For Parents of Young Children – Dance Advantage Solutions For All Stages Of Your Dance Life Fri, 12 Jan 2018 12:02:25 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Making The Case For Barefoot Preschool Dance Tue, 29 Jan 2013 14:45:52 +0000 Tie my shoes! My Feet Hurt! Sound Familiar? Maria makes a case for why teachers should toss the dance shoes aside and ask preschoolers to dance barefoot. ]]>

Dancing barefoot gets a bad rap.

“Oh, you must be the weird modern dancer who dances in her bare feet all day long!”

I don’t think it’s weird at all, but maybe that’s just because I like to dance and teach in my bare feet. I can relate to the parents and students who look at me like I’m from another planet when I tell them we are dancing in bare feet. I grew up dancing in shoes. Ballet shoes, jazz shoes, tap shoes, pointe shoes, if there are any others, I danced in them. Understandably, my students LOVE to wear ballet shoes to class. Boys or girls, they are ballet shoe lovers! It’s… well, you know part of the dance “experience.”

Since my students are so young, I actually think it’s a better experience when they don’t wear shoes to dance in. Here is how I make the case:

Kids Feet
Photo by Nichole – Iris Photography
Shoes Always Fall Off Or Need To Be Tied Every Five Seconds

One year I went completely crazy tying shoes. I was tying shoes a total of 15 minutes of a 45-minute class. Not cool. When I asked a friend for advice, she told me to tie a knot and then cut off the strings then tuck them into the shoe. Genius! That solved my problem of tying shoes over and over again.

Still, in almost every class, a student takes off their shoes or tells me they are bothering them. Once one dancer takes off their shoes, they all want to. If they don’t have their names in them, they get all mixed up and it’s up to me to remember who put their shoes where. Ugh! Then, I find myself negotiating over shoes. You too?

What to do? I usually just say, “If you take them off, you have to leave them off for the rest of the class. We are not taking them off and putting them back on.” That gives them the choice and they have to deal with the decision they have made.

But the best solution I’ve found is bare feet!

Sensation and the Floor

A lot of creative dance is imagining the feeling of something particular. I excessively use the phrase, “Did you get mud (juice, spaghetti) between your toes?” or “Put some glue on the bottom of your feet.” If children are wearing shoes, they can’t imagine that something is in between their toes or feel the sensation of rubbing “glue” on their feet.

In bare feet, it’s also easier to feel the floor. They don’t slip as much or fall to the floor. It’s easier to point and flex, it’s easier to jump, to slide and turn. All just because you can feel the floor.

Developing The Body and The Mind

Perhaps the most important point in support of dancing barefoot is that it’s best for a young dancers development. After doing some research for this post I found many podiatrists making the case too.

Tracy Byrne, a podiatrist specialising in podopaediatrics, believes that wearing shoes at too young an age can hamper a child’s walking and cerebral development. “Toddlers keep their heads up more when they are walking barefoot,” she says. “The feedback they get from the ground means there is less need to look down, which is what puts them off balance and causes them to fall down.” Walking barefoot, she continues, develops the muscles and ligaments of the foot, increases the strength of the foot’s arch, improves proprioception (our awareness of where we are in relation to the space around us) and contributes to good posture. – theguardian 

That’s a good case, right? Barefootin’ is another post making a case for barefoot dancing – I love it.

Put It The Description And Be Prepared To Enforce It

One studio I taught for required students to go barefoot, but still I would have 4 and 5 year olds come in with shoes on. Whenever I said “In this class we dance barefoot” you would’ve thought I had broken their heart.

Fact: Just because you put it in the description, doesn’t mean people will read it, or follow the directions. I always hated to disappoint the little one because most of the time they bought the shoes especially for the class.

What to do? My solution is to let them wear the shoes for the stretching part of the class when we are sitting down. I tell them when we stand up, they have to take them off and put them by the door so they remember them on their way out of class. It seems to work almost all of the time.

Make It Fun! Show Me Your Nail Polish (boys too!)

One of the fun things about dancing bare foot is showing off their nail polish. They point mine out and then they show me theirs. Multiple times, I have had boys with nail polish on their toes. I think it’s completely awesome, and even more reason for all of us to dance in our bare feet.

 Barefoot Show

A while back, a reader at my blog commented that even in her recital her students don’t wear tights or shoes. Bare feet only! She said she absolutely loves it. How awesome is that? I’m thinking it would be much less hassle for us as teachers, and easy to win the parents over. Just think, they wouldn’t have to buy shoes or tights. It’s a win, win!

What do you think of asking your preschoolers to dance barefoot? Would they go for it? I would love to hear! 

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A Ballet DVD For Petite Feet Sun, 12 Feb 2012 13:00:14 +0000 Enter to win the Petite Feet DVD. The video incorporates activities, grounded in Laban Movement Analysis, that playfully connect movement education to everyday learning. It offers a gender neutral ballet experience that, like Liz Vacco’s classes, is enjoyed by girls and boys alike. A wonderful addition to the DVDs in your child’s collection. Giveaway ends Feb 16, 2012.]]>
IMAGE Petite Feet - Ballet Adventures with Liz IMAGE

Petite Feet is a 26-minute DVD that uses engaging and imaginative exercises, games and stories to introduce children to basic ballet positions and vocabulary, as well as general dance and musical concepts.

Liz, a Theatre Studies graduate of Yale and Yaledancers alum, is an early childhood educator who taught ballet, yoga and theater for over nine years in New York City and is now offering classes in LA. She is a strong believer in arts education and in promoting physical well-being and opportunities for artistic expression to people of all backgrounds.

“For years parents have been asking me to put my dance classes on a DVD because their children want to practice every day,” Liz says. So she decided to draw from her experience as a trained actor, as well as a dancer and teacher, to create Petite Feet.

Focusing on the creative potential of dance and its storytelling possibilities, Petite Feet encourages children between the ages of 2-5 to learn fundamental and age-appropriate ballet steps, to build confidence and coordination, and, of course, to have fun.

“Not only does my 3-year-old enjoy this video, it is quite possibly her favorite thing EVER.” – Ariana Smart Truman, mother to George

“It’s a totally relaxed approach to ballet with heavy emphasis on storytelling and imagination — making it a great introduction for little ones.” – Nicole Caccavo Kear, Creator of A Mom Amok

The Giveaway

IMAGE Front cover of the Petite Feet dance DVD IMAGE

Liz would like to give away a Petite Feet DVD to THREE Dance Advantage readers.

The DVD (which Dance Advantage reviewed here) incorporates activities, grounded in Laban Movement Analysis, that playfully connect movement education to everyday learning. It offers a gender neutral ballet experience that, like Liz’s classes, is enjoyed by girls and boys alike.

Featuring original music by Doran Danoff and a colorful set, along with the Story of the Dancing Dolls (written by Liz) and some help from Waldo the Walrus, Petite Feet offers an active alternative to the DVDs in any child’s collection as well as to the programs on children’s television.

