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Trying to make good decisions for a 4-yo daughter


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Hello, I'm new here.


I'm the parent of a daughter who at age 18 months, saw a ballet performance on TV, and stopped, frozen and transfixed, until it was over and then looked at me and said, "Whas dat?" I said it was a ballerina. She said, "Wan' be ba-wina."


And it never let up from there. :) She has been virtually obsessed ever since.


She is now almost 5, and has been in creative movement for 2 years. This past year, she has taken CM twice a week. Next fall, she moves up to the next level, which is "primary/pre-dance." And she wants to take even more - she is asking for 3 times a week.


Is this ridiculous at her age? She wants more, more, more - but am I risking burning out her passion before she even gets to real Ballet I if I allow it?


I'm so glad that I found this board BTW - I have been reading and reading. There is only one adult dancer close to us in our life, but much as I love her, I hesitate to take her advice, as she graduated from (and now teaches at) a school that bills itself as a school of "dance, tanning, and theatrics." :thumbsup:


So I'd love to get some input from people in the know. Right now, her fondest desire is to have a career in ballet. Of course, I realize she is not quite 5, and that could change drastically as she gets older. But if it doesn't, I want her to have the best foundation she can, you know?

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I'm scratching my head at the "tanning" aspect of your friend's dance studio. Do the students lie in tanning booths between classes? Inquiring minds want to know. :thumbsup:



I think all of the parents on this board can relate to your concerns, JulyFire. That's why we're here too. :) When my dd was 4, she took two pre-ballet classes per week, and she also took one hour of gymnastics at the local gym per week as well. I don't see any problem with twice per week pre-ballet classes, but I'm wondering if you could take that 3rd hour per week to introduce your daughter to other activities that could both expand her horizons and might actually enhance her ballet training if she does decide to pursue it as she grows up. If she's resistant to trying other things because ballet is IT for her, you could even introduce other activities by telling her that they help with ballet, and that most "big girl" ballet students study them as well. Some examples would be studying a musical instrument, art classes, gymnastics, sports, martial arts (aikido is especially dance-like), and when she's a bit older - drama. I'm suggesting these because I know from personal experience that once a child is taking more more more ballet, there isn't a lot of time for them to really explore other interests. Also, it's important for a ballet dancer to be a well rounded person - they then have more depth and life experience to bring to their dancing. :sweating:

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You have come to the right place, as many of us were in your situation a few years ago. Based on my own experience, I think you are wise to worry that 3 classes each week at age 5 could lead to burn-out. My best advice is to find a qualified, caring teacher who offers a class (or 2) where she will be challenged in a positive and supportive environment. It would be great if she could be in a class with other kids her own age who are "serious" about dance, but at age 5, that is quite unlikely to happen. I think it could be alright to be in class with slightly older kids, but not if she will feel pushed and pressured. I think at 5, they should not be learning real ballet, but creative movement. Ballet taught too early can be harmful to the child. Encourage your daughter to explore other arts (especially music) and keep her healthy and active with lots of playground time, and maybe other activities like swimming lessons. Provide books and videos about ballet, but about other topics as well.

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My daughter, too, was very serious about ballet at a very young age. At two, she begged for dance classes. She started at age 3 1/2 (the youngest our chosen school would allow), and was the only serious student for years, as most of the young ones wanted to flit and twirl. She also took, along the way, at varying times, gymnastics, competitive cheerleading, soccer, basketball, and swimming. Eventually, all had to be dropped when her passion for dance required more hours than could accommodate other activities. She is more well-rounded and has an appreciation for all other activities because of her journey.

I would not put all of my eggs in one basket at the age of 4, and definitely would encourage exposure to other activities.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I would buckle up your seat belt, Julyfire . My daughter was dancing at two and a half having fought to join in her sister's end of term "concert" with me finding it really hard to restrain her. She's still dancing at 17. She had a few months off when she first started school and then I found her crying while she was watching the Bolshoi on a BBC kid's programme. It was back to ballet again! She no longer wishes to be a dancer, but an actor and she needs as much dance, drama and singing as she can get for that, and ballet is still the dance form she loves (she hates tap!) and likes jazz, but ballet still does it for her!

