Have you thought about a dance class for your son or daughter? Dance provides many benefits both physically and socially for children of all ages. What factors should you consider to choose the right dance program for your child? I talked to Lisa Collins Vidnovic, artistic director and founder of Metropolitan Ballet Academy in Jenkintown, PA, about what parents should look for in regards to training, inclusion of boys, cost and performance opportunities.
Young children, ages 3-6, can take creative movement classes that lead into classical dance training. Vidnovic encourages parents to seek a “school that provides a classical foundation because for study you really need a foundation physically and mentally to stand on.”
For those who move to a high-calibre level of training, dancers should be prepared to commit at least three days per week to classes after school. For example, the MBA’s pre-professional program offers classes every day of the week throughout the school year and has all-day programs during the summer. Not every dancer will advance to this level, and parents and teachers should be in tune regarding the skills and interests of the individual child.
Boys and dance
Many boys don't think of dance first when they consider extracurricular activities they might enjoy. But Vidnovic knows from experience that boys can get excited about dance classes, too. The MBA offers a classical dance program for boys with boys-only classes that have male instructors who have been professional dancers. Just like the girls, the boys get to participate in fun performances that include age-appropriate roles in shows like Peter Pan, Hansel & Gretel or King Arthur and Knights of the Round Table.
Vidnovic notes that the studio offers, “a lot of contemporary work for the older boys, who do a lot of modern contemporary dance that’s very interesting and challenging for them and really brings them along technically and furthers their training.”
Peter Weil, currently an apprentice with the Pennsylvania Ballet, first got interested in dance when his mother took his little sister to a class at MBA and encouraged him to try dance to help him with balance in his soccer matches. He urges boys to give dance a try: “It’s such a good way to be able to express yourself in a different way. Although there can be social consequences to being a boy in the dance world, if you love it, you’ll persevere and continue training.” He notes that the all-boy classes helped him feel comfortable in dance because he wasn’t the only boy among a class of 20 girls.
Another deciding factor as you choose a dance class may be cost. Parents of dance students must pay for lessons, of course, but they also foot the bill for shoes, costumes and recital tickets. As you seek a dance studio to fit your needs, ask about additional fees or costs for these items so you have clear expectations of expenses before you commit.
The MBA prices classes reasonably and also offers a Boys Scholarship Dance Program to make classes affordable and attractive to male dance students.
For students who become serious about a future in dance, parents should be prepared to pay for summer programs that offer intensive training and new experiences, although some programs offer scholarships for talented dancers with financial need.
How many chances will your young dancer get to take to the stage at his or her chosen studio? Ask about recital schedules and whether the studio offers larger productions in which your child can have a role.
Besides the aspects of fun and social interaction, Weil notes that such performance opportunities are invaluable to individuals who may want to become professional dancers: “My first program as a professional wasn’t my first time performing. I understood the quality, technique and process you need to perform.”
If your child shows interest in taking dance classes, consider these factors to find the program that provides the best fit for your child, your schedule and your budget.
The Metropolitan Ballet Academy celebrates its 20th anniversary with a gala showcase performance on June 4, 2016. For more information, visit Metropolitanballetacademy.com/company/performances.