This DVD retails for $20. Watch the trailer below:

The Petite Feet giveaway is open worldwide (non-expedited) to those 18 and up and closes at Midnight EST on Thursday, February 16.

How To Enter

This giveaway is closed but discover more about this developmentally appropriate and imaginative DVD for young children at!

Sign-in with the Rafflecopter form below using Facebook or your name and email. The widget will reveal multiple ways to earn entries.

The first, commenting on this post, is mandatory for entry (as always).

In this case, you’ll be asked to comment answering the question:

What do you look for in a dance class for your child?

Sign in, and click on Do It and you’ll see.

Upon entering, optional tasks for earning up to 10 additional entries will be revealed.

Complete as many as you like. You can Tweet once every day of the Petite Feet giveaway.

Just make sure you let us know you DID IT in the Rafflecopter form (don’t worry, it’ll save your other entries).

a Rafflecopter giveaway

If you’re having trouble seeing the form, I suggest updating or trying another browser.

Winners will be announced within days of the giveaway’s close and will be contacted directly.

Please read our Giveaway Policy.

Tomorrow’s Giveaway:

Put your best foot forward and show you’re socially aware at the same time when you win the Cynthia King Cruelty-Free Package.

IMAGE Feb 12-18: LOVE Our Readers Giveaway 2012 IMAGE
More giveaways - CLICK HERE!
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This Is Why I Bother Wed, 21 Dec 2011 17:30:06 +0000 To those who aren't dancers or teachers, all the little rules and details we observe and require of our students may seem silly or pointless. But we have our reasons and they're illustrated in Melanie Doskocil's final entry for the year in Ballet's Un-X-pected Lesson Files.]]>

Melanie Doskocil’s final entry for Ballet’s Un-X-pected Lesson Files this year. Enjoy!

I looked over the group of 5 and 6-year-old budding ballet students.

The girls were all clad in their little yellow and black stripped leotards, little yellow and black tutus, wings, head pieces with cute bouncy antennae. The boys in their striking bug costumes with jet black bodies and iridescent green wings.

I had a can of good old Super Final Net in my hands and wandered amongst them, spraying a wisp of hair here, a clump of bangs there. I checked ears and wrists and fingers for forgotten jewelry, tucked loose draw strings into leather ballet slippers, clipped threads and checked hands for no-no nail polish and pesky pen doodles.

IMAGE Excited little bumble bees IMAGEAs I was grabbing a few bobby pins to tackle a loose bun, one of the guest chaperones whispered loudly to another,

“I don’t know why she bothers; they are only on the stage for about a minute.”

I turned to the kids and said, “OK, Bees and Bugs, are you ready to go dance with your Flower in the Nutcracker?”

One tiny ballerina said to me, “I feel like a fairy princess!”

Then I turned to the parent and said, “THAT’s why I bother.”

Many families are inducted into the ritual of ballet performance during The Nutcracker.

There are strange rules to follow when it comes time for performance that can seem archaic, weird and unnecessary. I assure you, there are reasons behind it all.

Some are tradition, some are practical. Some rules build character, some are for safety.

ALL of the rules, though, help create a feeling of being a part of something larger than ourselves. Something that is great and precious and magical and exciting!

In a world filled with mediocrity, sometimes a simple ballet like The Nutcracker can open a door for a child to a world that will accept nothing less than the very best.

The rituals of fixing the hair the proper way, reverence for the costume (“Don’t put it on the floor, don’t sit in it, and definitely do not eat in it!”), weekly practices, dress rehearsals, endless checks for anachronistic watches, jewelry, nail polish…

All of these things develop a sense of highly attuned awareness to a level of excellence sometimes not asked for in our daily lives.

I look around at all the worker bees in the world.

Many are comfortable with a mediocre job, mediocre relationships, and mediocre life. Many may not even know that something better is out there. Many have been rewarded and praised for their mediocrity and now believe it is their best.

As one of my teachers once said “In ballet, no one gets a t-shirt and a trophy just for showing up.”

But I know… my little ballerina Bees and ballet boy Bugs that stick with it and grow up with ballet in their lives will never settle for that mediocre life.

The exacting, demanding, ritualistic discipline of the ballet world will carry them to new heights.

It does not matter if they become professional dancers.

The lessons they learn in the studio and the performance, will guide them through the rest of their lives.

These kids will grow up to demand the same excellence of themselves that being in The Nutcracker once demanded.

To be instrumental in this is not a bother, it is a privilege.

Oh, and by the way, a few more of those crazy rules:

  • Don’t whistle backstage
  • Wear your hair in a bun
  • Everyone must attend a dress rehearsal
  • Everyone must have the same tights, leotards and ballet slippers
  • Don’t talk backstage
  • You must commit to the following rehearsal schedule
  • You get the part you get and you don’t throw a fit
  • No chewing gum
  • No orange food (goldfish!)
  • No nail polish

Here’s a list of some of our top backstage rules.

What are some of your “crazy” dance rules?

If someone were to ask you why you bother when it comes to teaching, or when it comes to dancing, what would you say?

IMAGE Melanie Doskocil, director of school at Aspen Santa Fe Ballet IMAGEMelanie Doskocil directs the School of the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet with over 20 years of professional dance and teaching experience. She began her professional dance career in 1989 with Ballet Arizona and continued on to dance with Oakland Ballet, Nevada Ballet Theater, City Ballet of San Diego, Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, Mia Michaels RAW, and Odyssey Dance Theatre in Utah. Ms. Doskocil began teaching in 1995, for City Ballet of San Diego, under the mentorship of Steven and Elizabeth Wistrich. She continued teaching and began directing at Center Stage Performing Arts Studios in Utah, where she created their pre-professional ballet program. Melanie has mentored with master teachers Jean-Philippe Malaty, Tom Mossbrucker, Hilary Cartwright and the excellent faculty of Marcia Dale Weary’s Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet. She shares her teaching stories, ideas, and some favorite ballet classes on her blog at
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What’s Not To Love About A Pink Walrus? Sat, 22 Oct 2011 13:30:33 +0000 Take little dancers on a Ballet Adventure with Liz Vacco. Her Petite Feet DVD presents developmentally appropriate ballet concepts and vocabulary with imaginative stories and imagery and original songs. The set and a friendly Walrus have Yo Gabba Gabba charm but there are more reasons kids, parents, and teachers will love this new DVD for young dancers.]]>
IMAGE Waldo the Walrus IMAGE…especially one that can play the piano and plié.
That’s one talented Walrus.

And Liz Vacco, the creator of the Petite Feet DVD, is pretty accomplished herself. She is a Yale Theatre Studies graduate. A “dancer that acts, and an actor that dances” who, for nine years, has been a ballet and early childhood educator, teaching through New York City Ballet’s Education Program and at various dance studios and public schools throughout the city.

