Think of Dance School….As a School

Dancemother

I’ve spent alot of time in the dance school office these past two months.  September was back to class month and the questions were mostly about dress code, and class schedules…the easy stuff.   As October hit, so did all the complaints “we missed a class, do we get credit for it?”; “why didn’t anyone tell us that there would be a substitute teacher today, we wouldn’t have come?” I can’say it was a majority of parents, it was a very small minority to be honest.  I admired the calm way the Director and teachers responded and marveled at the type of questions that were coming in.  I wondered if other schools tempered the same queries. According to this well written article, it seems they do.  Read this article on Why all those rules.

Feeding The Mind Of A Dancer with the Arts

When my daughter was 5, right before she started formal dance classes, I took her to see the Pennsylvania Ballet perform The Nutcracker. As I ordered tickets, I could feel myself getting excited, I LOVED the ballet and couldn’t wait to share the live experience with my daughter. Oh, we had watched countless episodes of Angelina Ballerina, and done the twirls and plies at home, but now we were going to see the real live experts!  As the days got closer to the show, I started to get nervous, “she’s only 5″ I told myself, she probably won’t be able to sit still through this show. ‘What if we are not in good seats”? “Ugh, I’ll be devastated if I have to take her out early”!

When that curtain lifted, she was totally mesmerized. I distinctly remember her moving to the edge of her seat so that she could better see when Clara wakes up to see the Christmas tree growing before her very eyes. I remember the awe in her face as the Mouse King gets hit in the head by the heroine Clara’s slipper! When Clara arrives at the Land of the Sweets and sees the Hot Coco dancers, my little girl clapped and clapped and clapped! Afterwards, as we waited to get Clara’s autograph, I remember her telling me that she “wanted to see this again”. I was so proud.

love_the_arts_thumbThe next year, I decided to go ahead and subscribe to the PA Ballet.  It was a luxury that I couldn’t really afford but the return on investment from just that one show the year prior was worth it.  Our first show in the series was La fille mal gardée.  While the premise of the ballet totally escaped her 6 year old brain, the awe in her face was still there. By the time we got to her second viewing of The Nutcracker, she had announced to anyone who would listen that she wanted to dance with the PA Ballet.

Thanks for letting me walk down memory lane, but there is a point to my rambling.  You see kids need to be exposed to the Arts. It’s important for them to use their visual senses to see/hear/feel the beauty that is music, that is dance, that is acting.  Not just what they see on television, but the medium of live performance. The interaction with other live bodies who are watching together,and breathing the performance on the stage.

I’m going to reiterate that it can be pricey. But the ROI is so worth it.  We went on to do free performances in parks and schools; Broadway matinees;The Radio City Music Hall Christmas Shows; traveling Broadway shows in our city. and even the SYTYCD live performance shows.  I saw it as an opportunity to learn outside of the traditional classroom,to see the potential of dance.  She was at this point, totally entrenched in formal dance classes, but I needed her to see it’s potential outside of those dance studio walls.

Invest in live productions, it’s an investment in your child’s education.  It opens up a whole new world of appreciation, and it’s a class all in itself.  Watching professional dancers get those steps just right gives your child the incentive to go back and nail it in the classroom.

It’s worth it.

My Son Wants to Take Dance Classes

My daughter has never had the pleasure of having a male dancer in any of her classes in the 13 years she has taken lessons. Not one.  We’ve seen a boy here, one there, come through the school, last about 1 or 2 years, then poof…gone.  It saddens me.  At one of the parent observation classes, a younger brother was in the audience.  At the very end of the class, the teacher taught a quick routine and asked the observers to participate.  This kid was GOOD! He caught the entire routine and executed it first try, no errors.  I asked his mom why he wasn’t taking dance classes. Her response “His dad won’t let him”.

A large part of why more boys aren’t dancing is because of societal views on men in tights, or heck men in dance classes in general.  It’s ok to learn the latest hip hop moves at home and display them on the dance floor at any party but formal classes? No way!

But some of the same reasons why girls should be encouraged to dance also hold true for boys:

  1. Discipline: Dance requires practice and repetition. Try and try until you get that combination right.  This try and try mentality transcends outside of the studio and into life skills
  2. Confidence: When that combination is finally excelled? The level of confidence surpasses all the negative energy (teasing etc) that may have been hurled at them for taking dance classes
  3. Great balance, posture & agility. In a previous post about ballet, I shared a link of football players who use ballet as a form of cross training during the off season. If you haven’t had a chance to look at it and see the reasons why, here’s another chance: http://www.dancespirit.com/2013/09/are-you-ready-for-some-football-players-in-ballet-class/
  4. Have you ever seen a male dancer who wasn’t toned built? Probably not. Dance develops muscles and gives tone like no other aerobic exercise there is.

With the popularity of shows like “So You Think You Can Dance” and “America’s Best Dance Crew”, the idea of male dancers is hopefully become more mainstream.  Male dancers looking for professional jobs have less competition than their female counterparts for the simple fact that there are less of them to compete.  Broadway Shows like “Newsies” and “KinkyBoots” display the diverse male dance talent that exists and showcases it well.

Don’t discourage your young men from formal dance classes, root them on and show them that dance is just as powerful as any sport they could play.

The First Day

I can totally remember my daughter’s first dance class.  I remember walking into the dance studio thinking there would be a seat waiting for me to watch welcome refreshments for all of us Moms….ok, ok, I did know there would be no refreshments but I didn’t know I’d be sitting outside with a 10 other moms all vying to peek through one small window to see how our toddler was doing. I also didn’t know that Disney ballerina skirts were not proper dress code. We survived, and so did our dancers.

How do you get ready for your child’s first dance class? TALK to your studio.  Check their WEBSITE. Read those pesky signs posted all outside the dance studio’s walls.  Studios will provide you with their dress codes for each class (some studios are stricter than others), remember there are different shoes for each dance style.  The studio Director can also make recommendations as to where you can purchase these items.  Many studios carry items in their own in-studio stores.  ASK.

For the first time dancer, ask if the studio allows them to watch a class before diving in. Some kids (young and older) may need to see what they are getting into.  Make an appointment to see the studio before your dancer gets started. On that first day, get there a little early so your dancer has a chance to see her classmates; a few connections can be made even before the start of class.

first dance class

Dancers will need to have a dance bag.  It’s not recommended to wear any type of dance shoes outside of the studio, so your dance will have to travel with their shoes in something. Older dancers who are taking more than one class will find it convenient to carry their dance shoes and any change of dancewear they may have. Younger dancers may consider carrying a change of tights, underwear or even a leotard just in case of an emergency (sometimes the little just can’t make it to the bathroom in time…or they may have not wanted to miss the dancing with the wand and didn’t ask). There is such a variety of dance bags available that finding one should not be a problem.

Snacks can be packed if there is time for snacks within the class schedule.  A water bottle is recommended as dancers do work up a thirst.  Make sure to check with your studio before you pack a snack. These days, most studios have policies about snacks due to the many allergies.

Most importantly, don’t let the first day jitters scare you! Enjoy the dance!