Kids & Parenting

When to start dance lessons

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Deciding when to start dance lessons depends upon what type of dance

Even before a child is capable of speaking in full sentences she dances. Dancing and movement come before words. Movement is natural for kids. Children move to express themselves, to propel themselves from point A to point B and because it feels good. They are becoming acutely aware of their body and what they can do with it. When to start dance lessons? Sooner rather than later.

Dance is beneficial because it helps a child grow physically, socially, emotionally and cognitively. Dance etiquette, grooming and dance uniforms teach a child important social skills and the importance of cooperating and working as a group. However, a child needs to be a certain age to take a specific type of instruction because each style of dancing mandates different levels of maturity.

Dancing is not routinely taught in school so it is up to the parent to enroll the child in lessons independent of school if the child expresses a desire to dance.

The value of dance should not be underestimated. It effects a child's life in various way, including teaching her how to express herself through artistic movement, improving self-confidence and self-esteem, encouraging good posture, improving flexibility and strength as well as developing an understanding of musicality.

Furthermore, the student develops good memory skills because she has to remember the routines.

When a child is between the age of two and six, enroll her in a creative movement class. This is ideal because it is a playful atmosphere. She won't be in over her head. Creative movement classes are not as structured as the classes the child takes later on when she is more mature and has a longer attention span. It is not as demanding as ballet, which comes later.

Kids learn about music and movement in general in a creative movement class. When a child shows exceptional coordination, enroll her in pre-ballet. This can be done as early as age three, but this is the exception. Most children are older than three when the start taking pre-ballet.

Jazz classes can be started when a child is six years old.

Some instructors recommend a child take modern dance before enrolling in any other kind of class. On the other hand, some teachers recommend ballet first. Both modern and ballet teach the child about her body in relation to dance. Both forms strengthen the child's body, readying it for other types of dance.

A formal ballet class is quite demanding. Most pre-schoolers are not ready for this intense and challenging form of dance. Do not be in a rush to enroll your child in ballet.

Formal ballet instruction usually begins when a child is eight-years-old. Prior to that, the child's bones are not strong or hard enough to accommodate the physical demands that ballet places on the body.

Children generally do not go en pointe (toe dancing) until after the age of 11. The reason this is delayed is because foot deformities can result if toe dancing is started too early. A young child's bones are soft and growing. The bones must ossify adequately before toe dancing is started. Most ballet dancers train for two or three years before going onto Pointe.

If your child opts to pursue ballet and goes on to toe dancing, know in advance that this is going to be hard on her feet and toes. She should not have pedicures. The calluses and dead skin on the feet and toes serves as insulation and protection against the pressure of the toe shoe. Keep toenails short.

If the child is interested in ballroom dancing techniques and dance costumes s/he should be at least seven or eight-years-old before enrolling in this type of class. Generally, child ballroom dancers start when they are in middle school.

Let your child experiment. She may think she wants to pursue ballet but after taking tap lessons or jazz classes she may decide otherwise. Or she may decide to pursue both.

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