For Parents

A Parent Asks, Are Online Dance Classes Really Worth It?

Getty Images

Q: In this period of economic uncertainty, my family is looking at our budget from every angle. Summer enrollment at the dance studio is now—but no one is sure when we'll actually be able to head into the studio. I want to support small businesses like our dance studio, but I also can't help but wonder: Are virtual classes worth it?


A: No doubt about it, virtual dance classes attempted in your living room are not the same as classes in the studio—and We, as parents, along with our dancing kids, need to reset our expectations. For one, says clinical psychologist Christina Donaldson, who specializes in adolescence and serves on the advisory board of Youth Protection Advocates in Dance, dance classes in any form are about more than learning technique—they offer community. "And now, during quarantine, when kids aren't able to see their friends, community becomes paramount," she says. "Kids are actually getting more from these classes on a mental and emotional level."

Of course, if families are under financial stress and the classes don't fit in the budget, you may need to consider stepping back. "That stress will be felt throughout the household—pandemic or not," says Donaldson. "But if you are able to afford keeping kids enrolled, virtual classes can be helpful for everyone involved—even the parents." Here are her top three reasons for continuing.

1. Students benefit emotionally. "The greatest challenge for kids, especially for those on the younger side—ages 7 to 12—is not seeing their friends," Donaldson says. "But even though we must be socially distant, we don't want to be emotionally distant—we need that connectivity. Letting our kids maintain their sense of community is the key to getting through quarantine."

2. Creative thinking is grounding. "The way we can tolerate the unknown—and thus tolerate the pandemic—is to think creatively and outside of the box," she says. Summer offerings at your studio may include improvisation or choreography classes, which Donaldson notes can be quite healing. But she does caution that it depends on your dancer. "If she has a propensity for perfectionism, or if she's feeling far behind, these classes may cause more stress." Instead, those dancers may benefit from more familiar classes. No matter what, says Donaldson, "Movement is good for the mind and it's a healing tool. It's crucial to help our kids access that."

3. Class times can give you, the parents, a much-needed break. "It's challenging for parents who are working full-time," says Donaldson. "You may not be able to leave your 2-year-old alone in the room, but for older kids, you can potentially relax, knowing that when they're busy with a class, you have the next 90 minutes to get what you need done for work or otherwise."

What about the littlest kids? The benefits of enrolling our tiniest tots in virtual dance classes may vary wildly from kid to kid, says Donaldson. "But if your 3-year-old is getting even one thing out of the class even once in a while, it's beneficial." Not every preschooler has the patience for online learning: "If it becomes a fight each time, it may not be worth the power struggle," she says. "But keep in mind that even virtual classes offer good opportunities to be around others and learn. And their brains are so spongy."

Donaldson's bottom line: "Children need some form of community and connectivity. So, if they love dance and have friends in dance, the virtual classes are worth it just for that. But if they're not feeling this from the classes, find something else."

Teachers Trending
Evelyn Cisneros-Legate. Photo by Beau Pearson, Courtesy Ballet West

Evelyn Cisneros-Legate is bringing her hard-earned expertise to Ballet West. The former San Francisco Ballet star is taking over all four campuses of The Frederick Quinney Lawson Ballet West Academy as the school's new director.

Cisneros-Legate, whose mother put her in ballet classes in an attempt to help her overcome her shyness, trained at the San Francisco Ballet School and School of American Ballet before joining San Francisco Ballet as a full company member in 1977. She danced with the company for 23 years, breaking barriers as the first Mexican American to become a principal dancer in the U.S., and has graced the cover of Dance Magazine no fewer than three times.

As an educator, Cisneros-Legate has served as ballet coordinator at San Francisco Ballet, principal of Boston Ballet School's North Shore Studio and artistic director of after-school programming at the National Dance Institute (NDI). Dance Teacher spoke with her about her new position, her plans for the academy and leading in the time of COVID-19.

Keep reading... Show less
News
The author with Maurice Hines. Photo by Anthony R. Phillips, courtesy Hopkins

In March, prior to sheltering in place due to the coronavirus outbreak, my husband and I traveled from New York City to Miami to screen our award-winning documentary, Maurice Hines: Bring Them Back, at the Miami Film Festival.

Our star, Tony Award–nominated dancer and choreographer Maurice Hines joined us in Miami for the festival—stepping and repeating on the opening night red carpet, sharing anecdotes from his illustrious seven-decade career with local tap students, and holding court at a cocktail mixer with lively female fans.

Keep reading... Show less
News
Haruko Photography, courtesy ABT

Gabe Stone Shayer may be American Ballet Theatre's newest soloist, but he never dreamed he'd be dancing with the company at all. Though he grew up in Philadelphia, his sights were always set on international ventures—especially The Bolshoi Ballet and The Royal Ballet.

Even in his early training, he was learning from Russian educators: Alexander Boitsov at Gwendolyn Bye Dance Center, and Alexei and Natalia Cherov, from the Koresh School of Dance. At age 13, he transferred to The Rock School for Dance Education, where he danced until his acceptance to The Bolshoi Ballet Academy at age 14. At 16, Shayer returned to spend his summer in the States and attended ABT's summer intensive—fully intent on going back to Bolshoi to continue his training in the fall. Four weeks in, he was offered a studio-company contract. "I was so surprised," Shayer says. "Having come of age in Russia, I was very Eurocentric. Of course ABT was on my radar, I just never imagined it was for me."

Keep reading... Show less

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.