A new dance year has started and it is the first class. Dancing is very personal, it involves your whole body and your emotions too, so imagine for your young student, it’s easy to feel uncomfortable fast. There’s a new teacher, and new kids in the class too! Dance class is slow to start, the teacher starts to learn names, asks about goals for the year and teaches review steps to assess the skill & knowledge of the class.
Your student comes home from the first class and has a few reactions:
1. The other kids are younger than me.
2. I think I should be in the older/more advanced class.
3. I don’t think I liked that teacher/this dance style.
You as a parent may have some of the same questions yourself! You probably didn’t dance growing up but you know that your child wants to and you want to support that drive. The learning curve for being a “Dance Parent” is not too steep!
“Level Up Challenge”
Step 1: Set a reasonable commitment expectation for your child.
Everyone knows the adage ‘Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.” Don’t judge the content or quality of a class experience by the first class. Give each class AT LEAST 1 month (4 weeks) or more to allow the students, teacher, and class content to “gel.” Engage your student in a process to understand what they may like or dislike about a class before withdrawing. This will teach reasonable instead of reactionary (read: instant gratification) attitudes.
Step 2: Step up to the Challenge
Every year in school, students of the same peer group change grades. In dance classes at Music In Motion, we have students of 2 age groups in 1 level at a time and students will stay in 1 level for 2 years.
This means it is likely that at some point your child will be the “older” student in class. Step up to the role. Teachers in each classroom teach to the highest level, and it is the job of the new students to grow to the higher level over the year. Students in the second year are asked to:
Step to the front of the classroom
Go across the floor first
Placed in the front of routines
All while MORE is being asked of them exactly because they are older and more experienced than the younger students in their level. What a place and a time to grow! Tell your child to enjoy this experience now, instead of being “the young kid” in class too early…
Step 3: Ask yourself if you really want a teenager already!
Age vs ability is an old as time argument in ‘The Dance World’ and levelling students. In our nearly 40 years as a dance training center, grouping students into appropriate age groups has always been successful. Children in 1.5-2 year age groups (such as 9-10 & 7-8) share experiences together:
Know each other or their siblings in school (friendship matters)
Parent’s & neighbors know each other (community & carpools matter)
Maturity and energy levels align (think chattiness vs focus in the classroom)
Growth spurts & body maturity align.
Possibly the most important point when it comes to dance technique is the maturity of the body, when and at what age students begin to develop muscle tone and brain development for understanding more complex rhythms and patterns in dance. There ARE specific age markers for many things vital as a dancer that we as adults take for granted (example '“Cross-Body” movements are difficult to process even up to age 9!)
Your child likely wants to “move-up” so they can hang with the older kids, not because the content of the class was too easy (it’s not!) or the other kids were too young (they are within months of each other in age!).
Moving students into the next level before they are ready is more of a disservice than a reward. They are constantly the youngest student in class, having to play “catch-up” to the more experienced students, all while missing out and lacking the proper and safe technique that is learned in an appropriate progression through classes and ages at the studio.
Let’s step back and let kids be kids at the right age & level.
Step 4: Set Goals
I am SO PROUD of all of the students at Music In Motion and how hungry they are for more dance, more challenging moves and WE ARE HERE FOR IT!
So, let’s set some goals….
From a personal & emotional level:
You want your child to stimulate their creative side and develop self-expression
You want them to to build their self-esteem and to feel "at-home" in their body
Most importantly, you want your child to be engaged in an activity that is healthy and very, very FUN!
You want your child to develop a life-long appreciation for music, dance and the arts
From a technical & physical standpoint:
You want your child to develop coordination, grace & physical fitness
Safety first; you want your child to learn the “right way” of doing things so that they can avoid injury and pain from overuse and overstretching.
Ask your child about specific “Dance Moves,” we encourage practice at home!
In Jazz - get a double pirouette by Spring Break (that’s a turn!)
In Ballet - Improve my stamina in Petite Allegro (small jumps) - straighter legs and higher off the ground in Jete (BIG JUMP) by Winter Break.
In Modern/Contemporary - Memorize combinations faster.
In Acro - pick a “skill/trick” and master it for the June Show!
If you child can show us this determination, I’m certain that we will be moving them up to the next level next season!