It was through Maria’s Movers that I first heard of Petite Feet, Liz’s 26-minute ballet video for children.

So I contacted Liz on Twitter @PetiteFeetVideo so that I could review and share the video with you.

IMAGE Buy Petite Feet on Amazon IMAGE
Liz deploys her theatrical background to present stories, enact original songs, and engage little imaginations. In a class structure that is familiar to most dance teachers (and that may be similar to your little one’s weekly lesson), she leads three sweet and engaged little helpers through circle warm-ups, age-appropriate ballet steps, and improvisational or scenario-driven exercises. All are developmentally appropriate for preschool children ages 2-5 and introduce fundamental ballet, general dance, and musical concepts and vocabulary with clarity and charm.

The colorful, cutout scenery, along with Waldo the Walrus, bring to mind the deliciously bizarre children’s television series, Yo Gabba Gabba. However, with her pixie-like demeanor and precise delivery, Liz is definitely more Tinkerbell than DJ Lance Rock.

IMAGE Screenshot from Petite Feet DVD IMAGE

Parents, as with any dance video, this is by no means a replacement for regular dance lessons. Rather the video should be reserved for days too hot, cold, or rainy for outside play, or those under-the-weather days when your child is stuck at home during dance class or school, or simply for whenever they ask for it by name (which in this case, might be often).

Teachers, you may find some new imagery to present to your preschool-aged dancers and Liz will inspire you in the creation of your own songs and stories.

Watch the trailer to get a taste of Petite Feet:

Petite Feet Trailer – A Ballet and Dance Video for Kids Ages 2-5 from Petite Feet on Vimeo.

Order online at or via

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5 Considerations Before You Buy Ballet Shoes For Little Feet Tue, 08 Mar 2011 14:38:28 +0000 If you are a parent with an aspiring dancer, nothing is more exciting for both of you than getting all the necessary apparel, including a first or new pair of ballet shoes. However, for little feet, it is very important to get the right shoes at the right price. Consider these 5 points before you buy ballet slippers for a young student. ]]>

IMAGE Empty pair of child's ballet shoes displayed against a black background. IMAGEIf you are a parent with an aspiring dancer, nothing is more exciting for both of you than getting all the necessary apparel, including a first or new pair of ballet shoes. However, for little feet, it is very important to get the right shoes at the right price. Below are 5 things to consider before you buy ballet slippers:


1) Fit

For ballet slippers, the single most important factor is fit. The shoe should fit like a sock or glove without puckers or extra material to pinch at the tip of the shoe. The slipper should NOT be so snug or binding as to curl the toes inside the shoe or squeeze the ball or widest part of the foot.

For children, the feet are still developing and growing. It is important to have a close-fitting shoe to allow the teacher to catch and correct your little ballet dancer’s stance. A conforming fit will also allow your child to “feel” the floor with her feet when learning ballet technique. Toddlers and very young children may not yet be learning ballet technique but they are working on balance and other fundamental skills and, if they’re not dancing barefoot, their shoes must fit almost as if they are to encourage good foot alignment. The earlier the dancer learns proper placement, the less injury he or she will sustain to the knees and ankles down the road.


2) Size

You might be tempted to buy a ballet slipper a “thumbs-width” or half size larger that leaves room for growth. This is understandable as a child’s feet grow fast, and you may want to save some money in the future. Because it is fit that matters most, you should know that ballet slipper sizing varies by brand and that you can’t always rely on street-shoe sizing. Ask your child’s dance teacher or school about fitting shoes or brand recommendations before buying them if possible. It is a great idea to visit stores that specialize in dancewear to ask questions and try different sizes and brands if you are uncertain about sizing and finding the right fit.


3) Type of shoe

While this might seem obvious, there are a variety of ballet slippers to choose from with anything from a single-sole leather ballet shoe to a split-sole canvas shoe.  The typical “first” ballet shoe for little girls and boys is a leather shoe with a single leather sole, however split-soles and canvas slippers are becoming more available in young children’s sizes. Split-sole, canvas shoes are often the slipper of choice for students and teachers as these are often more comfortable, allow the teacher to better see what’s going on with the toes inside the shoe, and support and encourage “pointing” through the arch of the foot. Nothing is more inspiring than a beautifully pointed foot, but it takes some training to get there.


4) Color

Pink for girls and black for boys, of course!  But, ballet shoes come in a range of colors. Be sure to follow the instructor’s wishes for classroom uniform, if he or she has a preference.  In some ballet schools, a uniform look helps the instructor to scan the room more easily to ensure students are performing and learning dance moves correctly.


5) Price

In general, ballet slippers are among the least expensive dance shoes. For children, a good, reasonably-priced ballet slipper will run anywhere from $12-$25.  As a little dancer’s feet grow, new shoes will be needed to maintain the proper support. You may be tempted to go for the cheapest shoes possible, but keep in mind that these could be poorly constructed and become a distraction. Your child’s ballet shoes need not keep your child from paying attention to the dance teacher’s instruction.


For children, dance is an exciting learning experience. Having the right shoes will help them enjoy that experience so much more. Though they may not tell you when they have a great fitting shoe, they will tell you if something doesn’t feel right. If you aren’t sure what the issue might be, don’t hesitate to ask the instructor about the problem and they will be happy to help.



IMAGE Headshot of Lara Friesen IMAGELara Friesen is a newbie blogger and former recreational dancer.  She hails from Cleveland, OH, where she learned ballet at the Cleveland School of Ballet as a child and later studied at Dance by Gloria until her mid-twenties.  She now lives in San Francisco with her husband, where marketing is her full-time job.

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How Much Dance Should My Child Be Taking? – Money and Value Mon, 11 Oct 2010 13:31:55 +0000 You may still have concerns about your investment in dance training. Your child is busy, taking hours of dance class per week, and you are wondering, "Is all of this money going toward the right things? Is my budding dancer getting what he or she needs for the best value?"]]>

Previously, I explained that the amount and extent of your child’s training should be relative to your child’s motivation, preparedness, and interest in the dance form and learning its technique.

Perhaps your child is motivated and seems to have that equation balanced. You may still have concerns about your investment in dance training. Your child is busy, taking hours of dance class per week, and you are wondering, “Is all of this money going toward the right things? Is my budding dancer getting what he or she needs for the best value?”

When you have a child in dance, you pledge your own resources to the process and it makes sense that you want to make sure these resources are not going to waste.

Figuring out value

A photo of someone dropping coins into a piggy bank
Photo by Alan Cleaver

Something has value when what you get out is equal to or greater than what you put in. Reward ≥ Dedication (of time, of funds, of spirit, of motivation, of thought, etc.)

The “bad” news?

The return on value is not always immediate, particularly in dance. Rewards can come much later so it can be hard to tell if you are getting value. That’s why I think so many parents ask the questions above.

The good news?

Good value is measurable, even in the moment, if you know what your values are.

What is valuable to you?

