Director's Blog

Partnering With Parents Through Education-Based Ballet Training
By Tiina Hazelett on August 13, 2014

“Movement is an indispensable part of learning and thinking.”   –Dr. Carla Hannaford, Neurophysiologist

Back to school time can bring alternating feelings of anxiety and excitement. New clothes, new backpacks, new pencils – exciting. New classroom, new teacher, new schedule– sometimes a little nerve wracking. But once kids settle into the new school year, the bottom line is that they are there to learn.

In the early years, many school activities are focused on play and exploration (think pattern blocks, crafts, learning centers). Why is this? Piaget said that play is a child’s job, because through play children explore and “develop a perspective of the world around them.”1 As children grow older and start to distinguish between fantasy and reality, more concrete, “academic” learning happens. All along the way, lessons are built on what came before; understanding patterns leads to success in math. Learning to play cooperatively at the art center leads to teamwork on a research project.

We all know that learning doesn’t stop when school hours are over. Kids are constantly absorbing information and sorting experiences to understand how the world works. Providing kids with various means of experiencing life is key to their development. When children are exposed to the same material in multiple settings, the concepts are more firmly cemented in their brains. That’s where we come in, partnering with parents and educators to promote learning through multiple modalities.

The Leap ‘N Learn curriculum used at Pure Dance Works is education-based, meaning it intentionally teaches and reinforces academic, personal and interpersonal skills that are essential to early childhood development.

Academic concepts are presented with patterns, directions and pathways that permeate weekly lesson plans. Younger students might be asked to predict a pattern of colored mats as the teacher lays out a pathway on the floor. Dancers then perform specific skills as they land on each color. Older students learn to combine individual skills into patterns and practice performing them across the floor in various pathways and directions.

Self-awareness and the responsibility for one’s own health are carefully integrated into class. While these concepts are continuously addressed through ballet instruction and discussions, in addition, we utilize our monthly objectives to achieve these and other goals throughout the year. For instance, in January our objective is, “Body Awareness,” which includes exploring various body shapes such as straight or asymmetrical, as well as dialogue on healthy nutrition.

Finally, students are taught that the elegance of ballet naturally entails graceful social manners. Learning to stand quietly while listening to instructions and waiting your turn patiently help to develop positive habits and first-rate character. Teamwork is promoted when dancers work in pairs or groups, sometimes performing structured skills in relationship to others and sometimes during creative exercises designed to encourage cooperative effort amongst dancers.

These are just a few ways in which we continuously promote and foster educational skills that help kids to flourish in all areas of development. Through it all, we incorporate constant pretend play in the younger years and just enough to keep kids interested in the mid-elementary years as we transition into the more technical aspects of ballet. Yes, back to school excitement is in the air, and so is back to dance delight. We look forward to a year of fun, friends, and learning beyond the new leotards, shoes, and dance bags J!

1Spell, Annie, Leap ‘N Learn Training Manual, Barre Necessities, LLC, Lafayette, LA, 2013, p. 8.

#NewAndImproved @PureDanceWorks (!)
By Tiina Hazelett on August 01, 2014

At Pure Dance Works, we are continuously evaluating our program to find ways to serve families better. A major improvement occurred in September, 2013 when Pure Dance Works became a Leap 'N Learn licensed studio. This fall, we have some positive changes in store that have grown largely out of the licensing journey. This article explains these changes for those who are familiar with the way we have done things in the past as well as informs new families of what you can expect from your Pure Dance Works experience.

Term Improvements
Classes for 2014-2015 will run on a thirty-six week term. The safe, fun and effective Leap ‘N Learn lesson plans are written assuming that classes are in session continuously throughout the school year. Each monthly lesson plan builds on previously introduced skills and provides a logical flow of monthly learning objectives and movement concepts. Previously we had to eliminate certain aspects of the lesson plans due to our two week breaks between ten week sessions. In addition, vastly fluctuating enrollment each session disturbed class dynamics. Now we will enjoy a continuous flow of learning, and students can count on being in class with the same friends all year long, increasing their comfort level and fostering deeper relationships.

Once & Done Registration
Registration is now a one-time event for the whole school year. Small class sizes, 12-month age groups, and developmentally-based lesson plans will still allow new students to enroll mid-year, but returning students will no longer lose their spot in class because the next session filled up before you could get re-registered! An added benefit here is that when the majority of students all start together in August, dancers learn classroom etiquette collectively, helping classes flow smoothly during the remainder of the term.

