How Young is Too Young?


Ballet Basics

Youth Classes

Formal Ballet Training usually begins at age 6 to 7 because ballet is not about pretty costumes.  It's about technique.  The biggest part of  technique is body alignment (posture).  Most children under age 5 have "hollow back" - curvature of the spine at the small of the back.  It is impossible to assume correct ballet body alignment until the "hollow back" disappears.  Toddler bones are soft.  Efforts to turn out the feet before the body is physically ready can cause rolling of the ankles - a serious problem in the years that follow.

What Can Parents Do To Help?

1) Encourage dance.mmPlay music and let child move to it.

2) Take child to as many performances as possible.

3) Find books and videos about dance, especially ones that inspire and share the stories of the classics, and of how hard work pays off. Watch the many videos of the Ballet Classics such as Swan Lake. Skip the cute books showing little kids poorly positioned, in costumes taking ballet classes.

4) Visit good dance schools and observe advance dance classes. Many company schools have windows into studios. With advance permission, you can stand in the hall and watch and learn.

5) Parents, if you really want to help, take a few ballet classes. It's the only way to understand what your child is trying to do.  If possible, take class with your child. Then you practice at home in front of child and guess what? Child will ask to practice with you.

6) Volunteer your time to the studio, or recital. You will learn a lot working side by side with other more experienced dance parents.

7) While quick questions are usually welcome, many instructors are on a tight schedule. The minutes prior to class are mental preparation time for teaching the class.) If you need a lengthy conversation, make an appointment or email. Always get answers for your questions; just find the right time.

What Can Parent Do To Hurt?

Some of the following may seem ridiculous, but I have had them happen in my studio more than once.

1) Purchase Pointe Shoes for child without instructor permission.

2) Be consistently late for class.

3) Criticize the teacher in front of the child.

4) Come into class but instead of watching, talk loudly to the parent sitting next to you.  (Dance studios are different from bleachers at a ball game.)

5) Give directions to your child while child is in class. “Pay Attention” and other comments should only be given before and after class.

6) Tell the teacher and your friends how awkward and uncoordinated your child is, while your child is standing near, listening.

Does Pre-Ballet

Help or Hurt?

Beginning ballet at age 5 or younger has become popular.  Much depends on readiness which varies from individual to individual.  A child must:
Be able to follow instructions.
Be able to listen and try to do as told.
Have an attention span of more than 15 minutes.
Be potty trained.
MUST want to dance!

Pre-Ballet Classes can be fun, provide exercise, improve coordination,  memory, and observation skills. while the child waits for the body to develop.  But there are drawbacks.  1) The body must develop before the child can advance into learning really cool steps. 2) The child thinks of the class as ballet.  If the class is all fun and games then the child thinks formal training is all fun and games.  3) It's often the child's first experience with a teacher.  If the teacher sugar coats everything (and passes out candy at the end of class) the child will have a skewed view of what teachers are like. 4) For many young students, getting pointe (toe) shoes is the goal of taking ballet classes.  This can't happen until age 10.  Starting as a toddler makes the goal of getting pointe shoes a very distant goal.  Children are not motivated to work for something 5+ years away.
Best Time for Dancing
Pre-Ballet Classes Can Teach:
1) Class Structure (ballet is barre followed by center floor and cross floor combinations.)

2) The basic positions 1st, 2nd, 3rd, are safe (save 4th and 5th for formal training age.)

3) All arm positions

4) Formations (dancing in lines, circles, squares.

5)Most of all it can teach the joy of movement.

Note to teachers: 
Remember the attention spam is short.  Frequent changes in formations can help.  Never keep a child dancing until she or he is tired of dancing.  End class while they still want more.
Updated: Feb. 21, 2021
© = R. W. Faulkner