How Will Your Child Benefit from Learning Jazz Dance?

Tween Jazz Dancer in Rend

There are many misconceptions about dance and being a dancer. It’s sometimes perceived as being “fluffy” or not as rigorous as sports. However, dancers, from advanced students to instructors, know that this is far from the truth. In order to become a dancer, you need to be strong and fierce, and there’s nothing fluffy about it. Another misconception is that you only have one or two choices. This may have been true in the past, but now there are so many types of dance lessons to choose from.

Take a jazz dance class in Batavia, and learn more than just dance moves.

Ballet is the most recognized form of dance, but if that’s not your style, there are many other choices available to you. Jazz dance is one of those choices. Jazz is rooted in early American and Caribbean dance styles, and it’s a more contemporary mode of expression than Ballet. Fortunately it also has many of the same benefits as ballet, plus some of it’s own.

Your Child Will Burn Calories Faster

Childhood obesity is on the rise, but you can fight it by keeping your child active. Taking dance classes two times a week can burn up to 250 to 500 calories per session, but that’s not all! The more muscle your child builds, the more calories he or she will burn throughout the day. That brings us to our next advantage!

Your Child Will Have Stronger Muscles

Strong muscles are essential for being fit, plus they burn fat and calories more efficiently. Jazz dance strengthens the heart. This is good news, because if your child strengthens their heart, they’re less likely to have heart disease as an adult.  In addition to making your child’s muscles stronger, the movement in Jazz dance makes your child’s muscles more flexible. This means less sports injuries and better posture; which brings us to our next benefit!

Your Child Will Have Better Balance

Stronger muscles mean better balance and posture. This will also lead to less sports injuries, but it goes beyond this immediate benefit. Better balance and posture means less chance of developing hip, leg or back issues as an adult. Plus, a straight back helps you hold your head high, which is another advantage!

Your Child Will Have Greater Confidence

When your child takes Jazz dance lessons, they will hold their head high! Learning any kind of dance can help someone become more confident about their body and how their body moves. And in an age where kids have low self-confidence and poor body image, this is so important. Jazz dance also teaches a child how to both be in the spotlight and work as a team, which are invaluable lessons that reach far beyond the dance floor. These skills will put your child ahead of the game in high school, college, the workforce and beyond.

Your Child Will Have Less Stress

A little stress is motivating, too much is just plain damaging. Unfortunately even our kids know how detrimental stress can be in their lives. With tests scores, SATs, STEM school and college applications, our children are under more stress than generations before them. But Jazz dance lessons can effectively reduce stress, much like meditation or Yoga. Jazz requires you to let all of your other thoughts go and just focus on your movement. This helps your child to “un-cloud their mind,” lower their heart rate and reduce cortisol levels; so they return to their studies, tests and application essays with renewed calm and composure.

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What Is The Right Age For Kids To Start Tap Dance Classes?

Once kids have moved beyond the toddler years and are steady on their feet, parents begin to realize that they need a constructive outlet for all that energy! Thoughts inevitably turn to dance. While ballet is a popular choice, tap dance classes might be a better fit, especially for boys. The style is a bit more energetic, helping to get those wiggles out, the demands on the body are less rigorous, and what kid can resist the tap-tap-tap of those fancy shoes?

The question then becomes what’s the best age for kids to start tap dance classes?

How To Determine If Your Child Is Ready For Tap Dance Classes

Novice Girls Tap Dance Trio

You can find fun, informal tap dance classes for kids as young as two, but whether or not you enroll in one depends on the interest, abilities, and attention span of the individual. Placing them in a class that demands more than they can give isn’t good for the individual participant or the rest of the students. You risk injury, turning the child off to dancing, or disrupting the class if the child isn’t ready for formal lessons.

To help decide if the time is right for formal instruction, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Is my child at least 3 years old? While kids definitely show an interest in music and dance at an earlier age, they simply don’t have the maturity level needed to participate in formal lessons. Encourage their interest, keep them moving, and even enroll them in informal classes, but unless they can control themselves and follow classroom instruction, wait a bit before enrolling.
  1. Is my child physically able to participate in a class? Kids need to have strong motor control skills in order to participate in formal lessons. Even if he or she meets the age requirements of the class, the child may not have the physical capabilities to meet the demands of dancing.
  1. How does my child feel about performing in front of others? Recitals are demanding and can be scary for some kids. If your son or daughter is not ready to be on stage and perform for strangers, look for an informal class that does not require performances.
  1. Is my child comfortable enough to attend class without me? Comfort taking instruction from the teacher without a parent present is a must. At this age, the most important skill the teacher has is the ability to connect with the kids, remain enthusiastic and supportive, yet in charge of the class. The more fun the class is, the more comfortable children are without parents in the room.