Dance is a treasure chest of riches to be unlocked. Even if your child never steps foot into a dance studio again after high school, it is likely he’ll have received something from the experience. Potentially, these could be valuable life lessons. Just ask Vicki, a mom and educator whose three college-aged girls no longer dance.

Take some time to determine what you and your child want to get out of dance beyond any professional aspirations. Then, reflect on your child’s dance program and schedule based on these standards. For instance, if self-discipline is something you value, assess if the school encourages and expects dancers to focus and make choices. If it’s creativity, make sure your school provides opportunities for dancers to participate in the creative process. Look at the wider scope of rewards in dance when you evaluate and you’ll have a better idea if you are putting your money where it really matters for you.

Quantity – How much is valuable?

At a dance studio it is easy to get caught up in quantity. There are costumes, competitions, performances, solos, duets, trios, and a buffet of different dance styles from which to choose. These have the potential to be enriching experiences for your child, no doubt. But they can begin to accumulate, each one seeming to be crucial (and expensive) pieces to a puzzle.

In this quest for fulfilling every need with more classes, more awards, and more performances, the importance of other rewards (like the ones mentioned in Vicki’s article) is underestimated. Perhaps sensing a  gap or void, parents begin to wonder how many, or which of these puzzle pieces are really necessary.

But it isn’t about the number really. Nor is about having all the “right” pieces.

What matters is that each piece is considered before it is placed, works toward your child’s current goals and interests, and is supported by a solid foundation of quality training and true enthusiasm for movement and the art of dance.

Quality – What is valuable in dance?

Two dance trophies against a deep pink backdropDance parents can get into a mindset in which all the decisions made about a child’s classes are bent on best preparing their young dancer for that maybe, what-if chance that he or she wants a career someday. This too neglects the other valuables dance has to offer.

If your child definitely has aims to become a professional or if you are concerned that they might one day, consider this:

I’ve never heard a college professor or choreographer or critic lament that a dancer just didn’t take enough classes, or win enough awards, or perform enough as a kid.

I have witnessed disappointment in the training and technique a dancer has received. Clearly the focus is on quality not quantity.

Quality vs. Quantity

Granted, when we talk about quality dance training, quantity does come up. Standard estimates for what is considered “enough” technique to progress to certain levels of training do exist. If you’ve read this earlier article, you may have a better understanding of how training (the course of techniques learned) differs from having experiences in a variety of dance styles.

The ability to adapt to many different dance forms comes only when there is good training and technique to build upon.

Denise Wall, studio owner (and mother of Travis Wall and Danny Tidwell) says she never wanted to own her own studio, but after teaching in studios where success was measured more by enrollment and retention than by students’ improvement, she changed her mind. “Unless you own your own studio, you cannot control curriculum,” she says. “I would rather be poor than sacrifice technique.” [see the article here]

That dedication to quality, rather than quantity has helped Denise Wall’s children and students find success in the dance world.

Bottom line:

When you make a commitment to quality over quantity and aim for experiences that support your child’s goals and values, you can almost always feel confident that your investment (whatever that is) is going to have great returns for your child.

Find a studio devoted to quality instruction of techniques and training. It may not always be the least expensive option. It may not always be the most expensive option, either. But it will be the most bang for your buck: the better value.

Abide by your own commitment to quality when considering the addition of classes or other expenses (or how much dance your child is taking).

Even if your child’s goals do not include becoming a professional performer, a focus on quality will keep your time and money investment in check, not to mention allow your dancer to focus on what really matters.

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How Much Dance Should My Child Be Taking? – The Equation Wed, 29 Sep 2010 13:10:52 +0000 If your child is asking, investigate the reasons she wants to take a new or additional dance class. Costume style, choreography, musical accompaniment, or maintaining friendships may be no less valid or less important to her than the desire to enhance her skills. Dance should be fun, too! Do not devalue or brush away these motivations, they are part of the equation.]]>
I’ve been asked this question a lot.

Usually it is from a parent but sometimes it is from a teen or adult asking for themselves.

My answer is another question.

… To do what?

The word ‘should’ implies there is a goal, a dream, a desire behind your question. With no knowledge of what your child’s goal, dream, or desire is, neither you nor I will be able to answer your How Much Dance Should…? question. Begin at square one and continue play on your next turn.

My child has a defined goal, a dream, a desire. Now can I ask the question?

You can, but

  1. I don’t have an answer. You and your child do.
  2. There is no right answer. There is no magic number of hours to be clocked. No student or dancer is the same, no flirtation with or pursuit of dance is alike.
  3. The answer changes because the destination is not a fixed one.

Conclusion: Your answer to the above question will be unique to your child.

What is the appropriate amount or extent of training for my child at this time?

Ah, that’s better. Here are some questions that will help you find your answer…

“What are my child’s interests?”

Look for opportunities in which your child can try and gain insight into different styles without adding another class to the schedule. It’s a great idea to find a studio which offers the chance to “taste” different dance forms during workshops, via visiting teachers or master classes, conventions, or going to see dance performances. This will help your child make decisions about where he would like to increase his commitment level.

“What and how deep are my child’s motivations?”

If your child is asking, investigate the reasons she wants to take a new or additional dance class. Costume style, choreography, musical accompaniment, or maintaining friendships may be no less valid or less important to her than the desire to enhance her skills. Dance should be fun, too! Do not devalue or brush away these motivations, they are part of the equation.

BUT, the investment of weekly classes is significant enough that it pays to know if it is the desire for improvement and mastering skills that is motivating her, or something else. If your child’s motivations are all superficial, what she learns is likely to be too.

Do weigh and consider all of her reasons and include your child in the process. This is the only way to be clear about her motivations.

Is my child ready for more?

She’ll ask for it when she wants more. But is she ready?

If you’ve taken the time to go through the process above, your child is less likely to find themselves overworked or underprepared for an increased level of commitment or activity.

Do be willing to reevaluate, though, if your child is showing signs of stress physically, mentally, or emotionally and cut back if necessary. Things happen, environments change, people change.

“Has my child established a good foundation on which to build?”

His foundational class or two, whether creative dance, ballet, jazz, or tap should offer good, quality technique and training of appropriate skills. Good training is possible in any of these forms but not necessarily happening in every class at every school.

What is quality training?

In short, good training offers classes and curriculum which are designed to develop the tapestry of skills needed for dance – control, body awareness, strength, flexibility, musicality, artistry, and more.

Whether curriculum is based on a set syllabus or backed by other forms of teacher training, education, or experience, it is important to find a teacher who has a method to his/her madness.

No matter if yours is a recreational student, or on a professional track, or has the desire to change his track, if the teacher is not teaching with any real direction or reason behind the exercises, then you want to find someone who does.

If he has received quality training from instructors who also care about his well-being, allowed him to discover the rewards of self-motivation, rejoiced with him in his successes, encouraged him when he has struggled, and instilled respect and enthusiasm for the art of dance, he’s got a strong foundation on which to build.

