Dear new dance parents,
So a new year has started, bringing with it fresh excitement and possibilities.
If your child is beginning dance classes this year then chances are you are up to your eyeballs in new dance shoes, leotards, bun-makers and a myriad of other dance paraphernalia (depending on the style of dance your little one is doing.)
Sometimes it can be easy to get swept up in all the excitement and forget about your child’s long-term physical and emotional experience within dance.
Today they are at the beginning of their dance journey. One day they will be at the end of it.
Obviously, dance can be a stressful and highly competitive world and I’d like to see more girls and boys reaching the end of their dance training feeling positive and proud, remembering dance as something that made them feel good about themselves, rather than feeling inadequate and riddled with bodily comparisons.
How you as a parent approach your child’s dance experience from the early years onwards can have a big impact on this. So let’s set them up, as best we can, to feel good about their dancing. Let’s start with a good, healthy dose of dance for fun, love and expression.
Some of my suggestions are:
Firstly, try to choose a studio who values the love of the art over perfection. Many wonderful dance schools out there do a fabulous job of promoting personal growth in their students, discouraging classroom comparisons and encouraging the love of the art, musicality, and expression without compromising on correct technique. Those are the schools for your little darlings. You can usually get a feel for the values of a school by sitting in on a class.
Be careful with how you talk about dance. Choose your words well. Avoid using the “P” word. Saying something is “perfect” puts a huge amount of pressure on a child. Let’s face it, there’s really nowhere to go but down if you get told you’re already perfect and aiming for perfection at such a young age is fairly nauseating. So yeah, let’s just leave the “P” word out of it.
Focus on their enjoyment of dance more than their ability. You don’t need to tell them they need to focus on getting better. If they love dance, they will continue to dance and, with their teacher’s guidance, will naturally progress to be the best they can possibly be.
After class, ask them holistic questions about how the class was:
“Did you have fun?”
“What was your favourite part?”
“Was the music pretty/awesome/fun?”
“How did the music feel?”
“Would you like to show me anything you learned?”
Then at home, if they do want to show you something they learned, be engaged about it. Make yourself a cuppa and settle in to adore this mini-performance with all your heart. Show them you love it. Don’t talk about mistakes. Even ask them to teach you what they learned. Have fun with it.
If they see you having fun with it, then guess what they are going to to? Yep! They’re going to have fun with it too.
Finally, if your darling should make mistakes whether they are in class or on stage this year (or any year), hold them tight and tell them they are brave for trying and continuing. Tell them this moment will pass and you are very proud of them for all they have done and are doing.
Okay mums and dads, welcome to the world of dance-parents. May the bobby pins be with you.