Convenient, Budget-Friendly Tuition Payments
Now, no tuition is due at the time of registration, just the annual registration fee!  Tuition will be automatically charged to your saved card on our secure website in nine budget-friendly monthly payments on the 25th of each month. 

Easy Withdrawal Policy
We hope that students will stick with us for the full 36 week term, but we understand that it may not be possible for everyone. If a student needs to withdraw, a 30 day written notice will cancel your student’s enrollment. Students may continue to attend class during the 30 days if desired.

Improved Dress Code
Girls will wear a Balera Basic Tank Leotard in class-specific colors, ballet pink dance tights and pink leather ballet shoes. A uniform allows teachers to spot needed technical corrections easily, eliminates comparisons between “fancy” leotards and plain ones, creates a sense of belonging, and instills a respect for class and for dance as an art form. Parents will appreciate the convenience of our online dance store with in-studio pick up.

New Level for Seven Year-Olds
As our students grow, our class offerings expand to continue to serve them. Shining Stars Preparatory Ballet will be the final transition from our early-childhood program into the study of classical ballet. As part of the preparation for classical ballet, Shining Stars classes are 75 minutes long, students start to use the ballet barres, and are encouraged to take class twice a week (not required).  Ballet 1 for 8-9 year-olds is coming Fall, 2015!

Sound Good? Get Registered!
We are looking forward to a fruitful year of ballet, and we genuinely hope your child can join us for engaging, dynamic classes full of imagination, friends, and learning. Click here to get registered today!

PS: To find out what makes the Leap ‘N Learn children’s ballet training program so special, please click here and here. (Click your browser's back button to return to this page.)

 

Top 5 Reasons For Summer Camps
By Tiina Hazelett on June 25, 2014

Ahh, summer break. Part free play, part unique, organized activities. It’s what we long for all through the school year. And it’s so short, we always want to be sure we’re making the best of it before it breezes away. That’s why we love offering one week summer camps at Pure Dance Works. Not too much of a commitment, but enough to provide a few mornings of fun, structured activities that nurture and inspire, giving kids the tools and skills to continue to create their own fun as they develop and mature.

This blog post briefly explores the top five benefits of our Cinderella Dance Camps.

1.     No Boredom Zone = Positive Stimulation

A one week camp eliminates boredom by providing physical, social, emotional and cognitive stimulation. Campers learn new dance skills,  interact with other kids their own age, imagine they are various characters with different emotions, think about how to design each day’s craft, or how to interpret a particular character through free dance activities.

2.     A New Adventure

        Dance Camp is a perfect way to dabble in the art of ballet and see if it’s right for your child. Dance classes are typically a long-term commitment during the school year, so getting a concentrated dose in only one week is a great trial period for a maybe-ballerina.

3.      Exposure to the Arts

        A well-rounded person is familiar with the arts, and a Dance Camp experience provides a pint-sized brush with culture that leaves a lasting impression.  Viewing the Royal Ballet’s full-length production of Cinderella along with intentional, lively discussions during craft time gives kids a glimpse of the world of professional ballet, costuming, backdrops, choreography, composers and musicians.

4.     Preparation for School 

From learning appropriate classroom social skills to getting accustomed to a daily routine, dancers participate in a wide range of activities that help reinforce necessary skills for school, whether they are preparing to enter or return to a public, private or home school. Respect for the studio, the teacher, and classmates is emphasized through the expectation that dancers will listen to and obey the teacher, keep their hands to themselves, and keep quiet when the teacher is talking. Learning to follow directions, wait your turn, and use good manners are all important school skills instilled in campers.

5.     Experience Success and Gain Confidence

Children who attend a Dance Camp experience victories in a variety of areas. Some are entering a group learning activity for the first time, or maybe leaving mom for a consistent period for the first time.  New ballet skills are practiced and achieved, as well as working with classmates to learn and create dances. All students create daily crafts with their own unique touches, and proudly dance with them in a special parent performance on Friday. Many children even try unfamiliar, nutritious foods for the first time and discover something they love!

Dance Camp provides all of these things and so much more! Campers will go home on Friday with all of the props that they created and teach their siblings and friends the various dances they helped to create and learned. Play is a vital part of childhood; it impacts a child’s development in greater ways than we often realize. Dance Camp is the perfect mix of structure and freedom that kids crave; not too controlled, not too boring…it’s “just right” fun! 

 

 

Emotions, Relationships and Dance in February
By Tiina Hazelett on February 13, 2014

 “[Dance] is the purest expression of every emotion, earthly and spiritual. It is happiness.” -Anna Pavlova

Ah, February. The month of love…it’s the perfect time to explore relationships and emotions.