The Equation

Interest + Motivation + Preparedness = Hours + Diversity + Challenge

Hours is the number of hours spent on the activity.

Diversity is the range of dance styles and dance activities.

Challenge is the level of difficulty of the class or activity.

When there is equilibrium between these two sides of the equation, the amount of training is right where it should be.

How to work out the equation

When you work out for fitness, you go at a pace or a level of challenge until this becomes easy and then you step it up with more repetition and more challenge.

Similarly when the interest, motivation, or preparedness on one side of the equation increases, the values on the other side should increase to match.

The equation is really very simple and logical, yet it takes communication with your child (on whatever level they are capable of discussing it with you) and requires observation and some homework on your part.

The investigation may raise more questions.

How Do I Balance My Time and Money Expenditure With My Child’s Dance NEEDS?

What if he/she wants to be a PROFESSIONAL?

You know your child’s desire is to be a professional dancer. You know that it is his/her desire and not your own. And you want to know if this changes anything about what I just wrote above.

Hint: It doesn’t. But I know you want the nitty-gritty on what it takes to get your child from point A to B.

Did the above article answer at least some of your questions?

Does the equation make some sense in a universal way?

What else do you want to know?

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Helping Your Preschooler Become Body-Aware Mon, 27 Sep 2010 13:00:47 +0000 It might seem silly at first to get on the floor with your child and roll with her. You might think she already knows how, but movement is a layered experience, which means we relearn the same concepts over and over.]]>

It is so exciting when your baby takes her first step. When she lets go of your hands and teeters away.

But now that your baby is a toddler or preschooler, how can you help him discover more about her body, facilitate body awareness, strengthen gross motor skills and teach him to understand the space around him?

The answer is simpler then you think:

Move with your child.


Your child has mastered different skills like rolling, crawling and walking but be sure to “review” these skills.

It might seem silly at first to get on the floor with and roll with your child. You might think s/he already knows how but movement is a layered experience, which means we relearn the same concepts over and over.

Some examples:

Crawling is a contralateral movement. The right arm and left leg are moving simultaneously and vice versa. Walking is also a contralateral movement, so mastering crawling will help a child master walking, running, leaping, etc.

As a baby, your child rocked on his hands and knees before crawling. Your child was practicing pushing from his feet, the same concept that he will explore when he learns to jump.

Skills like spiraling, changing direction in space and initiating movement with different body parts will all be explored again when he learns to spin, rotate and twist while standing and jumping.


Each time we relearn a movement we get better at it. So when you get on the floor and move with your child, you are helping him with his layered movement experience.


More reasons to move with your child:

  1. It is great bonding time.
  2. You are experiencing and practicing non-verbal communication.
  3. You benefit from discovering with him/her. Relearning skills like rolling, creeping and crawling is good for YOU and your core muscles, too!


Here are some fun movements and ideas to explore with your preschooler:

• Rolling
• Crawling
• Jumping
• Hopping
• Standing on one foot
• Moving close and far away from each other
• Moving together while connected via a particular body part (hand, elbow, foot)
• Standing as still as a statue (read more on practicing stillness)

Find more movement and body awareness ideas in the following articles:

Enjoy moving with your child, discovering movement in a whole new light and how fun it can be as well!


What fun ways will you get up (or down) and get moving with your child?

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Crafty Ideas: Recital Gifts For Your Teacher Mon, 10 May 2010 14:29:21 +0000 End-of-year performances dominate dance studios between April and June. It is a busy time and parents and students are often left scrambling to find just the right thank-you gift for their teacher. Gifts for teachers need not be expensive. In fact, I don't know any teacher who would not cherish a simple thank-you letter from the heart! However, there are plenty of cute, easy, and useful craft ideas online.]]>

End-of-year performances dominate dance studios between April and June. It is a busy time and parents and students are often left scrambling to find just the right thank-you gift for their teacher. Gifts for teachers need not be expensive. In fact, I don’t know any teacher who would not cherish a simple thank-you letter from the heart! However, there are plenty of easy, meaningful, and unique craft ideas online.

Crafty Fun

Ever since I became a mom, I have received Disney’s Family Fun magazine. It’s full of cool ideas for kids and families. I’m not an affiliate for the magazine or anything, I’ve just found it full of cool stuff and would like to pass it along. Recently they published a feature on teacher crafts. In fact, there are tons of simple crafts on the website, many of which could be adapted for studio owners or dance teachers. Have a look at some of the ones I think would translate well:

Giving Tree

Great teacher giftsThis is a fun way to present gift cards from a variety of places. Have the whole class contribute even one $5-10 gift card to stores/restaurants you know your teacher frequents, and you’ll have a substantial and useful gift. You don’t have to do the flower pot. Consider presenting this in a bouquet at recital time. Visit Family Fun for instructions.

Paper Bouquet

Great teacher giftsI learned how to make these tissue paper creations long ago. They are fun and easy to do. If you have younger children, this is a craft they can do themselves with a little help from mom or dad. They last longer than live flowers and your son or daughter will love presenting their teacher with a bouquet of handmade flowers. Visit Family Fun for instructions.

Picture Puzzle

This one is a Father’s Day suggestion, but I thought this was a cool way to display a photo. The suggestion is that these picture blocks can be used as paperweights but they might also be mounted on a board or in a frame as artwork! Take a photo of your class, a group shot of the school’s teachers, or secretly organize all the students at your school for one big panorama. What a pleasant surprise that would be for a studio owner. Visit Family Fun for instructions. You might also check out these instructions for decoupage puzzle blocks.

Scrapbook Of Significance

A simplified Scrapbook of Significance can be handmade by any student! Click the image for instructions.

For a truly special teacher, this is a truly special project. If you are a parent that loves to scrapbook, collect students’ answers to questions that will go straight to the heart of any teacher. What do you like best about your dance teacher? What did you learn this year? What was the funniest thing that happened in class this year? What is your favorite dance movement? How does it feel when you dance? The idea comes from the Family Fun message boards for Great Teacher Gift ideas – visit the site for the foundational idea and some variations.

A Gift That Doesn’t Open

Also on the above page, I found an extremely simple token of love and appreciation that would be a sweet gesture from a young dancer. Perhaps you’ve seen this done but it was new to me so I will share it here.

Simply wrap a block of wood with wrapping paper and ribbon. Then add the following poem:

“This is a very special gift
That you can never see.
The reason it’s so special is
It comes to you from me.

Whenever you are lonely
or even feeling blue.
You only have to hold this gift,
and know I think of you.

You never can unwrap it.
Please leave the ribbon tied.
Just hold the box close to your heart,
It’s filled with LOVE inside.”

Post your crafty ideas below!

