Choosing ballet lessons for kids
Ballet is an incredibly rigorous, beautiful form of dance and is often used as the foundation for other forms of dance education, such as jazz, tap, and even hip hop. Although we often picture the classic ballerina in pointe shoes and a tutu, hair slicked back in a bun, practicing for hours at the barre, ballet lessons for kids are often more free-form, dedicated to exploring movement and connecting with music.
Ballet lessons have several benefits for children. Not only do they improve balance, coordination, flexibility, and posture, but they help strengthen and tone muscles throughout the body (arms, legs, torso) and foster a sense of connection with the body that leads children to make healthier food choices, as well.
Plus, ballet has many emotional and social benefits, including relieving stress and improving relaxation, creating a sense of poise and self-confidence, and fostering teamwork, communication, and trust.
What to Look for in a Ballet Teacher
Most ballet teachers operate out of dance studios, either their own or another's. There is no actual certification for dance teachers, but most have several years of experience performing and competing in ballet, as well as perhaps other dance genres.
The most important thing at the beginner level is that the instructor is enthusiastic and patient, and that he or she is someone your child likes and trusts. You might ask for a sample lesson plan or even to sit on a class or two to get a feel for the instructor's style. Some studios also offer a per-class price or a trial period during which your child can participate in classes without a long-term commitment.
What to Look for in Ballet Shoes and Costumes
Although ballerinas are best known for tutus and pointe shoes, beginner ballet costumes are far less elaborate (and therefore, thankfully, less expensive). Girls usually wear tights and bodysuits, and boys wear form-fitting pants or shorts and t-shirts or tank tops.
In the early stages of ballet, participants wear flexible ballet slippers rather than pointe shoes (which have a box in the toe and a reinforced sole for dancing en pointe -- that is, on the tips of the toes). These slippers should be snug but with enough room for the toes to move and comfortable when the foot is flexed and pointed.
Generally, soft ballet shoes (or ballet slippers) are sold with the elastics separate so they can be sewn on in the exact right place (at the arch of the foot). However, some dancewear providers offer children's ballet shoes with pre-sewn elastics to save parents the trouble of pulling out a needle and thread.