A question I have often been asked is “when should I start her in dance classes?” This can be quite a challenging question if you don’t have much experience with the realm of dance.
If you are a dancer or were a dancer growing up you’ll probably have a good sense of when your child could start dancing in a classroom/studio setting. Whether you are experienced with dance or not, this post details how to know when a child is ready and what to expect for those first dance classes.
A note: in this post I am using a female dancer as the example. Please understand that little boys can dance too! If your child loves to move to music put them in a class!
Choosing a Studio
Every city is littered with dance studios both big and small. The easiest way to determine which studio is best for you is to start at the one that is the most conveniently located for your family. Check out their website. Go to a performance if they have one that is coming up soon. Don’t be afraid to call them and see if there is a time you can come tour the space, see some of the teachers in a class and maybe even meet the owner.
Every studio is different. The class structure may be ballet-centric or it may be just tap and tumbling. Before enrolling your child in classes take a tour and observe a class. You’ll know pretty soon whether or not the studio is a good fit for you and your dancer.
Guidelines - When to start class.
The owners and teachers will have their own guidelines for when they’ll accept students but here are three ways to know if your child is ready to start dance classes.
First class - What is involved?
The first dance classes little kids (beginning at 3 years old) experience often begin with a little bit of ballet, stretching, guided imagination games, and then leaps and tumbling (little kid gymnastics). Sometimes, depending on age, the classes will include tap in place of the guided imagination games. The first years of class are usually a well rounded approach to dance that allows students and their teachers to determine where a genuine interest and strength may exist.
What to expect.
Well, as I mentioned above, every child is different but there is definitely a running theme in new tiny dancers. They are excited until they get into the studio and then they become clingy and weepy. Usually the teacher or an assistant will introduce themselves to your child and help them into the class. I have a very vivid memory of crying and crying as my mom handed me off to my new teacher.
Once in a while a tiny dancer will be filled with excitement and have no problems in class but in my years of teaching and assisting those were pretty rare in the youngest dancers. It usually takes at least one class for the young ones to feel comfortable and realize how much fun they’re having. I remember one little girl needed to have her mom walk her into class and then the assistant would take her hand and stay with her through the first 5 minutes of class. After that she was totally fine and confident for the rest of the class. That need for extra support only lasted about 2 months before she was skipping into class with the rest of her tiny friends.
Introducing your child to dance should be fun and exciting for both of you. A couple of things that can help the child get ready mentally are to go buy real dance clothes (check with the studio first - they may have a dress code) and practice putting her hair in a bun or braid (something to keep her hair out of her face).
Feel free to leave your questions below!