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How To Discuss Problems With Your Studio Director and Be Heard Wed, 13 Jan 2010 12:00:48 +0000 As the parent of a dancer, you are your child's advocate. You also invest your time and money in their studio. When you have problems or concerns it's hard not to be emotional but if you want to be heard, the steps you take to express your concerns are crucial.]]>

Ideally parents and studio directors would see eye to eye on everything but we all know that it doesn’t always happen that way.

Suggestion Box
Photo by Lindsay Bremner is licensed CC BY 2.0

Dance parents invest almost as much (if not equal) time as dance students in their dance school. Not to mention, the financial investment for lessons, costumes, private classes, competitions, and more. It isn’t unusual or surprising, therefore, that as a parent, you may feel you have a lot to say about how a studio is run.

Parents, it is not at all unreasonable to ask questions or express your concern over the policies at your school if it is in the best interest of your child to do so. If you are hoping to discuss your concerns with a teacher or director follow this plan for making your approach.

  1. Take a breath
  2. Collect your thoughts
  3. Time your approach
  4. Buffer your complaints and opinions
  5. Be willing to listen
  6. Be willing to walk away

Take A Breath

Often when there is a problem or we’re upset about something, our feelings get all jumbled up with our reasons for wanting to see change happen. For example, a dance mom recently contacted me with concern about the attire (bra tops and booty shorts) which older company dancers are wearing for class or for assisting with younger students. When she expressed her concerns to me, she gave one reason she wants to see a change – the attire is not morally upstanding, and then added several ways it makes her feel – she finds it embarrassing, believes this makes the girls poor role models, and maintains that it does not match the values she wishes to uphold for her daughter (a younger student at the school).

Whether or not you agree with the reasons or her feelings, attire is a legitimate concern for this parent. However, if she were to approach the director with only one reason and a whole jumble of feelings, you might see how this could be a problem, especially if the director doesn’t agree or feel the same way.

Imagine the director feels the girls are good role models and that they show this in ways outside of what they wear. Imagine the director of the school does not share your value system, or disagrees that wearing this particular attire is morally incorrect. Imagine he/she is not embarrassed by the attire – many dancers don’t have the same uncomfortable feelings about the human form as others because they spend so much time on study and analysis of the body. Imagine no other parents or teachers at the studio have expressed concern on the matter.

Always take a moment. a breath. a day. a week. or two! to think through your reasons and separate them a bit from your feelings.


Somewhere between taking a breath and collecting your thoughts, you should consider if the problem or concern you have is a matter of studio policy or addressed in the school handbook.

Policies are typically in place for good reason and if you have an issue with something you have already agreed to or have been notified about, bringing the issue to studio management should be very carefully considered. Always read a studio’s policies before enrolling and question anything you don’t understand or have concerns about at that time. Constructive criticism of the rules is usually welcome when delivered appropriately (see below) but if you knew the policy and agreed, it is within the business owner’s right to simply restate the policy. That’s what written policies and handbooks are for.

Collect Your Thoughts

Before approaching a studio owner/director with a concern it is a good idea to think through the varying reasons why you feel a change may be in order. You can include the personal reasons you would like to see things done differently but support your ideas and concerns with logical examples.

Going back to the problem with attire, our concerned dance mom could argue that girls struggling with weight or body insecurities (like breast size) may feel additional pressure or inadequacy when surrounded by girls in clothing that hides (or supports) nothing. She may even present alternatives. The dancer uniform of leotard and tights allows the instructor to see what they need to – it won’t solve any difficulties a student is having with body image, but the wide variety of class appropriate leotards, support garments, and warm-ups means greater likelihood that young women of varying body types will find something that works for them.

When you present well-thought out arguments for how or why the director might handle something differently, you are more likely to be heard. The director can listen and consider your opinions. That doesn’t mean that change is inevitable.


Time Your Approach

This is so important! I can speak from experience as one on the receiving end of parent concerns (for a variety of issues) that the way a parent approaches me can have a tremendous affect on my response. Think about the ways this is true for yourself, in your work or at home!

The timing of your approach can make or break your argument. Set a time that is convenient for the teacher/studio owner to sit down for a discussion rather than confronting her between classes or while she is “on duty” with other responsibilities of the work day.

Hopefully your studio has a publicized protocol that sets clear guidelines for studio parents and students and makes communicating problems and concerns easy.

If your studio does not have such a protocol established, you may need to go forward much more carefully. Thoughtfully decide to whom, how, and when it is best to address your concern. Please, don’t talk, gossip about, or sway opinions on the issue with other parents, students, or teachers. It won’t help your case and it will lead to negative feelings on every level.


Buffer Your Complaints and Opinions

I’ve spent years teaching and, like most jobs worth doing, it is a thankless one. Someone who has taken the time to offer compliments along the way, or who approaches me with positive things to say about the tremendous work I’ve put in, gets further than those who approach me only to say something negative or tell me when I’ve done something wrong. Dance teachers and studio directors are no different from anyone else in their desire for criticisms to be delivered with care. So, making yourself heard is often a matter not of what you say but how you say it.


Be Willing To Listen

Most instructors think and debate with themselves on every choice they make. We are heavily invested in your child too! A teacher has a right to her opinions, feelings, and choices just as you, the parent, have a right to yours and a business owner can and should run their businesses according to their own values in life and in dance. Once you have had your say, stay open to the counter-arguments presented. The reasons behind certain policies or decisions may be very good ones!


Be Willing To Walk Away

You may do all the “right” things when you approach the studio owner and still not receive the desired response. It is okay to request change as long as you are willing to also accept that it is the director or teacher’s prerogative to run things according to his values and/or the prevailing attitude of her customers, and leave the school respectfully if this studio’s choices will in any way compromise the values you seek to uphold. If you no longer feel comfortable in the environment or it is not a good fit for your child or your family, the only thing left to do is make a change.

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Families Move “Up, Down, & All Around” Mon, 23 Nov 2009 14:00:14 +0000 As a dance teacher and a stay-at-home mom, I love to make music and movement with my little one part of our daily routine. Stacey Pepper Schwartz is a dance educator and a mom too. With sensitivity and recognition that not all parents feel prepared to facilitate movement experiences with their children at home, she has created a new  DVD, Up, Down, & All Around that guides viewers of all ages through an interactive experience with creative dance. The video embraces the precepts that anyone with a willing spirit and willing body can enjoy moving creatively and benefit from participating and getting active together as a family.

Up, Down, & All Around is structured like many creative movement classes and feels very much as if Stacey is leading a class in your living room. After, a short introduction, the program begins with a seated warm-up that isolates and builds awareness of individual body parts, gradually bringing the body to a standing position. Over the next 30 minutes, Stacey directs her participants and viewers through fundamental skill practice and movement exploration. She provides time for students to slow down with some yoga-inspired breathing and balancing, allowing the movers to refocus while building head-tail awareness in the spine and length in the body. Stacey ends things on a high note, allowing each child to pick and show their “favorite thing.” There is even a bonus, create-a-dance activity which demonstrates choreography building through chance as the children pick out a random sequence of movements which are then performed and practiced to spirited accompaniment.

