With so much emphasis on improving a child's fitness and wellbeing nowadays, where do dance classes come into the equation, and why does ballet in particular offer so many benefits for a child's development from an early age?
Firstly, for a child to develop well, they need good nutrition, stable and happy family relationships, positive cognitive activities to stimulate the brain and appropriate physical activity. Being active from an early age is important for children to grow into confident adults. So what makes ballet lessons especially good for a kid's development?
According to the National Dance Education Organization, dance offers a greater range of motion, coordination, endurance and strength than most other physical activities. The top dance collages in the UK (from balletic to contemporary to musical theatre training), insist a good ballet technique is required to attend their courses - if you want to dance for future employment, ballet is on most dance collages' curriculum. But even if you don't want to be a professional dancer in general, ballet is where you learn the basics. It's a little like playing the piano - if you want to do the difficult pieces, you must have the proper grounding of learing the building blocks such as scales and musical interpretation. Even if dance is not your main area of interest, ballet lessons improve posture, flexibility, coordination, strength and grace. They also provide an opportunity for kids to be active regardless of the weather outdoors. Most children who learn ballet at an early age learn the benefits of holding themselves upright and walking gracefully, which gives a positive impression in today's society. It also shows confidence.
Ballet classes teach kids discipline and confidence which can help with emotional maturity. They need to follow directions closely and control their urges to run around the wide-open spaces of the dance floor, and enhances pride and focus during performance. Confidence grows as more public performances are done, providing there is enough positive encouragement both in the class and at home.
Ballet lessons have three major cognitive benefits:
1) increasing vocabulary through learning the French names of the steps and hearing the musical terms
2) develops coordination by intergrating with music and reacting to sounds
3) memorizing new dance steps and whole choreographic pieces
The third point really does develop the creative part of the brain, as so many elements are needed when dancing - learning the steps, applying these stpes with maturity and grace, and reacting to the music so that both art forms (music and dance) become one. Some of our academic pupils (who perform well in school) comment positively about how these cognitive elements have to be combined in a typical dance class, especially ballet. ".....i really have to think about the steps as well as applying them correctly, and then perform them in an artisitc way".
The social benefits (like all sports) are obvious. Ballet classes encourage kids to form new friendships and interact positively to sounds.
To summarise, ballet forms the foundation of dance. It teaches poise, elegance, cognitive and physical benefits (professional ballet dancers are amongst the fittest and strongest "athletes" around). It also teaches maturity and understanding that really benefits a child when they grow.
At the Reigate School of Ballet, we have known the importance of a good ballet training from the start, since the school opened over 50 years ago. However, ballet can be delivered in a stuffy and uninspiring way, but this is not the case at our school. Our dance classes offer many imaginative and fun activities, which is why we have so many pupils continue with their ballet while learning other dance styles such as commercial street dance or modern. Our interaction with our children really instills a fun yet disciplined environment which the kids enjoy - the foundation of our dance classes has always been fun, fun fun, while teaching the basics, which will aid the pupils further in their development.
So, even if you think your son or daughter are not going to be the next Nureyev or Darcey Bussell, give them an opportunity and experience that will enhance them both physically and mentally for the future, which can only benefit them for life.