Get the most out of classes
Here are some practical tips that we have discovered from years of teaching and from our experiences with teaching hundreds of students each year.
These guidelines will help you to have a successful, rewarding experience while learning how to dance.
1. Start at the Right Age
Adults may start at any time. Their success is based on how willing an adult is to commit to practicing. We teach many beginner adults in their 50's and 60's!
For children, starting at the right age is a key element to the success of their lessons. Some people will tell you "the sooner the better" but this attitude can actually backfire and be a negative.
If a child is put into lessons too soon they may feel overwhelmed and frustrated and want to stop lessons. The last thing you want to do is turn a child off to dance just because they had one unpleasant experience which could have been prevented.
Sometimes if the child waits a year to start lessons, their progress can be much faster. Children who are older than the suggested earliest starting age usually do very well. The following are guidelines we have found to be successful in determining how young a child can start taking dance lessons.
18 months - 3 years: Wiggles & Giggles
Children are innately drawn to music. And why shouldn't they be? They have been listening to the rhythm and melody of their mother's voice since the fourth month after conception. Children learn best through moving and listening. Music and movement classes will help them grow and develop into successful students.
3-5 year olds: Pre-dance
At this age children are still exploring the world around them and learning how their bodies work.
Highly structured dance movement is not only restrictive to them physically but creatively as well. Emphasis on movement qualities, music and some basic technique is recommended for the younger child who is just starting to explore the many ways they can express themselves.
This is a good time for them to learn to be around other kids their age, and learn as a group as well as individually. Class sizes between 5 and 12 students are best suited to this age group.
5-6 year olds: Ballet, Tap
At this age children start becoming more aware of their movement abilities and their personality types are fairly well set.
Ballet is a great stepping stone for any kind of dance the child will wish to do in the future, as well as being helpful in coordination for all sports, or any activity. The more analytical child will enjoy beginning tap at this age, though it is a fun dance form for any child to explore.
7-8 year olds: Jazz/Hip Hop
This is a great step in exploring the dance world, and a good step toward learning the current dance forms. Early jazz classes are focused on form and technique to set a good base for learning the harder more intricate steps of the more stylized form later. Though children may express a desire to try jazz before the recommended age, it is best to begin their training with ballet to assure coordination will not hinder their experience.
9 year olds: Musical Theater
This is a great opportunity to explore the world of theater through music, song, and dance. Since this class does not generally teach a technique, it is highly recommended that the student take at least one technique class (ballet, jazz, etc) before considering this class.
2. Take Lessons in a Professional Teaching Environment
Learning dance is not just a matter of having a qualified teacher, but also having an environment that is focused on dance education. In a professional school environment, a student cannot be distracted by parents, siblings or other outside influences. Qualified teachers, positive environment, and studio setup all influences of good verses negative dance experiences.
3. Make Practicing Easier
While not all students have the availability of an area to dance in their own home, practice is an essential part to truly learning dance. There are many ways a student can "practice" without available space.
a. go through the dance(s)/dance moves in your head during any down time
b. listen to your music and see yourself doing the moves
c. "mark" through your dance/movements. This involves using simplified and smaller movements to mark out what you would be doing
d. actually practice your dance, in your yard, at a friends' house in the garage..where ever you can find the room!
4. Have Fun!
Dance should be something that you enjoy for a lifetime. So try not to put unrealistic expectations on yourself or your children to learn too quickly. Every one learns at a different pace and the key is to be able to enjoy the journey.