Preschool dance programs include dancers as young as 2.5 to 6-years-old. There are many ways to measure the value of a dance class, but the most important one is how much your little one enjoys it. Here are some things to look for when deciding which studio or program is best for your family.
Structure – Does the program have guidelines, studio rules and even a dress code?
Dance class can be a child’s first introduction to structured activities that combine listening, team work and development of skills. Besides actual dancing, some of the things that students will learn are how to behave in a group, how to listen and when to talk. This should be included in some of the first lessons of a preschool dance session. This structure will facilitate the learning that happens in the months that follow. A dress code signifies respect for the work that they will be doing and it makes a young dancer feel like a part of their dance community. They will wear it with pride!
Syllabus – Does the teacher have a lesson plan that progresses the class and creates an enjoyable atmosphere?
Dance classes for young dancers should include activity songs, time to develop large motor skills like skipping or marching, group activities like Follow The leader or Simon Says, and free movement time where students explore their own creativity with direction from the teacher. Be sure to pick a dance organization that has a variety of age levels and styles that you can choose from. A 3 year old who has not yet attended formal school might not fit well into a class of 6 year olds who have been to school and are further developed both emotional and physically. Even if all students are dancing for the first time, these two age groups of students might not be a good fit. It’s a good idea to check the age range of the class your are enrolling your dancer in.
Style of Dance – What style of dance should a preschooler be learning?
Preschool programs are offered in most styles of dance today. Each style will be teaching the same motor skills and dance etiquette in the beginning (right foot/ left foot, marching, skips, co-ordination). Take the interest of your child into consideration when choosing a style to enroll them in. Do they prefer focused activity with a codified set of rules? Ballet might be for them. Do they like to get moving to up beat music? Maybe a jazz class will be a good fit.
The Instructor – Does the teacher connect with the students?
A preschool dance instructor is blessed. Preschool dancers are the most appreciative of all dancers. A good instructor will speak to their students in the hall, know everyone’s name in the first few weeks and make an effort to build a little team of dancers within the class. The students should feel a part of the class community. The teacher should be prepared each week and have many different methods of motivating students. They should teach in a variety of ways: in lines facing the front of the room, in a circle for activities songs and learning new techniques, at the barre to help with balance, across the room to learn traveling steps and free movement to allow for individuality and expression. A teacher could even incorporate things like props or storybooks for learning.
Dance Class Etiquette – Does the class begin and end formally each week?
Preschool classes often have a song and a basic routine that signifies that it is time to dance. It is customary in dance class to have a way of showing your appreciation for your instructor at the end of class too. This could include a curtsy, a verbal thank you or a song. One of the wonderful things about dance is it teaches respect for its instructors. A long standing tradition of curtsying and clapping still continues even in the most professional level of classes. Most importantly, does your child come out of class smiling and excited to return next week.
Dance offers so many benefits at all ages, but a professionally organized class can be so beneficial beyond appearing on stage. Creativity, physical fitness, and confidence are all life skills taught and practiced in dance class. And that is why choosing the right program is about more than just a cute costume.