Ballet dancing offers many advantages to preschoolers and older children. Not only do they develop flexibility, strength, and grace, but also the discipline that comes from practicing for performance. Ballet school introduces children to the French language; exposure to ballet terms can give them a leg up in pronunciation later on. Similarly, ballet dance provides a wonderful avenue for exploring classical music. Last but not least, if you have a daughter who is going through a princess phase, the chance to wear a frilly pink tutu can’t hurt; and boys will learn that dance is not just for girls.
However, even if your child has expressed an ardent desire to learn ballet and become the next Karen Kain or Mikhail Baryshnikov, it’s important to choose the right kind of class — one that will encourage your child’s evolving joy in dance.
Review Nearby Ballet Schools
The first step is to find nearby ballet schools and, if possible, observe preschool classes, talk to other parents, and read reviews online. Meet the teachers and see what the school’s “vibe” is. Some schools may be more appropriate for older children who are serious dancers already. The right teacher will be enthusiastic about preschoolers as well as about dance itself, and successful in “translating” movement concepts for children. Imagination and choreography go hand in hand; children may pretend to be lions, ladybugs, or flowers as they learn ballet dancing.
Know What You’re Paying For
Price is also a decision-making factor for many families; even if class prices from school to school are comparable, there may be elements that make one class more valuable than another. For instance, one class may have a better student-teacher ratio that allows for more individualized attention. Depending on the school, there may also be additional fees for recital costumes (as well as the initial outlay for shoes and leotards); these can vary quite a bit, so check them ahead of time.
Schedule Ballet Classes Wisely
Pay attention to schedule as well—not only whether or not the time of the class is convenient for your family, but also whether it falls during a time of day where your preschooler is well rested, well fed, and ready to participate with enthusiasm. Also, make sure the duration of the class is suitable for your child’s attention span.
Additional Questions to Consider
Other questions are important as well. Does the school have a procedure for handling emergencies? Does the teacher have an understanding of how preschoolers’ bodies differ from those of older children, and teach accordingly? Do you stay through the class with your child, or drop her off? Do children have a chance to watch older students or video clips of professional dancers from time to time? What criteria are used to assess whether or not a child is ready to move to the next level?
Most importantly, ballet school should be fun for your preschooler. If he or she looks forward to going, shows you new moves when you pick him up, and practices her arabesques at home, you can rest assured that you’ve chosen the right school.