24-Week Toddler Curriculum Giveaway

Maria of Maria’s Movers has been writing for Dance Advantage for two years, bringing wonderful advice and years of experience to her posts about working with your littlest dancers. We love Miss Maria!

BrookeHere’s just a quick flashback of some of her fantastic work:

Today, we’re thrilled to let you know she’s giving away something special on the site. Read on…

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Celebrate Birthdays With Creative Dance

Princess Ballerina? Gymnastics? Sports? Ice Skating? Art? Soccer? So many choices for birthday parties these days. Right?

Why not creative movement?

For whatever reason, this year I have been asked to do approximately 1,000 (ok, 8) birthday parties. The birthday child loves my ballet class, but wants to invite girls AND boys to the party. It’s always a concern of the parent that if it’s too much like ballet, the boys won’t be interested. I assure the families that it will be a dance party, using props, imagination, and music!

In honor of my birthday this month, and since I have spent the last 5 weekends in a row teaching parties, I thought I would share some ideas I have been using when my students families hire me to do a birthday party for their child.


I will admit, parties are not my favorite thing to teach, but when the guests of honor are my students, it makes it much more fun!

The Logistics:


Do you have a space you can use at a studio or center? If not, you will have find a place to rent. I usually leave it up the family to find the space. Tell them what you need for in terms of space, like a clean dance floor, and an empty room that will fit all of their guests. If you leave it up to them, then there is no disappointment in the space later on.

Time + Money [Read more…]

Why You Should Jump, Play, And Roll On The Floor With Your Students

Have you ever counted how many times you get down on the floor and get back up in one 45 minute class?

I have, and it’s close to 15 times. 15 times! 15 x 6 classes a day = 90! That’s a lot of up and down, but let me tell you why I think it’s worth it.

Carrier-Belleuse, La leçon de ballet

Carrier-Belleuse, La leçon de ballet

When I was young, I attended a small town dance studio but occasionally I would visit the big studio 45 minutes away.

Looking back, what I remember most about visiting the big studio was the woman teaching from a chair. She would even teach the preschoolers like that. Now, she wasn’t teaching creative movement but I still think, in my opinion, that teaching from a chair isn’t the way to go.

Dancing with your students is so important.

It gives them something to look up to and strive to be. In creative dance, it models your creativity and gives them the permission to take their own creativity and run with it. If they see you dancing outside the box, so will they and that’s exactly what you want for them. You are their biggest role model! Right?

Here are some ideas to keep in mind while dancing with your preschoolers.

Become Three

My students frequently ask me how old I am. I think they are stumped because, despite the significant height difference, when my young students are in my presence, I transform into one of them.

The truth is, it doesn’t matter how old you are, as long as you can get down on their level and think like a 3-year-old you are golden. And by golden I mean, the center of their universe.

Think back to when you were young, when your imagination was bigger than you and your sense for adventure with no fear was all you had to worry about. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? Think about where your young students are and then try as hard as you can to be that way.

If they want to do a dance about rolling down a hill? You do it too!

Be Playful

As I have written before, I like to make my students laugh. I like them to believe that they know what’s going on even if I pretend like I don’t. It all goes back to being one of them. Being playful means not being afraid to show your personality, and embracing where the class is going.

Example of being playful: If you are doing explosive jumps with your students, and someone says “let’s be fireworks!” Thinking on my feet I would say “what color? what shapes? what holiday is it? who is watching our fireworks? Oh no! my firework fizzled out, what should we do?” I could go on and on.

Being playful is not shutting ideas down, it’s going with the flow and taking in every idea as a good idea!

Teacher with Students

USAG- Humphreys

Follow Your Own Rules

This is the most important of all: If you set rules for your classroom you MUST follow them too.

No exceptions just because you are the teacher. If your students are not allowed to lean on the barre in the back of the room, then you are not allowed to either! If your students have to wear their hair up, so do you. If they have no choice but to dance, you must dance too.

Sorry if it sounds like I’m lecturing, but I have seen so many teachers break every rule they have set and then expect their students to follow them. I just don’t think that is fair or very nice. I think this goes for all teachers, not just teachers of preschoolers.

If you don’t follow your own rules, you are signing up for trouble . . . trouble you could eliminate if you became three years old for just a short amount of time. You set rules for a reason and they most certainly apply to you!

Words Are Important, Your Body Is More Important

We teach our students movement words and dance words, but in preschool, it’s very important for them to see your body moving while learning the words. The only way I know how to teach is to move WITH my young dancers.

It doesn’t matter what it looks like. In creative dance, there is no wrong. So jump in, roll around, and play. You won’t regret it!

Ways To Get Through The Day

When I was in graduate school, a wise professor always told us to picture our day and plan ways to try to save energy while you are teaching. At the time, I didn’t understand what she was talking about, but now I do.

Even though I just made the case for why you should dance with your students, I do believe there are ways you can still do that and not use up all of your energy in the first 45 minutes of your day.

Here are some “sneaky” ways to save energy while you are still rolling down the hill.


If you have a specific warm-up that you do every class (which I would recommend for a preschool class), you can lead them through it halfway and then ask them to lead the second half. Give them the role of the teacher. My students love it.


If you have been doing a dance or a step for a while, try asking one of them to demonstrate it. Then do the step with them when you ask the entire class to do it.


Sometimes my voice leaves me when I’m talking and singing too much. I love to ask my students to sing the songs. I notice that if I give them the lead on the songs, they sing them louder and brighter.

Collecting Props

Come up with ways to have students collect the props for you. The last thing you want to do is go around picking up twelve dots. Students can bring them to a pile or a special spot in the room. This saves time, and energy!

What if you are sick or injured?

If there is a reason you can’t dance with your students, do the best you can within your limitations.

I’m advocating for your participation because I know it benefits young dancers. Becoming one of them creates an environment of happiness and acceptance, and that’s exactly what I want my dance room to be.

Do you dance with your students?

What are your “sneaky” ways to save energy? I would love to hear! 

Making The Case For Barefoot Preschool Dance

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? [Read more…]

“And Remember To Smile!”

Do you remember your teachers calling out “don’t forget to smile” just before you walked into your dance exams?

Do you now remind your own students to smile as they enter their dance examinations?

This article challenges the traditional practice of encouraging dance students to smile en route through the examination door and asks

…what does this actually accomplish?


Young ballet students wait to take their exams

© Colin Hutton

Learning By Example

I am convinced that the majority of teachers [Read more…]