your child is not looking to star in The Nutcracker. Most dance studios work ballet technique into their lessons, even contemporary-style classes such as break dancing.
Directors recommend that young children start out with ballet in a class that allows them to focus on rhythm, balance and body. But if ballet requires too much focus for your child, there are plenty of other classes available.
Mary Roth, artistic director of the Delaware Dance Company in Newark, DE says, “Our classes for young children are a combination of very basic ballet and tap. The ballet helps develop body control and the tap allows the children to actively participate in the rhythm of the music.” The Delaware Dance Company offers classes in ballet, pointe, modern, jazz and tap.
While serious dancers should have a strong background in ballet, directors also encourage kids to become well-rounded dancers. If your child is dancing for fun, then she should take whichever class looks interesting to her. If her goal is to compete on a traveling team, she’ll need a more rigid curriculum.
Carryl Slobotkin, owner of Jazz Unlimited, a contemporary jazz studio with several South Jersey locations, compares dancing with sports. She says kids with dancing talent who want to develop it should take ballet, but if they are just dancing for fun, let them take classes that most appeal to them.
Like any other sport, dancing can be rigorous and requires commitment. Through dance, a child can interact socially while developing physical abilities.
Michelle Wurtz, director of the Pottstown Dance Theatre in Pottstown, PA says that many times, “a child will need to try different styles and different teachers to get the best fit. It’s often trial and error.” Pottstown Dance Theatre offers an array of classes including break dancing and cultural and traditional styles of dance.
What About Boys?
Our culture does not encourage boys to take ballet lessons, despite the benefits. In fact, the Metropolitan Ballet in Jenkintown, PA, annually offers tryouts and free lessons to boys willing to learn this classic form.
But dance studios do offer classes that seem to appeal to boys, including hip-hop and break dancing. Says Wurtz, “Something like break dancing helps get boys in to the studio and encourages them to at least appreciate dance.”
It is also helps to have a male teacher on staff, notes the Wissahickon Dance Academy in Philadelphia, where the primary focus is classical ballet. The Academy also gives scholarships to boys.
Studio directors encourage boys to start at age 7 or 8 with a jazz or hip-hop class, something that will keep them interested and moving. They note though, that often if boys try ballet, they find it a challenge and stick with it.
It is never too late to start your kids in dance classes, but it is never too early either. Studios offer “mommy and me” classes to get kids moving at a young age. Through dance, kids make friends, develop physical skills and learn to move to music, whether it’s jazz, Jay-Z or beautiful ballet classics.
Whitney Segel is a MetroKids intern and Temple University journalism student.