As kids go back to school and fall sets in, parents look for fun activities to keep their children engaged, healthy and thriving. Dance is a wonderful choice that will bring much excitement, joy and accomplishments to children everywhere. Dance combines art with athleticism. It is healthy for the mind, body and soul. As a matter of fact, the academic advantages that dance can give students is well-documented, studied and proven. Not only that, it provides a terrific opportunity for appropriate social interactions and offers a team-like atmosphere with life lessons around every corner. As a parent that may be new to the dance world, knowing what this new venture is all about can bring on many questions. Have no fears, this is an amazing journey for your child. Let us help you get off to a terrific start in the wonderful world of dance and bring your child smiles for years to come.
PICKING A DANCE SCHOOL -
Many families living busy lives between work, school and family activities, like to find a dance school within their local community. Location is often important to families. You will also want to consider the genre of dance offered and if this fits with your child's dance goals. Genres include classes such as: tap, jazz, ballet, acrobatics, pointe, lyrical, hip hop, modern and even ballroom or ethnic style dancing. Will your child want to take classes recreationally or competively? You may want to consider what your child may want out of their dance classes a few years down the road, as well. Will the studio provide growth opportunities down the road? It is such a wonderful experience to grow up in a dance family environment where you can grow with the same teachers from the time they are young until the time they graduate. Choosing a studio that offers growth opportunities right from the start is a good choice. The dance teachers can make all the difference. I would strongly suggest choosing a studio that offers teachers with experience, training and knowledge. Looking for a studio with teachers who have experience, degrees or certifications in fields such dance or education is a smart choice. Experience and knowledge matter, ESPECIALLY FOR THE YOUNGEST DANCERS! This is the time they will build their dance foundation and love for the art of dance.
2. WHAT WILL YOU NEED FOR CLASS:
Dancers will need proper attire for their classes. Your studio will likely have some sort of dress code and you should check with them on what they require. First, you will need dance shoes designed for the genre you will be taking. Many studios sell dance shoes right at their studio, which will ensure you are getting the correct style expected. You can expect you will also need a leotard for class. Wearing a leotard to dance is equivalent to wearing a swim suit while swimming. Your teacher will need to see your body lines to offer you corrections to improve your dancing. You will also need attire that is easy to move in. Dancers are expected to wear their hair up and limit their jewelry during class (for safety). You will need to have a supply of hair items, such as rubber bands and bobby pins to secure your hair up. There are many other things that a dancer can carry with them in their dance bags, like tights or snacks, but shoes, leotards and hair supplies are essential. That said, having a dance bag to carry your shoes in is quite standard. You should make a note that you do not want to wear your dance shoes outside, as this can ruin them.
3. LABEL EVERYTHING
When you go to class, everyone has the same style shoes and outfits and if you have kids, you know, things get misplaced. Labeling everything makes your life easier. If you do loose something, check the studio lost and found.
4. CHECK THE INFORMATION
The studio website, along with studio emails and studio bulletin boards will hold a lot of information. Be sure to mark your calendars for important dates and studio events. Dance classes require tuition being paid on time, therefore check the studio policies on tuition. Will you pay all at once or monthly? Many studios have automatic monthly payments and you may need to provide bank/card information to your account. Dancers usually perform in a show. Will there be a costume? If yes, when will they measure for the costume and when are costume fees due. You may want to create a daily schedule to help you stay organized. Balancing school and extra-curricular activities is easiest when you are organized.
5. PARENT NETWORKING
One thing you will find in the dance world is parents willing to help you on your journey. Other parents can truly be wonderful guides and helpers. If a parent has experience, they are usually willing to offer their guidance and help. If you have a friendly group of parents within your classes, they can be lifesavers. Helping each other out is beneficial to each other and can create strong bonds of friendship and offers a terrific example to your children.
6. TRUST THE TEACHERS
As you embark on your dance journey, and if you have chosen a studio that fits your desires best, you likely considered the teachers. The teachers have the training, skills, experience and knowledge for your dancer. A good teacher will always have their students best interests and safety at heart. If you have questions along the way, do not be afraid to reach out to the teacher or the studio director.
7. LET YOUR KIDS ENJOY THE JOURNEY
Dance is wonderful journey for kids. Parents are a great team member of their child's journey. They offer praise and support in so many ways. Parents need to remember that each child progresses and enjoys their experiences different than another, and differently than you. Your child will find the areas they excel in and the genres that bring them the most joy, and sometimes, they may surprise you. You may think they would be a terrific jazz dancer, but it turns out they really love to tap. We recommend parents offer praise and help their kids love the dance journey they are on. Hey, you may be that parent who was a basketball player growing up, but somehow your child found their way into the art of dance and they absolutely love it, and you have no clue where to begin. Breath easy my friend - your are doing great - you are following your child's path and you just need to support and encourage them and get them to where they need to be at the right time. Their dance teacher can handle the rest. A high school physics teacher doesn't expect every parent knows everything about physics and rest assured, the dance teacher understands this as well. Be the best parent you can be, because no one can love your child as good as you.
8. DANCE LEVELS/GRADED PROGRAMS
When you are signing your kids up for dance, it can be very difficult for a parent to select the correct dance level. After all, isn't dance somewhat subjective, as it is an art form? Right? First, do not compare your child to another. Although dance is a creative art form, it also is a physical activity which requires the correct knowledge, training and strength to learn new skills. In math, you learn to add before you learn to multiply. You learn your ABC's before you learn how to spell words. Dance is the same and I recommend looking for a dance studio that has a level/graded program, as this will provide your dancer with the most complete and comprehensive training. Level/graded dance program training sometimes uses what is called "the stack-on method", much like building blocks. You keep adding on. Your dance teacher (or the studio director), will likely evaluate you and select the class level best for you. If you are new to a studio and do not know what level to register for, I suggest reaching out to the teacher or the studio director. Remember that each dancer learns differently, both physically and mentally. Teacher's work very hard to offer guidance and corrections to their students and have the dancer's safety as a priority. The number one way to progress the quickest is to show up and work hard each week. Attendance and effort make a huge difference. It is also important to be able to listen and apply the teachers corrections consistently. A correction is not given to insult, but rather is given out of love. If a teacher cares, they will correct you. It is very important not to advance a student to the next level until they are ready, both physically and emotionally. Movements build upon each other and performance skills grow with experience. Dancers who have not mastered the essential skills from a previous level will not be able to learn the new skills in higher levels and they will, therefore, risk serious injury physically, as well as the loss of confidence. Have your teacher and studio director help you find the most appropriate level and trust their expertise. This will ultimately give your dancer the most comprehensive and safest dance experience filled with confidence.
As you embark on your dance journey with your child, rest easy. Look for a great dance school from the start, purchase the correct shoes and supplies for class, label everything, check the information resources regularly (like emails, websites and studio bulletin boards), network with other parents, trust your dance teachers, let your kids enjoy their dance journey and participate in class levels that are safest for your child (both physically and emotionally). Dance is a wonderful activity for kids and the benefits are tremendous. Enjoy your journey.
Kim Mader, Footworks Director