Our February lesson plans include the movement concept “Relationships to Others,” so many activities involve dancing with partners or in lines. This carries on our Body Awareness objective from January; students are now asked to be aware not only of their own body, but of where they are in relationship to others. Ballet dancers have especially enjoyed our Creative Movement Free Dance, Skating in Relationships to Others. The fact that many have been watching the Winter Olympics makes this even more fun! During this activity, “skaters” skate side-by-side, in front/in back, around, over/under and through each other on an imagined frozen pond. Faces shine and giggles erupt as dancers follow directions from the teacher in this free form activity.

Our February objective of Emotions has dancers pretending to express emotions such as happy, sad, angry, scared, bored and excited. Not only is this super fun for everyone, it is also a very important part a child’s development. Dr. Annie Spell, Ph.D., co-author of the Leap ‘N Learn syllabus utilized in our classes, explains:

"Day-to-day, children between the ages of three and six passively absorb information around them and associate these information pieces with their natural physiological reactions to life’s events. These associations provide the basis of the child’s emotional awareness and their emotional adjustment. This passive association making often takes place within the context of daily stress and their adult parent’s or family’s emotional tone. There are very few places for a child to create such lasting associations free from such external factors and in an active manner.

On the dance floor, the practice of emotional expression provides a safe and secure place for these associations to be actively processed and refined.  By associating certain movements and facial expressions with various emotional labels (e.g., happy, sad, mad, etc.) the student is afforded a higher level of integration of emotional concepts and motor executions free from external factors. With such integration, dance movement becomes reinforced for the child, the child’s confidence and comfort level with the performance of dance increases, the child will be more mindful of what their body and face demonstrate both in and outside of the dance studio, and they are afforded accelerated emotional maturity.”1 

Everyone experiences a wide range of emotions on a daily basis, but many times it is not appropriate to wear our heart on our sleeve, so to speak. The opportunity to explore various emotions in class can be a rewarding experience. Feigning anger, sadness, silliness, or confidence allows students to experiment with these emotions while simultaneously validating the fact that everyone experiences them; kids learn that they are not alone with their feelings.

During share time this month dancers have been asked what makes them happy, what they like to pretend, and what they love about dance. How would you or your kids answer these questions?

1(Spell, Annie, Ph.D., Leap ‘N Learn Six-Year-Old Syllabus, page 31.)

Dancers Learn About Nutrition
By Tiina Hazelett on January 16, 2014

What parent doesn’t want all the important stuff we tell our kids about good nutrition reinforced elsewhere? I know that when my kiddos were young, they’d come home telling me about something they learned from a teacher as if it was brand new information. Really? I haven’t said that a hundred times? As much as we wish they’d just listen to us the first time, I believe that this is an unavoidable truth of human nature: we absorb information best when we experience lessons in various settings and from several teachers. That’s why I am so thrilled to be teaching our monthly objective for January: Body Awareness & Nutrition; I love helping kids understand more fully that our bodies are wonderful creations that need special care so that we can feel and perform our best!

The first week of the month we explored a few pages out of a book called Dance by Bill T. Jones. Students had fun imitating Bill, who demonstrates many ways we can create interesting shapes while dancing…several are pretty tricky, which elicited a lot of giggles as students tried their best.

After Share Time we spent a few minutes discussing six pictures on the board.  A splash of water in the shape of a heart started off our conversation. We compared pictures of two sunflowers…one vibrant and healthy, the second withered and curled up. Teachers explained that all living things need lots of water…it’s even better than drinking milk or juice, and definitely better than pop!

Next we looked at three pictures of the human body: the first was a cartoon of a boy and girl (dressed!) with several body parts labeled. We found various parts on our own bodies…ankles, thigh (aka “femur”), neck, and upper arm (aka “humerus”). We explored which can move on their own and which are not bendable. It can take some convincing to prove that our femur cannot move by itself.   

The second sketch was a boy in a running pose covered in muscle. “Muscle” is not a new word to most young children, but many are surprised that muscles cover our whole body and look the way they do. Teachers explained that our bones can’t move by themselves…the muscles are attached to the bones and actually do all of the work. That is a revelation to many young students.

Finally we looked at a drawing of a skeleton…everyone knows that this a picture of bones! The skeleton has several joints circled with a line drawn to a blown up view of the joint. Each joint is labeled with its specific type (pivot, glide, hinge, etc.). We explored the ways our wrists, elbows and necks move and the names of these types of joints.

