An insight into choosing dance classes and how it involves the whole family.
Dance, ballet in particular, is one of the most popular hobbies that children (sadly still mainly girls...but that's a whole other blog!) in the UK are signed up for. Although there has been a recent insurgence of 'toddler' dance from as young as 18 months, most dance schools offer classes from around the age of 3. At this age I often doubt whether it is the child who has been the instigator to starting ballet - rather more usual a parent who thinks it may be a nice idea, or their child has friends who dance, or they are looking for some extra-curricular social activities for their little one outside of school; and ballet seems like a great option.
It is due to these many differing reasons for starting dance, that not every dance class/school will suit every child AND THEIR FAMILY. I stress that in capitals, as very young dancers are not lone little islands, rather part of a family unit which has many pulls on its time, resources, energy and many differing priorities. More often than not (save for parents that have a history/background of dance), the local school is the first choice. Let's face it, it's easy. Dottie in her class goes, Dottie's mum can lift share, and we can nip home to put dinner on, or take little brother to the park whilst big sister is in class. Or we can have a well-earned sit-down and natter with the other parents (who are often friends, too) whilst class is on.
For some families, this will always be the best option. There are, however a couple of things I'd stress to check out before signing up to ANY class. Are the teachers qualified? Are they DBS checked? You'd be amazed how many teachers out there are neither of these things (and more worryingly have no legal requirement to be!). Those basics aside, after a few months you will already have a feel for whether the class is suitable for the family needs. Monetary cost, teaching style and personality of the teachers, and level of commitment (time or otherwise) demanded by the school will all affect decisions on whether it is the right place for a young dancer and their family. Exam results and personal achievements will quite often take a back seat to those factors I listed first, purely because, well, the reality of most people's lives!
After a couple of years there will be a stronger sense of how dance features in a child's life. It may be that the local school offers all they need - a safe environment in which to have fun, develop their dance skills, socialise with friends, and help mum or dad out of a childcare pickle on a Thursday evening! It could however be that the child is developing a thirst for more than this dance-wise, or a real talent has been spotted. Now you may be lucky in that the local school offers classes which support, develop and even push the boundaries of this thirst and potential. You may have to look further afield to find it. And likewise the family situation may or indeed may not be such that this can be supported from home too. It will eventually get to a stage where both of these angles have to be fulfilled for a young, talented dancer to really fly. The commitment will magnify, the scales of balance of family time/work/dance will shift.
It's not for the faint-hearted! But dance is a funny thing... for some children it suddenly becomes more than a desire, it's a NEED. Starting out is easy, it's in the excelling that the hard graft, for THE WHOLE FAMILY, begins.
Katie is a director at dancexclusive, dance teacher, Fellow of the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing and a devoted dance mum!