Dance Opportunities Are Everywhere

So many of the decisions you’ll make as parents will come down to what’s best for your child and your family. Starting tap dance classes is no different. Keep in mind that there will still be classes when your child is ready. There’s no need to rush it and you have plenty of options to keep their interest growing in the meantime. Dance at home. Find a creative movement class. Enroll in a Mommy & Me class. Watch some tap videos on You Tube. Anything that keeps their little bodies moving and coordination skills improving will prepare them for eventual classes.

Ready To Go En Pointe At Your Ballet Dance School? Ask Yourself These Questions

Female ballet dancer

Going en pointe, or learning to dance on your toes, is a major milestone for a ballet student. It’s a sign that you’ve mastered the basics and are ready to move on to bigger challenges. Moving on to this new skill is your stepping stone to performing the classics, such as The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, or Giselle.

However, this isn’t something you can just jump into. Your instructor will evaluate you as you progress in your dancing classes and decide when you are ready to advance. What criteria will the instructor be looking for? Ask yourself the following questions to see if you’re ready for the next step.

How Old Are You?

Dancing on your toes puts enormous strain on your feet; therefore, it’s very important that your bones are strong enough to handle it. If you start too young, you risk permanently damaging your feet. The bones in the feet are usually finished developing by about age 11 or 12, so that is the minimum age that a reputable ballet dance school will start pointe instruction.

How Long Have You Been Dancing?

Even if you’re above the minimum age, dancing on your toes is not something you can jump right into. You need a solid foundation in the basics before you can even think about picking up a pair of pointe shoes. A good ballet dance school will require at least two to three years of lessons before you can learn to go en pointe. This amount of time is necessary to master basic dance skills and to perfect your form. If you’re still having difficulty maintaining turnout, for example, you’re definitely not ready to take this next step. Take some extra time to perfect the basics before you expect to move on.

Are You Strong Enough?

Dancing en pointe requires immense strength in your feet and legs, even more than you might realize. After all, those delicate bones in your toes have to support your entire body weight! If your muscles aren’t up to the task, you risk serious injury that could end your dancing days altogether. To test your strength, try doing 16 relevés in a row in demi-pointe, maintaining perfect form throughout. If you can’t quite do it, you’re not yet strong enough to go fully en pointe.

How Much Time Do You Spend At Your Ballet Dance School?

Even more than other disciplines, ballet requires a big time commitment if you want to advance, and one class a week just isn’t enough. You’ll need to commit to at least three lessons per week to maintain your strength and skill. Usually you’ll have a regular ballet class followed by a pointe class to ensure that your feet, ankles, and legs are properly stretched and warmed up before you put additional strain on them.

Are You Prepared For A “No”?

If you’re ready to ask your instructor whether it’s time to advance, it’s important to keep in mind that the answer might be “no”. Pointe work isn’t for everybody. Even if you meet all of the above criteria, it’s possible that your feet just won’t allow it. The ideal foot for advanced ballet techniques has a high arch, a flexible ankle, and toes that are about the same length to provide a stable surface. If you have low arches or if your second toe is longer than your big toe, you could risk serious injury by pushing yourself too far. If this is the case, just remember that pointe work is not required to enjoy ballet. You can still have an enjoyable and fulfilling dancing experience even if you stick to demi-pointe.

While it’s not required for all ballerinas, getting your first pair of pointe shoes is an experience that dancers remember for the rest of their lives. Just take it slow, listen to your instructor, and don’t push yourself too hard, and you’ll find that a whole new world of dance has opened up for you.

 

Why Contemporary Dance May Be The Perfect Choice For Your Child

Group of ballet dancers in studioSome kids thrive of the order and discipline that a traditional dance form like ballet or tap offers. Other kids obviously want to be involved with dance, but they balk at the strict conformity required for those dance forms. Contemporary dance uses a basic vocabulary of dance moves that come from ballet, jazz, and even tap, but it uses those moves in a very different way, which can offer a child more ways to explore and create. In terms of philosophy, Contemporary dance shares more with modern and post-modern dance. Contemporary dance focuses on the composition of the dance: Using body, space, and time to create an artistic impression. Improvisation is one element of contemporary dance, and good classes will encourage students to try improv, but choreography is still used, though not in as rigid a way as, say, ballet.

Endless Variety

Variety is one major reason that Contemporary dance can not only attract the attention of a child, but also hold onto it as he or she practices, learns, and grows throughout the years. From the powerful legwork employed in classical ballet to the center-body focus of modern dance, to dramatic elements like floor work, fall and recover, and contract-release, unexpected changes in speed, direction, and rhythm, the use of humor, and elements borrow from other cultures, such as African or Japanese dance, there’s always something new for students to try, and new ways to express themselves.

Practice Without Pleading

In addition to the fitness benefits, kids who take part in dance tend to develop better posture, balance, and flexibility, and beyond that, they tend to think more creatively and be more confident in all aspects of life. Dance can reduce stress and anxiety and lessen depression. In order to maximize those benefits, though, kids need to receive good teaching through regular classes, and to practice frequently. For many parents, getting their kids to practice can be a stress-inducing challenge. Because Contemporary dance lends itself to improvisation and to many different kinds of music, though, kids may find themselves practicing without any cajoling at all. You may even find yourself setting down a “no dancing at the dinner table” rule for your kids; wouldn’t that be a pleasant change?

