Everyday Living October 13th, 2017

6 Ways To Make Your Child's First Dance Class A Success

There are few things more exciting for parents than seeing their child whirl and twirl in their first dance class.

I know; your child is definitely the most talented kid in the room. No doubt about it! But what can you do as the supportive parent to make sure your child is ready both mentally and physically for that big day?

As a former dance teacher, allow me to explain six tips to help you and your young star get the most out of their first dance class.

1. Set proper expectations

Whether you’ve chosen ballet, creative, ballroom or tap, your child will enjoy the experience much more if they understand what dance class will be like. There will be time to work and time to play. Let them know that when the teacher is talking it’s time to be quiet. The teacher is going to tell them all the secrets of dancing, and if they forget to listen, they might miss it!

You can prepare them by explaining they will need to practice, which will make dancing all the more fun. Not only will this conversation help your child enjoy a better experience, but their dance teacher will thank you immensely.

2. Buy properly fitting dance shoes

The fit is critical. If the shoes are too large, it prevents the teacher from seeing whether or not your child is doing their footwork properly. If they are too small, they will hurt your little dancer and get holes quickly. Having the right size shoe promotes better posture, alignment and technique. It also helps prevent dance-related injuries. Make sure your child tries on the shoes before dance class. Street shoe sizing is unreliable for dance shoes, and all brands are slightly different.

Ballet slippers/jazz shoes

For most beginning dance classes, your child will need ballet slippers. Ballet slippers should fit like a pair of socks or gloves. Make sure there is no puckering or extra material near the toes; this can prevent proper form. Your child should be able to feel the floor with their feet when learning technique. Young children may not be learning barre exercises, but the fit is still important as they’ll be developing balance and alignment.

Ballroom shoes

These shoes should fit snugly without painful pressure. Open-toe shoes are used for Latin/rhythm, while closed-toe is for smooth/standard. However, when first learning to dance, I recommend closed-toe shoes to provide a little more protection. Your child will be learning with a dance partner, and that means the occasional treading of toes. As a beginner, you’ll want to get your child a heel height they feel most comfortable in. A flared heel will also give more stability. For boys, a one-inch heel is sufficient.

Tap shoes

Tap shoes should be snug but not tight. Extra foot room will give your child less control over the sounds. Unless specified by the teacher, boys and girls should get a sturdy shoe with a flat heel no higher than on inch. While dancing in character tap shoes (feminine tap shoes with heels), tap sneakers and jazz taps are useful skills, these shoes will hinder the beginner.

Hip hop sneakers

Although sneakers of any kind are typically accepted in these classes, not all street shoes are created equal. A sneaker with lots of treading is going to make turns and sliding extremely difficult. Choose a flat shoe with medium to low grip. Avoid slip-on shoes as these can cause injuries. Let your child pick something they love that has laces. As they get more advanced, they can move on to Velcro or slip-on shoes, but when first developing skills they should be avoiding these styles.

3. Buy proper dancewear

Your child’s teacher or dance academy should let you know what kind of clothing is expected in class beforehand. If you didn’t get the memo or are unsure, always opt for something snug. This makes it easy for the teacher to correct alignment. If your child is wearing a loose-fitting T-shirt and pants, the instructor has no way of knowing if their form is correct. Your child will benefit most by following the dress code or choosing something form-fitting, such as the classic tutu.

4. Help her make friends

Some kids have no trouble making friends while others need a little help. Kids who have friends in dance class will try harder, stay engaged in the program longer and enjoy it more. Some ways you can help this happen is to meet the other parents, arrange carpools and ask your child to introduce their classmates. Encouraging playdates with classmates will contribute to making dance class a safe space for your child to make mistakes and overcome them. This is especially true if you have more than one child in the same class. It’s easy for siblings to cling to each other, but they will have greater success if they make other friends.

5. Encourage her to demonstrate

Asking your child to show you what they've learned in class has many benefits. It helps them retain new information and expand their understanding of the concepts, as they are having to “teach” someone else. It also gives them a noticeable boost in confidence. As a dance teacher, I could almost always spot those children whose parents took the time to review with them at home.

6. Don't correct her technique

Trust me. No, really. Trust me! I know you want to remind them to turn their feet out “as the teacher showed them,” but it can do more harm than good. This is not the same as math homework; your child is venturing into an art form that takes a lot of vulnerability. What they need from their family are support and encouragement. If parents start critiquing their child, the child will be less inclined to share what they’ve learned. It’s the nature of creative work. Leave the teaching to the teacher. If you are concerned that your child is doing something incorrectly at home, pull the instructor aside in private before or after class and have your questions addressed. They can then use learning time to correct those mistakes.

There you go! Six tips that will help you and your child have the best experience in their beginner dance class. After all, there’s no better way to ensure success in dance than by starting off on the right foot!

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