Dance Parents: An FAQ (2.0)
I’ve been talking a lot about how great dance can be for kids (click here and here if you haven’t read my previous two articles). But as a parent, I’m guessing you’re not going to just drive your child to the nearest school, stick them in a class, and assume everything’s going to be okay.
I’ve previously written about the questions parents commonly have when sending their children into the studio for the first time, but I’ve given it an overhaul and swapped out some of the questions with more relevant ones. So now I present to you (cue trumpets): The Parent’s FAQ 2.0!
What age is best for my kid to start dancing?
As soon as they start showing interest! Okay, they should have a few basic things down first, namely the ability to ask for and use the toilet with little assistance, have a decent attention span, and be okay without their caregiver for a short amount of time.
Generally, 3 years of age is the youngest children begin, but some more structured styles of dance like ballet will take even younger. These classes focus on creative movement, while slowly building foundations for more advanced patterns.
Is dance still good for very young children?
Absolutely! A major plus for caregivers is it helps release some of the endless amounts of energy toddlers have (seriously jealous). Combine that with developing creativity, motor skills, musicality, and body awareness, and you have one of the best forms of healthy exercise out there.
What kind of dance should I start my child with?
This can be tricky – do you think they’ll want to dance for the long run, or is this a temporary dance fling? If it’s the former, ballet classes will develop many of the skills your little guy/gal needs – posture, flexibility, strength, etc. – to look good dancing many other styles.
If this feels more like those piano lessons they got bored of after 3 weeks however, I suggest enrolling them in a few dance styles, to see what they like most. Or if that’s a bit hard on the wallet, put them in a dance camp, where they will be introduced to multiple styles. Ultimately, the best style of dance for your child is the one they’re interested in!
Which studio is best for my child?
Ask yourself (or your child): What do they want? If they just want to move and have fun, look for studios that emphasize that over competitions and recitals. On the other hand, if he or she has a competitive streak and/or seems to have a “knack” for dance, consider a place with more serious credentials.
A few other especially important questions:
- What variety of classes is available?
- What is the ratio of students to instructors?
- Do children compete in dance competitions or recitals?
- Does the studio plan other special activities?
- Are the dance floors cushioned?
- Which instructor(s) are teaching the class(es) my child is interested in?
PRO TIP: Ask the other parents what they think of the studio – be sure to check in with them while your kid is on the floor!
What should I ask the dance teacher?
Once you have an idea of the kind of class your child wants, take a look on the website for the instructor bios – there’s often everything you need to know about them here. If that’s not enough, here’s a few more you can ask the teacher when you meet in person:
- What are your qualifications?
- What’s your approach, or teaching method?
- Do you emphasize proper technique, or fun movement?
- Do they have other dance projects they are a part of? (So you can show your child what they can do on stage!)
How much do lessons cost?
Pricing in the studio depends on it’s and the instructor’s qualifications, how long the lessons are, and how large the program you buy is. In my research, I’ve seen prices range from $30 all the way to $140 per month. Some studios also charge a registration fee as well. And keep in mind that private lessons cost considerably more than groups.
Also, most studios also have a recital at the end of the term, where kids can celebrate their new moves for their families. There’s usually a costume involved in this, costing between $50-75.
What should my child wear to their classes?
Thanks to Dance Parent 101 for this comprehensive answer. For ballet, jazz, acro dance, or tap, start with one of these options:
- Leggings and a singlet top or T-shirt
- Shorts or bike shorts and a singlet top or T-shirt
- A leotard with leggings (so they can be barefoot)
- A leotard with tights and soft soled shoes
- Tracksuit pants and a singlet top or T-shirt
- Yoga pants and a singlet top or T-shirt
Hip hop or similar classes are a lot more casual, featuring loose and breathable street clothes. It’s a good idea to ask studios what their dress code is, but don’t feel you have to buy a uniform on the first day.
And let’s not forget the shoes!
- For ballet: Ballet slippers in leather or canvas is ideal, or barefoot or a very soft soled shoe otherwise.
- For tap: Tap shoes, or a hard soled shoe (to make noise when tapped on the floor).
- For jazz: You guessed it – jazz shoes! Otherwise bare feet, soft soled shoes, or even joggers will do.
- For Hip Hop: Joggers, runners, or trainers.
- For acrodance: Nothing – keep those feet bare!
Why can’t I watch my child during their class?
Yeah, it may seem a bit weird. But truth is, kids focus best when mommy or daddy aren’t nearby to distract them. It can also put extra pressure on them if family members are watching, or they may act out more frequently.
If it really bothers you, some studios like Joy of Dance have a glass wall with a frosted pane at eye level, so all you have to do is stand up to know how much fun your kid is having!
My child is overweight, but still wants to dance! What should I do?
Great! Maybe I’m a bit (definitely) biased here, but dance is the most fun way I know to stay in shape. And at any age, we know that avoiding carbs and sugar, while trying to exercise more, can be the opposite of fun.
Dance instructors well experienced with children can help develop their confidence and their abilities, so they won’t just improve, they’ll enjoy the process. Overweight children are often bullied at school, and dance classes can become like a “secret superpower”, something that reminds them how awesome they really are.
Oh, and by the way, a recent study looking at 66 styles of dance scored Hip Hop as the best source of rigorous physical activity for children, so if you’re looking for a fun way to help them burn calories, that’s the way to go! You can check out Hip Hop and other dance styles for kids and teens here.
About the Author
Ian Crewe has been dancing ballroom for over 18 years, and has a Licentiate in American smooth and rhythm. His passion for dance eventually led him to blogging and the World Wide Web. Ian currently teaches at the Joy of Dance Centre, Toronto, ON, Canada.