Your Child CAN Dance, It Just Takes Time And Training
We all see it and either work towards it ourselves, or we want our children to do incredibly awesome performances on stage. The amazing videos on YouTube of top tier professional ballet dancers from Baryshnikov to Carlos Acosta are mesmerizing and in one way very over simplified: you never see the 10 to 15 years of intense, driven work it took them and anyone who does professional ballet to make it look like that. It is no wonder then that so many parents wonder why their child after a few years of ballet still does not seem able to make the moves look and work like pros do.
Classical Ballet is not at all like Sports because with sports the basic capabilities of the body that you and I and everyone are born with are pushed as hard as they can be however with Classical Ballet, there are an entire array of technical physical abilities that are NOT what one is born with, but rather you literally have to re-educate your own body in how it should move. That is partly why it can seem elusive or even mysterious as to how someone learns to do ballet, it won’t work at all like any other athletic training! (As a side note, this is why ballet always helps with athletics but athletics are of no benefit to ballet… ) To alleviate this confusion here is the real deal on what and when children learn in ballet and for that matter most any other childhood educational pursuit:
Early Years are Basic Years:
Any and all children from age 3 through 9 are growing and changing so much mentally, emotionally and physically that it is NOT possible to span the wide body of technical skills and adult level mental discipline and acuity needed to do complete classical ballet work. This should never ever be anyone’s goal for their child and any effort towards the intensity needed to achieve technical mastery would stunt growth and cause profound unhappiness in a child of this age. In fact, you can see that sort of very bad side effect with some of the super young hyper training that goes into Olympic gymnastics.
The Goal for the Early Years:
The goal for young children is to stimulate the mind with the beautiful complexities of classical music while also learning the basic structure of classical ballet which will cause much enhanced coordination and gross motor skills development. This is exactly like taking vitamins as a child: do you have to take vitamins to grow and learn? No, but if you take vitamins you grow and learn at a much higher level.
Adolescence: Turn It Up a Notch
Starting around 10 – 11 years of age, children can now take on much more elevated levels of exertion both physical and mental, and this is exactly what classical ballet wants them to do. The emotional and intellectual abilities of any 10 or 11 year old dwarf those of a 6 to 8 year old, and this is by design as our DNA program dictates growth and development stemming from millions of years of evolution. So at this point, in addition to all the basic learning that was done from age 3 to 9, more of the precision and finish concepts in ballet and other subjects for that matter, too can be asked of students who are now fully able to achieve those results. For a similar comparison, look at the handwriting of a 7 year old and then of an 11 year old. There should be major improvements in the formation of the characters, and also in the complexity of the sentences and subjects being written about. If not, there’s something seriously wrong!
Teenage Years: Time to Bring It On!
As of 13 to 14 years of age, all bets are off because now the student, assuming they were educated correctly in the classical art of ballet as a child and adolescent, can put all the elements together AND add that finished, precise poise but don’t be fooled, this is still a lot of very challenging work! There is also one point that cannot be overstated or capitalized enough, and that is the following:
Classical Ballet only exists when it is being practiced. No dancer, professional or otherwise, can maintain their abilities without regular practice. This is also exactly how music works – if you go 3 months without touching a guitar, you are going to be very rusty!