The movement in the DVD is accessible to all experience levels. There is nothing pretentious about the material, the environment, or the contributors. The children involved are eager and having fun, they readily express their own ideas just as children do in class. With the true spirit of a teacher, Stacey validates their ideas and moves on toward her goal without breaking stride. The adults are game too, enjoying the playful opportunity to get active. Real-life moms and dads of some of the child participants, these grown-ups wiggle, gallop, and roll with it.

Musician Steve Blunt plays live throughout the class and two of his recordings are featured as bonus music videos on the disc. His bouncy tunes support the various activities yet stand-alone with singable melodies and lyrics. In fact, you may be humming them long after the DVD ends.

The dance studio is carpeted and the movers fill a space that is also accommodating cameras. Tight quarters do not detract from this particular video, however. Instead, this attribute functions as evidence that the material really can be adapted for any location, including a family’s living room. A few varied camera angles keep the production from becoming static, while bright, colorful costumes and decor create a setting that appeals to both boys and girls.

My husband, son, and I had a wonderful time getting active with the movers in this presentation. My little guy is an active two-year-old. He was able to copy and participate with a bit of encouragement and assistance from us, and it was easy for him to continue moving in his own way to the lively music even when the directions were geared to older children. Versatility is the real strength of Up, Down, & All Around. Parents (or educators) with little experience can pop in the DVD and get every member of the family or classroom up and moving in no time, yet there are opportunities for new discoveries and learning with repeat viewings. Stacey also offers additional program notes (a free download) and other resources at her website,, which help facilitators expound upon and supplement the seed of knowledge and experience planted with this program.

Preview the Video on YouTube

Leaping Legs Creative Movement Programs was honored with Dr. Toy’s 100 Best Children’s Products 2009 Award and 10 Best Active Products 2009 Award. If you would like to purchase Up, Down, & All Around for your family or classroom, visit the Leaping Legs website.

Also, stay tuned here at Dance Advantage!! I was so pleased with Stacey’s video that I asked her if she would be willing to give away some copies to my readers. She generously agreed, so be on the lookout for that giveaway – it’s coming soon!!

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Things To Consider When Your Child Doesn’t Listen to the Dance Teacher Thu, 08 Oct 2009 13:00:35 +0000 Appropriate class material is essential for engaging young dancers. Consider the structure and style of your child's dance class and its teacher before deciding that dance isn't right for your preschooler.]]>
Dance class
Image by Oude School via Flickr

If your child is having trouble paying attention in dance class or has a tough time making good choices when the dance teacher gives instructions, there are things you can do as a parent to encourage and help your your young dancer listen in dance class.

Below we’ll look at the structure of a preschool dance class and what is appropriate for your young dancer.

Consider the class material.

Ballet is a discipline that cannot and should not truly be practiced until a child is around 7 years old. The maturity, physically and mentally, of a child under 7 is not developed enough for the barre work and technique required for ballet.

Most dance studios teach a mix of creative dance, movement games, and some fundamental ballet postures and ideas in their preschool classes.

Some studios pay too little attention to child development and getting that “mix” right for their youngest students. For example, the children may spend a lot of time in lines or standing in one spot, or the dance teacher may not vary her tone of voice or set clear limits/expectations for the children, or the kids are asked to focus on one thing for longer than they are yet able. Some children have a disposition that allows them to just “hang in there”, even when they are bored or under-stimulated. Some children do not. The repetition and extended focus that is a solid teaching method for students only a few years older is very hard to tolerate for preschool dancers.

Preschool children do best when…

  • Things move quickly,
  • There is a lot of variety,
  • Their imaginations and creativity are fully engaged,
  • Dance is packed with learning that feels (and looks) like PLAY.

Dance at this stage should have a clear structure with emphasis on creativity and interpersonal or classroom skills. Its focus should be creating thinking dancers and the development of problem solving, movement (direction, body and spatial awareness) and motor (jumping, galloping, kicking) skills. Greater emphasis on technique and choreography comes later when children begin to advance and increase their dedication to the discipline of dance study.

Consider the dance teacher’s experience and style.

A qualified teacher works well with and has experience teaching young children.

  • Experience – Way too often, classes for a dance school’s youngest children are given to the school’s most inexperienced teachers. There are many reasons this happens but those who work best with little children have usually had great mentors and a lot of opportunity to observe and lead dance classes for young children.
  • Style – Experience is not everything. Therefore, also consider the way your child’s teacher interacts with students, how he/she develops a relationship with your child, how your child feels about the class, and what you’ve seen of the teacher’s methods and teaching style. Watch carefully. At this age, your child’s response and learning in dance is more important than the skills and choreography he/she accomplishes.

Every child is different and every teacher is too. If you feel your daughter is losing interest or having trouble listening because the class structure or teacher is not a good fit, you might try out other classes. This will allow you to observe how your child reacts in an alternative setting.

Remember that a child may simply respond more positively to a different style, and an improved result does not necessarily mean that the previous teacher or school used poor or inappropriate methods.

Maybe dance just isn’t right for my child…

The Little Ballerina
Image by jónr via Flickr

Whether or not your child will have a desire to continue in dance when the focus IS more on technique and choreography is hard to predict. No matter what, the experience in a preschool dance class can be invaluable for helping to prepare a young child for school and other activities.

Laying a solid foundation for a future in dance begins with discovering a joy and passion for movement. So if that’s what lies ahead for your little dancer, these feelings are what will carry him or her through the difficult periods of training which students inevitably face as they advance.

If your young child is struggling to make good choices in dance class, don’t give up on dance until you’ve done some problem solving at home and with your child’s teacher.

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Help! My Child Doesn’t Listen to the Dance Teacher! Wed, 07 Oct 2009 13:00:15 +0000 Parents, we know it's unsettling when your little dancer isn't listening in dance class. It's normal for young children to lose focus sometimes but here's what you can do to help your child pay attention to the dance teacher.]]>

As you watch your child through the observation window at dance class, you cringe. The other kids are attentive and having fun but your three-year-old is all over the place. She’s making silly faces in the mirror, the teacher says her name three times before she gets up for her turn across the floor, she looks completely disinterested and is even disruptive at times. What is going on? She looks forward to dance class all week but then she gets there and doesn’t pay attention. It’s a little embarrassing and you want more than anything to open the door and give her that stern “behave” look but instead you’re reconsidering this whole ballet thing.

By Dan Hughes , CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons
By Dan Hughes , CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

If any or all of the above sounds familiar, you probably have some questions. Here are a few from other parents just like you.

My child is not listening to the teacher.

Is this a developmental phase?

All children test limits and this is not limited to preschoolers – How do you know where a boundary is and feel secure that it will always be there if you do not occasionally walk to the edge of it?

Teachers and parents help children by making boundaries and expectations clear (often before the child has a chance to test them).

