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Age Appropriate? Developmentally Appropriate?


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What is meant by "age-appropriate" ballet training? It seems to be code for something, perhaps an age-based syllabus?


And it seems that development happens at different rates so what role does development have in ballet training?

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Ballet training has materials which are limited by structural matters, like pointework, which must not begin before the student's bones are sufficiently formed enough to bear body weight. Other things which are linked to developmental factors include the work which is given to Primary-age children, to keep from snowing them over with things that their minds and nervous systems are simply not ready to absorb.

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And things their bodies are not ready for. Just like a baby learns to crawl before he/she walks, the progression in ballet training is built block by block. There are developmental reason a child crawls before walking---although some children don't crawl before they walk, they are the ones that usually have to go back and re-learn some muscle development step later.


A child doesn't learn to write before he/she can cross the diagonal of his/her own body, therefore, their own play or rudimentary gymnastics like learning or attempting cartwheels helps develop that neuro-muscular connection. Much of the 'Joy of Movement', 'Kinderdance' and early-early ballet classes are working on developing those types of skills. It is very difficult for a young child to walk putting one foot directly heel-to-toe in front of them, developing that skill prepares them for skills that require move muscle control.


Other skills they work on in the early, early levels is learning to follow non-verbal directions (e.g., changing direction when teacher claps), stringing together sequences, gaining some spatial awareness (e.g., running around the room outside the circle of classmates---notice how some kids stay very, very close in to the circle, others 'soar' around the room at the farthest point they can taking up as much space as possible). Some kids can walk high on their tippy-toes, using those ankle and calf muscles; others don't yet have the balance to stand very high up or the calf muscle strength or ankle strength to do that. A good teacher knows which student is which and 'teases' those little leg muscles accordingly---not pushing the ones not ready to go high just yet, but tickling those little legs to stretch a smidge more each week.


The youngest levels are the easiest to see the 'age-appropriate' and 'developmental-appropriate' progression, but the nuances are there all through the training until the dancer is into high school or so.

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I agree with everything that Dancemaven has stated. Unfortunately in this age of "instant gratification" everyone wants to skip before they can crawl properly. As a teacher this is very challenging because it means going back and "retraining" even some very young students who have been pushed with concepts such as using fifth position and trying to turn out from the feet. To often students are taught very young to copy what something looks like, and although this is how they initially "learn" ballet movements, it often leads to inadequate kinesthetic awareness because they "think" they know how to perform a movement when really they just know how to make something that, to their untrained eye, "looks" right.


Additionally, it should be noted that "developmentally appropriate" movement should address how often students attend class. Development is going to be much quicker when training occurs multiple times per week for an adequate amount of time. The less time spent learning an activity, the slower progress and development will be made. This also affects how much movement material can be included in a combination. Students who meet more frequently can be given more variables of movement plus linking steps in one combination than those who meet only once a week. In order for any "quality" to be achieved, quantity must be limited- small chunks like learning to read: first one learns the alphabet, then how to sound out and spell words, then comes making sentences and finally paragraphs which may have a beginning, middle and end to relate a specific idea.

Edited by tangerinetwist
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