So why do parents send their children to ballet classes?

A parent’s love for his child knows no bounds – from the moment a precious newborn joins a family, Mom and Dad are making decisions every day to give their child the best of everything.

In the early years of childhood, before Chloe enters formal education in primary 1, Mom and Dad want her to enjoy her growing years but would also like to spend this time grooming her to succeed in the years ahead.

There is swimming class for an essential survival skill, phonics class for a head start in language, but what about ballet class? Why would savvy and sweet but also secretly ultra-competitive Mrs Tay send her daughter Isabelle for something as non-academic (seemingly) as dance class?

When Isabelle first joined the ballet class for tots, she was excited to be able to move in different ways along with the rhythm of music. When she is able to execute the movements in sync with the music, the teacher smiles and says ‘very good!’ and she feels especially happy and proud of her accomplishment.

At the start of class, Isabelle does the toe touch (hamstring stretch). It is wonderful to see how much further she can reach as compared to her first class- before she could only touch her calves, now she can reach her toes!

  1. The ability to focus and exercise self-discipline

Through positive reinforcement, a child learns early on in ballet class the value of being able to look and listen carefully for a sustained period of time, paying full attention and staying focused in order to achieve her learning goals. (In this case, observing how the teacher demonstrates and describes dance movements so he/she is able to replicate them) The ability to exercise self-discipline in order to focus on learning is an invaluable skill for formal education in a typical school where the class size would be larger and there will inevitably be more avenues for distraction.

Aside from the immediate reward of being able to execute movement combinations, there is a longer term reward of being able to do things better (eg: reaching further in the hamstring stretch) When children recognize that day-to-day efforts result in bigger long term rewards, they learn the value of perseverance and consistency.

Isabelle’s favourite part of class is when they all line up in a diagonal line to do solo skips across the floor. At first, it was a little confusing to step and hop on alternating legs. But after a while, once she got the hang of it, it was hard to stop once she really got going.

2. Body confidence and physical awareness- Better coordination, motor skills and mobility

Being exposed to a variety of movements enhances the development of coordination, motor skills and mobility in children.  As they learn about what their bodies can do, they begin to gain body awareness and become more comfortable expressing themselves physically. Opportunities for group and solo dance combinations build confidence in a group setting, where a child also feels secure to be on his/her own in a public space.

It is very fun to be able to make shapes and lines with her friends, a circle shape for butterfly runs and a straight horizontal line for group dance combinations. Not so nice when Joey stands too close or when Sophie overtakes others when running in a circle and everyone gets confused and squished together. When that happens, Isabelle would say to Joey “Can you please move a little to the other side? I need to stretch my arms.”, and to Sophie “Hey, don’t run so fast! We need to make a circle.” 

3. Social etiquette- working as a team and being considerate to others

In a group setting, children learn how to share the physical space with one another and how to fulfil their individual roles so the whole team completes their task (eg: forming a circle and maintaining it while running). Dancing as a group develops consideration for others (eg: knowing how close to stand beside another person without getting into their personal space). When conflicts occur, they learn to negotiate with tact- a harsh reaction results in tears while the appropriate response results in a positive ending. This prepares a child for more complex social interactions where they need to safeguard their interests while learning to be respectful of others.

Now Mom and Dad are quite persuaded and are considering enrolling Chloe in a dance class. Hmm but there are so many around, how do they decide which is suitable?