When your child resists or pushes boundaries often, even when limits are clear and consistent,  a wide variety of things could be interfering with your child’s ability to respond accordingly. If you’re concerned I suggest you request an appointment with the child’s teacher to discuss what he/she is seeing in class. Ask if your teacher has a few moments before or after the next class or if there’s another time that’s best.

If the teacher is not yet as concerned as you are, it may be because s/he sees your child’s behavior within the range of what’s expected at this age. Trust the teacher to let you know when the behavior requires some intervention. At this point it is important for teachers and parent(s) to communicate and work together on possible solutions.


Is a preschooler (under 5-years old) too young to be expected to listen?

Absolutely not – in fact, learning to listen and follow instructions in a class environment is the main benefit of an early start in dance. Little bodies and minds aren’t quite developmentally ready for learning dance technique until around the age of 7. Even dance “steps” aren’t as important in the preschool years as learning to cooperate, explore movement, and of course, have fun!

I don’t believe I’ve ever met a child that did not enjoy moving. They even enjoy learning the principles of movement (which sounds fancy, but is really just concepts like fast and slow, strong and light, etc.) when it is presented in a way that’s developmentally appropriate (i.e. fun and playful!).


What can I do if my child isn’t following directions in dance class?

Is there anything you can do as a parent to encourage your child to make appropriate choices in their preschool dance class. Sure!

  1. Keep your routine at home as predictable and peaceful as possible. Make sure your child is getting enough sleep, eating well, and try to relieve any stress or anxiety he/she may have at home or in class. Consider: Is this a new dance teacher from last year? Is there conflict between your child and another? Has the class environment intensified in some way? Sometimes even small or unexpected things can affect a child’s attention and behavior.
  2. Be clear and consistent with expectations at home and compare these to the class expectations. Of course, your style at home and the way your child’s teacher runs his/her class will not be identical. However, if the rules/guidelines at home or within the studio are not aligned, your child may be confused about why the expectations vary from place to place. You can create some consistency by examining with an open mind the differences between dance class and home.  For example: If a child is expected to not interrupt the teacher while talking gently remind your student at home to be patient when they see you speaking on the phone or with a friend.
  3. Help your child establish a good relationship with his/her teacher.On her website, Dr. Laura Markham says to include your child’s teacher in daily conversation in a way that will help your child form an emotional and familiar attachment with him/her. Click here to read the article, which also includes other ways you can help your preschooler to listen to a teacher.

Look for the continuation of this article in which I discuss class structure for young dance students and how certain experiences may discourage your child’s attentiveness in class.

Dance Little Sister — Working With a Younger Sibling Wed, 16 Sep 2009 13:00:06 +0000 It is challenging to work with a younger sibling when creating or rehearsing for a performance. Here are the keys to avoiding frustration.]]>

If you have a younger sibling, it’s bound to happen at some point…

You’re performing with your kid brother in a talent show, or Mom and Dad want you both to put something together for Great Aunt Matilda’s 80th birthday, or (yikes!) you are the assistant in your sister’s dance class and have been ordered to help her…

Dancing baby
Image by quinn.anya via Flickr





As the older sibling, you’ve somehow been put “in charge” of getting results from the last person on earth who would want to listen to a word you say (except, of course, unless you’ve said something tattle-worthy). So, how do you get this kid to cooperate?

  1. When it’s time to work, don’t tell her. Just bring a CD player, iPod, or whatever to a place where she is nearby. Turn on the music and start working on or doing the dance yourself — don’t even acknowledge her at this point. If it looks fun (or maybe just because deep down she really does idolize you) she may want to join you or help.
  2. While practicing, let her be the expert. Ask for her ideas, resist putting them  down and actually use some of them in the dance — even her ideas aren’t what you would have come up with. If you are rehearsing, you might pretend to mess up on parts she already knows or “forget” and ask her if she knows the next step. Or, let her guess what comes next on parts she’s less familiar with. Even if it’s way wrong say “good guess but actually it’s this!” Make it a game – it’s okay if she knows you are pretending, if it’s silly enough she’ll play along.
  3. Offer incentives. Set a goal — to learn just three more steps, or 16 counts (Remember the younger your sibling, the shorter her attention span is likely to be). Try saying something like “Guess what? If we learn three more steps today, mom says we can put on a show for her!” When she finishes with the parts she knows, she can dance however she likes until the end of the music. She may even want to go beyond the original goal out of excitement and the possibility for positive attention from an “audience”. But, if all you get is three more steps, well, at least you got that far. Don’t push her to do more.
  4. Don’t try to beat her, join her. Being bossy and controlling will not work. Forcing her to comply using threats because you’re bigger or older or more experienced will only be frustrating for both of you. Allow yourself to have fun. Be patient, funny, and energetic and you’ll see better results.
  5. Angela's Dance Co. Recital
    Image by The People’s Tribune via Flickr

    Acknowledge achievement. When she does go along with you, remembers a step, or show that she’s eager (even if it is just a little bit), acknowledge it. “Thanks for watching so closely, you really got it that time!” or “You remembered the kick! Wow, you’re really working hard!’ Say thank you when she listens well or does a good job. Congratulate her on the work she puts in. She’ll be more cooperative when you show appreciation for her efforts, no matter how small.


I’ve used “her” in this example just to keep things simple. Believe it or not, this stuff can work for brothers too.

You know your younger sibling and what motivates him/her better than I do. You may have to get creative! But these are the keys to success:

      • make learning the dance FUN
      • ASK rather than tell (let her be the teacher, quiz her, or find out what she thinks)
      • choose REWARDS that make her feel good about the dance
      • do it TOGETHER (no bossing)
      • and say THANK YOU!
Parents, Which Type of Helicopter Are You? Thu, 27 Aug 2009 22:23:57 +0000
Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Bell 206 ...
Image via Wikipedia

I’m a fan of College Parent Central, a blog mainly written for parents of college students. Blogger, Vicki Nelson recently did a three-part series about “Helicopter Parents.” As I read the articles, the dreaded term “stage mom” came to mind. Parents of university-bound students are not the only ones who “hover,” and therefore, Vicki’s positive message about redefining and examining parental involvement in a child’s life certainly has applications in the dance world. So, I thought I’d share these articles with you – just follow the links below. Enjoy!

Affirming “Helicopter Parents”: Redefining the Title

This is the first of three posts that consider the concept of college helicopter parents.  The concept is certainly not new, but it warrants continual examination – and sometimes redefinition.  In this post, we look at the definition of helicopter parents, as well as some of the motivation behind parental hovering.  In our next post, we will examine who helicopter parents are and how they operate, and in our final post, we will consider the consequences of helicoptering and suggest some possible ways in which parents might hover productively.

Is all hovering bad? What are the negatives? The positives?

How involved should a parent be in a child’s dance education?

What are the indicators that a parent’s hovering is producing negative results?

Parents, students, and teachers, I welcome your thoughts on the subject!

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