How I teach pre-ballet

“Who likes to paint?” Vanessa Salgado asks her roomful of 5- and 6-year-old students at New York City’s Joffrey Ballet School. “Today, we’re going to pretend we’re paintbrushes and the room is a big piece of paper.” One by one she designates a color to a body part. “Let’s say our arm is the color blue,” she says as the accompanist starts a dreamy adagio. The children slowly dance around the room, waving their arms in an effort to paint the sky. “Now let’s pretend our back is pink and purple,” she prompts, and a little boy drops to the ground, scooching like an inchworm across the floor.

Throughout Salgado’s pre-ballet class, she asks her students to reach into their imaginations, interweaving simple ballet technique within their moments of make-believe. They tiptoe back and forth like giraffes, chassé like “crabbies at the beach” and practice spotting like an owl. All the while, Salgado maintains a brisk pace between exercises to keep their short attention spans engaged, stopping briefly to fix an unpointed foot or haphazard ponytail.

Her class, she explains, is designed to achieve a balance of structure and creativity. “That creative-thinking component is very important,” she says. “It helps build confidence, promotes independent thinking and I believe it is the special sauce that turns dancers into artists.” In addition to simple pliés, sautés and gallops, she leads her charges through speed, shape and level changes, exercises in spatial awareness and creative thinking, and memory games. All the while she maintains control of the room, expertly staying attuned and changing things up when necessary. “I think a really key quality of leadership is adaptability, to be able to troubleshoot and change,” she says. “Especially when you’re working with kids.”

Although Salgado has experience teaching all ages, she feels a special affinity for early childhood classes. “It’s so exciting to see a child come into the room and be so unbelievably happy,” she says. “Totally uninhibited, in love with the world, in love with the art of dance.” In return she tries to create a nurturing learning environment. “I want them to identify me as someone they can trust and as a positive influence.”

Below, Salgado and a Joffrey Ballet School pre-ballet student demonstrate a preparation exercise for marches and skips. “It’s very simple and straightforward,” she says, “but it prepares children to march with proper alignment.”

 

 

Vanessa Salgado trained with Tatiana Akinfieva-Smith, Elena Manakhova and Betty Webster in Salisbury, Maryland. Salgado developed a love for early childhood classes in middle school when Webster, a 2010 Dance Teacher Award winner, asked her to help as an assistant teacher. When Salgado moved to New York to attend the Ailey/Fordham BFA program, she took on her own classes at The Ailey School’s First Steps program. After graduation, she joined the faculties of Ballet Hispanico School of Dance and The School at Steps on Broadway. She joined the Joffrey Ballet School’s Children’s Program faculty last year and holds a certification in dance education from the Dance Education Laboratory at the 92nd Street Y. In addition to teaching, she dances for her sister Donna’s company, CONTINUUM Contemporary/Ballet.

 

Using Crafts in Pre-Ballet Classes

Vanessa Salgado published a children’s book in 2012 with the help of her sister Donna, who is also a dancer. Crafterina is a ballet storybook that includes crafts that children and parents can do together. “The whole idea is if children can hone their creative thinking skills at a young age,” says Salgado, “as an adult those skills will allow them to move forward and be successful.” She often incorporates the projects—take-home crafts include tableaus, puppet theaters and paper dolls—into her class to give students an entry point for learning. “They can learn about all the different characters and scenes and make different formations with them,” she says. “They start to learn how a dancer and choreographer work.” (Crafterina.com and etsy.com/shop/Crafterina)

controlbar=over&file=http%3A%2F%2Fvideos.dancemedia.com/a3ed890d93487426d8ee09061b7d2a950ab96b16/video.mp4&image=/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/salgado_splash.jpg&&&viral.pluginmode=FLASH"/>

Photos by Kyle Froman

 

Show Comments ()
Viral Videos
Photo by Kyle Froman

Do you know how to teach this classic tap rhythm?

Keep reading... Show less
Via @kyle_vanny on Instagram competing on "World of Dance"

Kyle Van Newkirk is a tap dancer you probably remember from the premiere season of NBC's World of Dance. In case you missed it, he is also one of Showstopper's incredible convention teachers. What makes Kyle stand apart from some of today's other incredible tappers? He isn't afraid to change what tap means to his audience and even himself. This modern view of tap dancing is important because it shows us that tap dancers are just as versatile and dynamic as dancers of any other genre. We sat down with Kyle to get his advice on bringing tap dancing into the 21st century.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance News

Olympic figure skater Adam Rippon and pro partner Jenna Johnson snatched the coveted mirror ball trophy at the "Dancing With the Stars" Season 26 finale. Although it's not that surprising (everyone was rooting for the skating darling, who basically won the Olympics), it's still nice to see his hard work pay off.

Keep reading... Show less

"When we come together and start talking, everyone starts sharing so much and it's just great. That's my favorite thing to do all year long." – Denise Wall, Dance Teacher Summit Ambassador

For years the Dance Teacher Summit has been offering opportunities for studio owners and dance instructors of all levels to work with world-renowned faculty members to improve their teaching methods, learn new styles of choreography and discover ideal ways to convey choreography to students.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips

Q: I'm looking for out-of-the-box teaching tools to use with my students. Do you have any recommendations?

Keep reading... Show less

Purchasing a Harlequin floor is now easier than ever!

Get a new marley/vinyl floor, sprung floor system and installation with convenient monthly payments. American Harlequin Corporation has partnered with Allstate Capital to offer comprehensive, easy to understand financing packages customized to meet the needs of our customers.

Apply for an Allstate Capital Financing account today and receive a decision within 24 hours.

Click here to learn how you can buy a Harlequin floor today!

Dance Teacher Tips
Thinkstock

Even the most disciplined dancers admit to weeping in class sometimes. Sorrow and fear are human expressions, but teachers may not always know how to navigate a sudden burst of waterworks.

"Stress is in the body," explains Linda Taylor, a school psychologist in Idaho who has taught ballet to all age groups, from toddler to professional. "Sometimes the release of it can bring on tears, especially for older students."

"We all need to cry sometimes," says Joel Hall, founder and director of Joel Hall Dancers & Center in Chicago. An instructor who has taught for 46 years, he admits he used to feel panicked at the sight of watery eyes. Now, he has a better understanding of students' feelings and how to work with them.

Here are five expert tips from Taylor and Hall for navigating grief in dance class.

Keep reading... Show less
Josephine Lee on the road. Photo Courtesy Lee


Master pointe shoe fitter Josephine Lee of the California-based The Pointe Shop is taking her wares on a tour of the West Coast: California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Utah and Nevada. Lee is visiting dance schools along the way in her mobile pointe shoe van to fit ballet students. Check out her first five vlogs from the road, filled with picturesque scenery, fun facts and fitting tips—and stay tuned for the next round.

Keep reading... Show less

Sponsored

Videos

Sponsored

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox

Win It!

Sponsored