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The desire to move and create starts very young. Free movement classes for these babies are a wonderful way to go. Butterflies and bumble bees moving to the music. I wasn't one to push any of it too soon. I bought lots of lovely dress-up clothes and play tutu's, then I'd put on some music and off they went dancing for hours, putting on shows and having a wonderful time. As much as a four year old says they want to dance I really don't know if classes are needed, dancing yes but not classes. You can't teach ballet at such a tender age at least you shouldn't.


You won't burn a child out by using the front room as a stage, you may with too much structure too soon. One of mine was still much happier wafting a scarf around the room and admiring the results in a mirror even when she first started classes at age seven. She wasn't serious at all, at least not about training. She was very serious about dancing though. To her that meant moving and seeing the shapes as she created them. It's been suggested to me of late that her very natural artistry was probably helped by those first unstructured years, who knows! Anyway, I think four year olds are carefree and still babies, school starts all too soon, I'm for constant playtime if at all possible and that includes the dancing no matter how much they love it.



OOOps, I just realized I'v posted where I shouldn't. I apoligise and if you want to remove this I do understand. I have to start looking at headings for threads! Sorry!

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I just removed a post from a non-parent. Great advice, but we do ask that the restrictions of each forum be respected. :lol: Parents of older dancers are welcome to post advice from time to time on the under 13 forum, as they do have experience with dancers in this age group and can offer valuable insights. All others are welcome to read, but please refrain from posting.


Julyfire, the most important thing you can do for your daughter at her age is be sure that her creative movement classes are at a pre-pro school, where even the CM classes are taught by well qualified teachers with professional backgrounds. There is lots of important groundwork laid during CM classes by qualified teachers. Preschoolers learn a great deal about the structure and self control that a pre-pro path will require by being in the same building with the older students, wearing a uniform for class, wearing their hair in a well coifed bun and taking classes from teachers who have the skills and the artistry to instill in them a great love of dance and the knowledge that it is about having fun, but also about so much more. Longing for the next level, additional classes, performing opportunities, a different colored uniform leo and any number of other rites of passage from one level to another are part and parcel of the pre-pro training experience. Learning to wait and maximizing the current and appropriate level of training are so important for students of every age.


I would not supplement the class schedule that is offered at the best pre-pro in your area. You can offer your little one videos of ballet, dolls in ballet costumes to allow her to continue her love during playtime, books about ballerinas (there are so many great ones for this age group), etc. But, even when she is ready for her first real ballet classes, they will not be daily until she is much, much older. So, do not rush to fill her schedule with more dance classes. It is hard to not become over zealous with a young dancer who is eager to dance. But, there is a reason that classes are timed the way they are for various age groups. Even if your child is more mature, more interested, has a great facility, etc. it doesn't mean that they should take more than 2-3 classes a week. Instead of adding quantity, demand quality from the classes she does take.


Be sure that you expose her to lots of other activities during these formative years, so that she can decide which things best suit her as she matures. Body changes, natural facility and other interests that she is presented with, may affect her passion for dance as she reaches puberty. Until then, give her a broad range of activities that will help her develop into a well rounded young woman, whether she pursues her early love or dance or not.

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My 15 year old dd was 3 when she first started dancing. She never wanted to do one other thing. Sure she tried stuff but DANCE was it. Now up until about 12 she HATED ballet. HATED it. Then she got an incredible teacher and has never looked back. She is now at a full time Pre-pro residential school. She has always had incredible passion for dance. Passion is very hard to find in young people. I mean "never have to remind her about class" passion, "no need to do one thing for her cuz she wants to do it all herself" passion, "don't care that everyone thinks I'm weird" passion. If your dd has this, even for right now, encourage it. Take her to the best studio that you can afford with the best teachers but make sure they don't "Burn" that passion out of her. Oh and one more thing...start saving $$$$ NOW!!! Dance is really really really expensive. :cool2::lol::yes::cool2:

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Balletbooster wrote:

Julyfire, the most important thing you can do for your daughter at her age is be sure that her creative movement classes are at a pre-pro school, where even the CM classes are taught by well qualified teachers with professional backgrounds. There is lots of important groundwork laid during CM classes by qualified teachers.



