Which Dance is Best for Your Child (or You)?
Crazy fact: The MAJORITY of students I’ve taught (yep, more than half), had virtually no idea what style of dance they wanted to start with, or changed their mind within a few lessons – they just knew they wanted to dance. And I’m guessing it’s no easier when your child wants to dance too.
It got me thinking: What if there was some kind of quick breakdown describing each style and its benefits, so you had an idea if it would suit your child BEFORE you enrolled them? Sounds good so far, right?
Before you jump into the descriptions however, there are a few things you should consider first:
- What does your child actually WANT to dance? PRO TIP: Show them videos of different styles and see which ones make them the most excited!
- Your child’s or your goal. Do you see dance being simply a fun thing for them to do? A way to build mental and physical abilities? A chance to watch your child star perform/compete?
- Do they want to learn alone, or in a group? While younger classes emphasize group learning, some dances, like ballroom, offer more private lesson opportunities than others.
- The benefits of the classes. Different dance = different benefits. For example, as I mentioned last week, hip hop was recently recognized as the best form of rigorous activity, if you want a fun way for your child to drop a few pounds.
- How old is your child? Keep in mind that some dance styles may be more difficult to start with than others, so your child might benefit from something more approachable until their coordination and motor skills improve.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s dive into the styles!
Often the first style of dance for very young children, creative movement involves basic activities to music that help children develop body awareness and coordination, while directing their energy and fueling their imagination. It’s an excellent choice for kids preparing to move on to more structured dance styles.
Does your kid practice Michael Jackson moves or idolize Katherine Dunham? The high-energy and polished, explosive moves characterized by these two are classic examples of Jazz. Many kids often start with this one because it has a gentler learning curve than some styles, although you can also start with ballet to give them a boost.
As I mentioned earlier, hip-hop dancing is a great way to burn calories, or just off-gas all that crazy extra energy! Many music videos feature artists rocking hip hop moves, so if your child loves these, consider putting them in a class. Hip-hop numbers are often performed as a group, so there are plenty of chances to make some new friends.
One of the fun aspects of hip-hop is how you can add your own style to what you’re doing, with fewer rules involved. Rebellious and creative kids, this one’s for you!
Polished and precise, structured and sophisticated, ballet is a great fit for those who love staying within the lines. The patience involved with ballet can be a bit taxing, but for those who stick through it, there are a lot of opportunities for future growth, even into the professional realm.
One of the bonuses for learning ballet at an earlier age is the balance, flexibility and stamina involved prepares you for many other dance styles. Definitely recommended if you suspect your child may want to explore more dances in the not-so-distant future.
Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire fans, look out! Tap is perfect for kids with an innate sense of rhythm and self-expression. The tricky patterns and opportunities for improvisation will help deepen their appreciation for different types of music, and it can be easily mixed in with musical theatre numbers.
A good balance and a competitive spirit are key elements to this fusion of acrobatics and classical dance moves. A great fit for athletic kids, as it will build up their strength, coordination, balance and flexibility. Who says you can’t dance AND play sports?
Best if your child starts early, when their flexibility is at a peak.
For the free spirit who hates rules, look no further! Modern/contemporary lets loose with free flowing moves that use the body from head to toe. It often expresses emotion and purpose, for those who like to tell a story through dance. You don’t even need to wear shoes! This one can require a bit more training, so get your kid in early.
Where ballet and jazz meet, lyrical dance expresses itself through quick, smooth transitions, and a storytelling element similar to modern/contemporary. If your kids loves to jump and spin, this might be the one they’re looking for.
Teamwork is the key for these partnered dances, with plenty of ballet-like technique sprinkled into the smooth and elegant moves. Perfect for your little “Cinderella” or “Prince Charming”.
Ballroom includes the foxtrot, tango, waltz, and quickstep, each danced to it’s own style of music, so there’s plenty of variety if your child gets bored easily.
The groovy brother of ballroom, Latin dancing has even more variety to it’s dances, including the salsa, east and west coast swing, cha cha, rumba, samba, and others. Latin emphasizes lots of rhythmic body movements, especially in the hips.
For the jack-of-all trades, Broadway is a madcap mix of modern, ballet, and jazz, often complimented by acting and singing (or at least lip-syncing, at younger ages). It’s a great fit for anyone wanting to “ham it up” on stage, and who knows? You child may become the next “triple threat” Broadway star! Bring your hat and cane 😉
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.