Lessons in Leotards: Starting Your Child in Dance
By Rachel Jaeger
Everyone appreciates dance, and many children long for the glory of tutus, pointe shoes, and tiaras. However, any type of dance requires intense training before stage time is a viable option. Dance develops physical strength, flexibility and emotional maturity, and it is a great avenue of learning, even if a child eventually decides to be a doctor instead of a professional dancer. Here are some tips for starting your child in dance.
Finding a Studio
DO make sure you know the reputation of the studio and that you are familiar with the styles of dance offered. Meet with the teachers to ask questions, and investigate some of the following criteria:
- Types of classes offered
- Caliber of training
- Background of the teachers running the studio
If possible, ask if you can watch a class or if your child can try out a class to see what it is like. Above all, you want the experience to be healthy for your child, and that includes good technique as well as a disciplined but kind environment.
Dress for the Occasion
DO buy appropriate clothing for your children for whatever technique they are taking. For example, ballet requires pink tights and ballet shoes; however, for modern – a leotard and leggings might be all that is needed. Make sure you check with the dress code requirements of the school.
DO learn how to put your little dancer’s hair into a classic ballet bun. A bun starts with a ponytail or braid that is tightly twisted around itself and pinned into place. The goal is to make your dancer’s bun not as big as possible, but as flat as possible. There are plenty of helpful resources on YouTube for beginners.
Teacher Knows Best
DO NOT approach teachers and tell them how they need to advance your child in level or performance roles. Your child’s teacher should be his or her biggest advocate. A good teacher looks out not only for what makes the dancers look their best at their level, but also makes sure that the dancers’ bodies are able to handle the physical, mental and emotional rigors at an appropriate pace.
DO talk about positive body image and professional behavior with your dancers. Even if your child does not want to perform as a career, maintaining a professional attitude and work ethic in class is important. According to Grace Ramazzini, an instructor at the Yazoo City School of Dance, professionalism includes “showing up on time, looking presentable and ready to dance, and listening to the teacher during class.” Ramazzini also notes that encouraging classmates and maintaining a good attitude are essential, and that parents can encourage these traits by leading through example in their own lives.
DO stay as involved as possible with your child’s experience! While older kids will appreciate you not coming to watch every class, ask questions, listen to their frustrations, attend performances, and remain committed to making dance a wonderful experience for them.
Dance is a delightful avenue of expression, movement, and musicality; it instills many important qualities, including discipline, responsibility, creativity, critical thinking skills, problem-solving, spatial and kinesthetic awareness, and emotional maturation. Dance builds character, strength and emotional consciousness. But above all, it should be a fun and rewarding experience!
Rachel Jaeger is a freelance writer, a dancer and a choreographer, whose love of movement and literature, combined with her drive for learning, have led her to acquire degrees in both dance and English from Belhaven University.