Thursday, 1 December 2016

Ballet for Kids: Frequently Asked Questions

It is believed that ballet is one the best forms of exercise for children; 
after spending most of my childhood afternoons in a tutu and pointes
I would definitely agree. 

The benefits of ballet in physical, emotional and behavioural terms 

make it one of the best after-school activities for children. 
But when it comes to enrolling one's child in a ballet class,
parents can have lots of questions.

Luckily, Julie Altree, Director of Pre-Ballet 

at London's Mayfair Danceworks International Ballet Academy
answers some of the most frequently asked questions 
parents have about sending their kids to ballet 
and gives precious advice.


Ballet for Kids: frequently asked questions


What is the best age for children to start ballet?

There is no "best age" as such. Children can begin to dance as soon as they can walk or toddle! So why not bring them along to a Pre-Ballet class? Some parents worry that their child won't have the focus and discipline to take part in ballet, but Pre-Ballet classes are geared towards helping little ones enjoy dance and music at their level. These classes are a colourful and imaginative introduction to the world of ballet. The emphasis is on creativity and fun in a child-friendly environment. 

If your child dreams of a career in ballet they should be building to a more technique based training from age six or seven. Danceworks International Ballet Academy aims to have their students taking a professional class by the age of 12. However, if you do have an older child who develops an interest in ballet, they should still be encouraged to try out a class. Ballet can be a fulfilling hobby and there are a few late starters who have made it: Misty Copeland, soloist of American Ballet Theatre, started dancing at 13.


What are the benefits of ballet 
for the physical and emotional development of children?

The physical benefits of ballet include improvements in muscular strength, flexibility and range of motion. Ballet teaches children to find and hold a good posture throughout moving combinations. This legacy of postural awareness is a lifelong gift and will save much back pain in later life. Balance and coordination will also improve along with proprioception. Jump combinations will improve stamina and cardiovascular health. 

Pre-ballet classes will help children to pick up useful skills such as listening to a teacher, observing and following activities, building a circle or line, taking turns and working as part of a group. These skills can transfer to nursery or school situations. I've noticed that the children grow in confidence and independence with each class. A really important benefit is happiness. The children and parents seem to enjoy the class so much. For an older child the benefits are even more sophisticated; finding their own motivation, achieving a sense of pride and accomplishment which can boost self-esteem. Taking part in a performance can help develop commitment, artistry, teamwork and confidence. 

Ballet and boys: is ballet training for young boys different?

In the early years, the training for boys and girls is the same. It's only later that boys and girls will take specialised classes; boys will focus on jumps and pirouettes, girls will take pointe class. There are some ways in which we teach boys a little differently, for example, port de bras, the way we move our arms, boys are encouraged to be a little stronger, with clean, simple lines.

How can parents choose the best ballet/dance class for their child?

You can, of course, check out websites. These will give you a wealth of information about the school's mission, the teachers, their experience and qualifications and the class timetables. But I think the best way is to try a class! You can see how your child responds to the teacher and the class. 

You should be looking for a safe environment, a knowledgeable and approachable teacher who has a good rapport with the children and is able to control the class with appropriate firmness and fairness. Every child and every teacher is unique so trial a class, see if your child is comfortable, happy, engaged and feels encouraged. With a pre-ballet student, I'd advise persevering for a few weeks; sometimes it takes a little longer for the child to feel confident, especially for a shy child.


Danceworks International Ballet Academy (DIBA) offers pre-ballet classes for children aged 18 months to 4 years at their central London studios in Mayfair (nearest Tube station is Bond Street). You can book a free trial class.




Many thanks to Danceworks International Ballet Academy 
and Julie Altree for this interview. 
Photo courtesy of DIBA.

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