What I would like to know, then, is why are all the preschool classes taught by the older students in the school instead of by experienced teachers? My daughter is 4 and will be starting ballet in the fall. I have a special problem because I am the ballet teacher and my daughter does not behave when I am the teacher. So I would like to send her to the studio in the next town over, which is actually better than the one I teach at and has a better ballet teacher than myself. But the 4 year old classes are taught by older students! The girl who teaches it is an excellent dancer and I'm sure she knows her ballet quite well, but why aren't one of the other 3 adult ballet teachers teaching any of the youngest classes? I'm thinking about asking for a syllabus for the course so that I can be sure my daughter will be learning some actual skills and that it is not just playtime.

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Myfairlady, not all pre-school classes are taught by 'the older students'. My daughter's classes were taught by a very experienced (adult) teacher. Those classes are still taught only by experienced adult teachers with the appropriate background. However, I do realize now what I didn't then, which is that we were very, very lucky to have that scenario.


I think, in part, the reason so many studios use 'the older students' to teach the youngest ones is that there is probably abit of a shortage of well-qualified, experienced teachers who enjoy teaching the 'itty-bitties'. I do know that at DD's home studio when one of the teachers for any of the other levels needed to be gone, it wasn't that difficult to find someone to sub for the classes. However, if the 'babies' teacher needed to be gone (religious high holiday, illness), it was virtually impossible to find someone willing or comfortable taking the class.


It takes a special teacher to work with and handle those little ones. Many ballet teachers are comfortable with specific groups (much like school teachers often have age ranges they love and ages they simply can't deal with). Most are comfortable with several ranges----but very few are comfortable with the itty-bitties.

I suspect that the 'older students' are tapped to 'teach' these classes because they are used to little kids of that age due to younger siblings and/or babysitting experiences and the studio directors don't really see the creative movement classes as being 'real' classes.


Personally, I am very grateful my DD had the opportunity (and luck) to have the wonderful experienced teacher she did for those levels. The teacher had a syllabus and knew exactly WHY she had the children reciting 'good good toes; bad bad toes' and exactly what she was instilling in them when they did giant walks, ballet walks, reversing directions to claps, etc. She knew exactly what she was looking for in the development of their little calf muscles when she'd encourage this little one to stretch higher on her tippy-toes and not that little one. The observation class at the end of term was always so interesting because the teacher would take the time to explain the progression of what those seemingly simple exercises she put the kids through were for and what she was looking for in terms of the kids' individual development.


Much like pre-school teachers, there is a rhyme and reason for what is 'taught' at that creative movement level if one has a background in childhood development. Unfortunately, many schools either don't have access to that special teacher with that background/interest OR the powers that be consider the creative movement level to be simply 'play' that a teen good with little kids can handle.

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At the pre-pro where my daughter studied, the Creative Movement classes were taught by the school director. What a lovely start those dancers got in their ballet training! Not only did they get competent instruction, but they got to know the school director when they were very young (and vice versa) which made a huge difference in the culture of the school. It also spoke volumes about the importance that the school placed upon excellent training at all levels and the value it placed upon even its youngest students. :)

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Same as Balletbooster here, the classes were taught at our school by the director.

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You ladies sure have been lucky! Even when I was a beginning teacher I was "stuck" with the littlest ones. They are actually the hardest ones to teach because everything's not so concrete or obvious. I know a lot more about what I'm doing now than I did way back then. I think I will ask this other studio for a class outline.

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