Seattle's Child

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Find a Dance School that Nurtures Creativity

When children hear music and begin to dance spontaneously with joy and complete abandon, what could be more natural than for parents to seek out dance classes to support their child's creativity and enthusiasm? Be aware, however, that there are substantive differences between dance schools.

In perhaps the most popular TED Conference presentation ever, British educator Sir Ken said in How Schools Kill Creativity, "We don't grow into creativity; we are educated out of it." Parents will want to make sure that the dance school they choose develops a child's creativity and allows it to flourish.

If you've decided to sign up your child for dance lessons, keep in mind two very important questions: At what age does the school start formal training? How much emphasis is put on an end-of-school performance?

Technique Classes Should Begin No Earlier than Age 7 ½ or 8

Here are some guidelines for what to look for when choosing dance classes for different ages:

Ages 2 to 3 years: Look for a program that focuses on body awareness, coordination, flexibility and locomotor skills through fun activities that engage all of their senses.

Ages 4 to 7 years: Classes should include all of the above, and also designed to elicit the child's imagination and problem-solving skills.

Ages 7 ½ or 8 and older: By this time, most children have the strength and body control to start learning actual technique and formal steps. If the dance school has done a good job up to this point, the students will continue to draw on their creativity and problem-solving skills as they develop and learn new dance moves and routines.

End-of-Year Performance Preparation Can Take All Year

Many dance schools do big, lavish recitals that require hours and hours of rehearsal time. Often, students spend too much of their class time practicing just one dance routine so they know it cold for recital. This makes your child and the school "look good" because they know the routine, but there is so much that is lost in pursuit of this superficiality!

Other schools skip the lavish productions, opting to do more low-keyed performances in-house, in the studio. Others might seek performance opportunities at local neighborhood and community events. Some schools do both, depending on the age of the students. With this approach, less time is spent practicing dance routines and more time learning new skills.

Dance is a wonderful art that offers so many gifts to children, as well as teens and adults. Asking the right questions will get maximum benefit for your child, yourself and for your educational investment.

About the Author

Elizabeth Coyle Chayer