The Importance of Dance for Young Children

Most parents love the idea of sending their little one to their very first dance class. The allure of the graceful movement, the idea of the grand stage, and the prospect of a future professional dancer is enough to open up a google search and find the closest local dance school. In truth, most dance students don’t grow up to be the professional dancer in Swan Lake, so why dance? Better yet, why start dancing at such a young age and can it actually help get them ready for school? 

It is widely known that children learn a lot through movement in early development. Dance and movement is a major factor in helping teach young children how to negotiate the world. Studies have shown that physical movement paired with pretend imagery can help children actually enjoy learning as well as aid in increased focus, retention, speed, and even math and logic concepts.

When children are learning to move to music, they are counting actual numbers and dissecting the rhythm and beats of music. Movement actually helps spark the growth of new brain cells! When kids learn to chassé by thinking of a horse chasing his friend, they are using areas of their brain essential to problem-solving, recall, and body-awareness as well as reinforcing verbal and social cues.

Dance has emotional benefits, too. Children participating in dance classes learn emotional regulation, sensory processing, discipline, and social empathy- the ability to sense and understand emotions in others. The nature of a well-planned dance class allows for children of all abilities to work at these developmental skills at their own level. 

We know that movement helps aid in learning across all areas of development, so why not just pop some music on at home and let your kiddo wiggle around the living room? While that is definitely encouraged in normal everyday play, a class setting and, more specifically a ballet class, provides more learning and social opportunities than just imaginative play at home.

French terms learned in a ballet class help kids connect verbal cues to physical movement. While working on a technical skill, a dance student is using cognitive recall to bring back to memory what they did the week before. In moving around in a dance room, a student is learning body awareness and spatial reasoning. When waiting in line or waiting for the music to start, even small children are learning social skills. The rigorous nature of ballet creates a disciplined student who can problem solve, has mind-body awareness, and is enhancing their sensory processing skills by connecting movement with auditory input. Ballet offers many long-term benefits that kids would profit from attaining. 

Children move the instant they are born and continue to learn through moving as they develop in the early elementary years. Studies show that encouraging creative movement at an early age helps produce adults in the workforce who are better at problem-solving and peer interaction. Dance class is a safe, low-stress environment that offers students multiple opportunities for understanding and exploring their world and their emotions! Let them twirl in their tutu and know that you are helping them grow their brains and create life skills that will benefit them for the rest of their lives.

 

Our Schedule Saved Me

This year has been pure havoc…amiright? Everything…and I mean EVERYTHING…has been affected in our lives. We have all had a lesson in flexibility and patience and fortitude…I could go on. But, for me, there has been a shining light that has kept me steady many-a-day through these “unprecedented times:” my Dance Schedule.

 

I have been lucky enough to have a safe haven at Red Door Dance Academy during the last 11 months that has been key in keeping me from going over the edge at least half a dozen times. In a world that changes constantly, sometimes several times a day, my schedule at work with all my dancer babies has anchored me. 

 

I truly believe that my mental health has benefitted from having my daily rituals for teaching and movement to keep me accountable, organized and happy.  Humans crave schedules and community. 

 

We all need people that depend on us to show up-especially during covid (I refuse to capitalize it because it doesn’t deserve it) when literally nothing is certain but uncertainty.  Red Door has risen to the challenge by keeping us on a routine and building a thriving community of #reddoorstrong families that depend on each other for our mental health.  

 

Knowing that I have somewhere to be at a certain time with a group of kids, on Zoom at first, and now in person, has been my metaphorical helmet that protects me against crashing into the chaos that covid creates. Yes, some days are hard-really hard-but I know I will feel better once I log in/walk in for classes and talk to my dance students and I always do.

 

We get to share this experience and help each other through it. And my dancers definitely do help ME through it because they expect me to be in classes WITH them! 

 

That has been the greatest gift I could ever have hoped for in a situation I never imagined would be reality. Reliability. Community. Family. Thank you to all my Red Door Family for getting me through this insanity!

 

From The Inside Looking Out…

I love working at the front desk watching the dancers arrive, but Covid has brought big changes to dance. Days at the studio now have, for the most part, an empty lobby. Most dancers enter the studio directly from outside, so I see so few of them this year, but the same magic of dance class is happening inside those dance rooms.

 

Let me think back to “The Golden Years”, before March, 2020. Our studio lobby is full of dancers. Buns bobbing everywhere, boys in black ballet shoes and white shirts. Some dancers are serious, some are laughing and joking with others, some are just trying not to be late and a few are really shy and not sure they want to go into the room. New dancers arriving in August are sometimes shy, maybe a little scared, and unsure of themselves. As the weeks go on, these dancers get more confident and sure of themselves. Most will participate in the end of year recital and my goodness! I am backstage at the recitals and the dancers leaving the stage have a glow and excitement that is priceless. They have learned that all their commitment and hard work has paid off. They have performed as a team and what a joy they feel in their accomplishments.

 

Most will want to come back next year.  A few will decide that dance is not their biggest interest and may move on, but every dancer that leaves here knows more about themselves than they did when they started. I mean look at our more experienced dancers! They have such confidence! The poise a dancer carries on the dance floor will stay with them their entire life. The friendships they develop will also stay with them for life.

 

Then there are the parents.

 

I really love the parents, too. You parents are a big part of the dancer’s success. They succeed because you support them. You get them here, you get them home. You adjust meal times and sometimes bedtimes around dance activities.  You may think all you do is chauffeur them around, but the biggest thing you do for them is … support them. They enter the dance classroom alone without you, they learn and grow and try and learn some more. They alone will decide whether to continue dance for years or let other activities take priority. Your support lets them decide who they are. They make their own decision about how much to practice, whether they want to be good or GREAT, which you really can’t change that much. But you CAN, and you mostly do, let them grow up. 

 

It’s pretty hard sometimes. My daughter started dance when she was very young.  She loved everything about dance. We had to rearrange schedules to be sure we could get her to the many classes she wanted to participate in. In the beginning, we weren’t sure how serious she would be about dance.  But she loved it and dropped some other activities to allow for it, but we never knew it would end up a career for her. We were just there for her and she made her own decisions. Your daughter or son (or all of them) will too. So just give them some space and allow them to make their own decisions.

 

Oh, and be sure to try on that costume AS SOON AS YOU GET IT.  But I digress.

I can’t wait for the lobbies to open again. Come see me sometime! (or Call. Covid, you know.)