Choices To Suit Your Child

For very young children, a more fun approach that introduces but doesn’t stress technique may be a good choice. If your child gets a feel for Contemporary dance as a fun thing, and wants to continue, they can begin to take classes that focus more on form and technique when they want to improve. Because Contemporary dance includes so many different things, you might try some different teachers and studios until you find one that makes your child light up. We are all willing to work harder to improve at something we enjoy. If we’re not having fun, practicing to perfect technique is painstaking drudgery, and eventually, we’ll find an excuse to quit. Help your child find a reason to love dance, and it’s quite likely it will become a lifetime activity, if not a full-blown passion.

 

How To Help Your Child Fall In Love With Dance Training

It’s true of almost all human endeavors; we work hardest to succeed at, and we are most apt to stick with, the things we love. One of the most important things parents can do to help their children develop a love of dance is to choose the right type and variety of dance training for each child’s ability, personality, and temperament. Obviously, the older the child, the easier it is to discover how engaged he or she is, and to discuss their feelings and preferences. Sometimes, kids will be resistant to dance training at first, simply because they don’t know what to expect, or because their friends are involved in something different. One effective way to work with your child in that situation is a contract. The child agrees to give dance a fair chance and genuine effort for a specific time period – possibly one semester or one school year – and the parent agrees that if the child doesn’t want to continue at the end of that time, the parents will let it go.

For kids too young to communicate effectively about their opinions and feelings, and for kids “on contract,” parents can help boost their kids’ chances of success by observing, questioning, encouraging, and adjusting.

  • Observe Your Child – After a few classes, start evaluating your child’s behavior outside of class: Is she excitedly packing her dance bag the night before class? Is he showing friends and family the cool, new things he’s learning? Is there excited chatter in the car on the way home from class? Congratulations, your kid is loving dance! Are you having to coax, cajole, or drag your child to get ready for class and to practice in between class days? Is the ride home suspiciously silent? You probably need to help that child out a little!
  • Observe Classes – Watch how your child interacts with the teacher and with classmates. Does your child respond positively to the teacher? Is he or she bonding with classmates and being part of the class or hanging around on the fringe? Are there other students trying to “boss” your child? Is your child trying to boss other students? A good teacher will put a quick halt to that kind of behavior, but if you see it going unchecked and directed toward your child, discuss it with the teacher. If your child is the one doing it, explain that only the teacher should be correcting or critiquing students.
  • Question – How you go about asking questions depends on your child’s age, self-awareness, and communication skills. Use your observations to start asking questions without suggesting excuses, especially with younger or less communicative kids, who are likely to latch onto a suggested excuse rather than work through the real issue. Keep the questions casual and just one or two at a time; if you start rapid-firing questions, you’re less likely to get genuine answers.
  • Encourage – Use your observations to encourage your child specifically – for example, “Wow, that was a great correction you made after Mrs. Smith asked you to change your hands!” – in addition to offering general encouragement like, “That was a tough class. I’m so proud of you for working hard and doing such a great job!” Being a beginner is tough, and no one likes the feeling of being not-very-good at something. Let your child know this is how everyone feels when they try something new. You might be surprised how big a difference such simple affirmations can make in your child’s attitude. “This is what you can do today. Keep trying, and tomorrow, you’ll be able to do even more!”

childrens-dance-training-batavia.jpgSpeaking of practice, you can help them discover ways to make practice more fun, too. Do it with them, ask them to show you how to do it, be silly and do it wrong on purpose, so they’ll have to keep showing you how to do it. Explaining something they are learning will help them to break down the moves and cement the concepts in their minds, and the repetition will help build muscle memory.

  • Adjust The Dance Training – Watch, listen, and read between the lines when needed; no one knows your child as well as you do. If you feel your child isn’t responding well to a certain teacher’s style, try a different class. There are a lot of situations that can be easily adjusted without giving up. Maybe your child is super tired after class. Does he have P.E. at school on class day? Change class days. Maybe you learn that your child needs a little better fitness in order to keep up. See if there is a little less intense dance class available. If not, discuss it with the teacher, then re-assure your child that it’s ok to do as much as he or she can, and take a little breaks as needed. Maybe you’ll find that your child needs a less structured class or a different form of dance. The most important thing to remember is that you and your child need to give enough time to each new thing or setting, before deciding to move along and try something else.

Benefits For Childhood And Beyond

Dance training helps kids to focus and develop self-discipline, not only in dance, but also in all aspects of their lives. It can help with literacy and attention issues, in addition to more obvious health benefits like flexibility, cardiovascular health, and joint health. Dance reduces stress and gives a heightened sense of self-awareness and self-confidence. Making the effort now to help your child fall in love with dance can give them life-long benefits.