For Parents

How to Gauge Progress in Tiny Dancers

Photo by Paul B. Goode, courtesy of BAE

Watching through the studio windows—or even from the sidelines in a Mommy and Me class—can surely make parents wonder what exactly our little tykes are getting out of weekly ballet lessons. After all, they're repeating the same things class after class. Are they bored? Are they progressing? Why are they doing that again?

Repetition, however, is the key to success for the youngest dancers, says Ariella Goldberg, a mom and senior instructor in the Pre-Ballet and Petit Dancers divisions at Ballet Academy East in New York City. "At age 3, for instance, almost everything, everywhere is new. In ballet, they're in a completely new setting—a studio with new faces, mirrors, barres and more," she says, noting that separation anxiety can add tenfold to all the newness. "Repeating the same exercises in the same order—and being able to say what comes next—makes them feel confident and comfortable. They crave consistency." You might liken it to reading the same bedtime stories each night or watching Frozen ad nauseum.

When dancers are comfortable, progress can really take place. Repeating movement each week improves muscle memory and strength, and new skills often take time to perfect. What parents may not see from the windows, Goldberg says, is how differently the teachers approach the same movement. "One week we might talk about keeping a tall back by referencing a princess. The next week we'll imagine a long neck like a giraffe. It's all about what resonates," she says.

By age 6, teachers "add a new level of complexity to steps students have been doing since they were 2," Goldberg adds. "Take a plié, for example. We've done them every class for years, but now we'll talk about the physicality and musicality and peel the layers back to really dissect it." Inevitably at this age, students also begin to question why they repeat the same steps in each class. Her answer? "Misty Copeland still does her pliés and tendus every day, too. It's like her breakfast." That usually does the trick.

Health & Body
Getty Images

Talar compression syndrome means there is some impingement happening in the posterior portion of the ankle joint. Other medical personnel might call your problem os trigonum syndrome or posterior ankle impingement syndrome or posterior tibiotalar compression syndrome. No matter what they name it—it means you are having trouble moving your ankle through pointing and flexing.

Keep reading... Show less
Scott Robbins, Courtesy IABD

The International Association of Blacks in Dance is digitizing recordings of significant, at-risk dance works, master classes, panels and more by Black dancers and choreographers from 1988 to 2010. The project is the result of a $50,000 Recordings at Risk grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources.

"This really is a long time coming," says IABD president and CEO Denise Saunders Thompson of what IABD is calling the Preserving the Legacy and History of Black Dance in America program. "And it's really just the beginning stages of pulling together the many, many contributions of Black dance artists who are a part of the IABD network." Thompson says IABD is already working to secure funding to digitize even more work.

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Owners
The Dance Concept staff in the midst of their costume pickup event. Photo courtesy of Dance Concept

Year-end recitals are an important milestone for dancers to demonstrate what they've learned throughout the year. Not to mention the revenue boost they bring—often 15 to 20 percent of a studio's yearly budget. But how do you hold a spring recital when you're not able to rehearse in person, much less gather en masse at a theater?

"I struggled with the decision for a month, but it hit me that a virtual recital was the one thing that would give our kids a sense of closure and happiness after a few months on Zoom," says Lisa Kaplan Barbash, owner of TDS Dance Company in Stoughton, MA. She's one of countless studio owners who faced the challenges of social distancing while needing to provide some sort of end-of-year performance experience that had already been paid for through tuition and costume fees.

Keep reading... Show less

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.