We wrapped up this 10 minute investigation with the conclusion that God made us in a very special way so that we could make innumerable shapes and perform countless movements with diverse styles…smooth, sharp, slow, fast, heavy, light, etc.! Sometimes we dance with all of our parts, and sometimes just one. Dancers learned that we call dancing with just one part “isolation” and will have many opportunities to practice isolating various body parts all month (minus shimmies and hip shakes).

Over the next few weeks we will discuss the importance of eating enough protein to keep our muscles strong, and eating enough fruits and vegetables to give our bones and other body parts the many vitamins and minerals we need to stay healthy and energized. It’s never too early to discover that it’s great to start the New Year off with healthy habits!

What are your family’s favorite ways to keep up healthy eating and exercise habits?


                                                                                                                                                                        

The Gift
By Tiina Hazelett on January 08, 2014

The Gift

To give anything less than your best, is to sacrifice the gift. - Steve Prefontaine

On a trip to New York City this summer my family stopped in to Niketown.  Plastered on the wall behind the registers was this quote: “To give anything less than your best, is to sacrifice the gift.”  Obviously, Nike intended the quote to apply to runners and athletes, but of course it applies to any God-given talent a human could possess. I am intrigued by this concept of sacrificing a gift by giving anything less than our best. Everyone was created with innate talent, but I think that sometimes when we are good at something, we question whether or not we should pursue it. Is it worth my time? Is it valuable? Is it selfish or unwise to put so much time and effort into one thing?

Whether asking yourself how much effort you should expend on your personal abilities or how important it is to nurture our children in activities that they appear to have a capacity for, we must recognize that this world runs on the talents of billions of individuals working collectively to make Earth our home. Gifted leaders, artists, and teachers are depended upon to create secure environments for our communities where we can learn and express ourselves every day. Our world is only as excellent as the people in it…and we are those people.

A key role of parents, teachers and caregivers is to provide positive opportunities to explore a variety of possible areas of giftedness and nurture potential talents in our children. Kids need to understand that they were created for something special, and there’s no way to explore, discover, or improve our skills without getting out and trying things. Once a skill is uncovered in a child’s life, adults offer a great gift when they convey that the determination necessary to realize one’s full potential is completely worth the effort. Like the quote says, “to give anything less than our best is to sacrifice our gift.”

This quote caught my attention because we were in NYC to pick up one of my daughters who had just finished a five week summer course at the School of American Ballet. I nudged her and pointed to the quote.  My girls are all ballerinas who dance about 25 hours a week, and like any athlete, they can get burnt out and discouraged at times. Though they choose to continue with ballet at the start of every new school year, at times they question why they commit so much time and effort on one activity.

Intriguing as this quote was, it also immediately set me to wondering… Is a gift really sacrificed if we don’t give 100% at all times? Don’t we need a break sometimes? I think the answer to both questions is, “yes.” It is important to put 100% of our effort towards using our gifts to their full potential, lest we sacrifice what God has blessed us with. At the same time, it’s important to observe necessary periods of rest and rejuvenation. Breaks, holidays, vacations, and even minor sick days all provide crucial time to decompress, relax, and inevitably start to miss “normal” days of working towards our full potential.

What’s your gift? What is your child’s gift? Are you encouraging your children to make the effort to use their talent to make the world a better place? God gave us all unique abilities, and He expects us to work together to create strong, loving communities.  Don’t sacrifice your gift…give it all you’ve got!

Thankful
By Tiina Hazelett on November 14, 2013

Thankful

“'Thank you' is the best prayer that anyone could say. I say that one a lot. Thank you expresses extreme gratitude, humility, understanding.” –Alice Walker

I know it’s cliché to write about thankfulness in November, but I can’t help it. Three years into opening Pure Dance Works, and ten weeks into our current dance year, I am overflowing with thankfulness for the privilege of directing Pure Dance Works.

Last night I sat in on a Parent Performance for one of our Tiny Tutus classes, taught by one of our new teachers, Miss Olivia Kruse. It was with joy and gratitude that I sat back to observe this capable teacher interact with these adorable 3 year olds who were eagerly participating in class, and a room full of family members snapping away with their cameras. As the primary teacher for the past three years, it was a rare moment to relax and just take in what is happening at Pure Dance Works.

It is with humility that I reflect on the journey of the last several years that has brought me to this place where I can sit and watch a class performance in my own studio. As often happens in life, God has been weaving the threads of dance and teaching throughout my life into a tapestry that I never could have foreseen. I grew up dancing, but left it behind when I started earning my bachelors in psychology from IU. A teacher at heart, I often volunteered to teach at church from the time I was in middle school. I knew I would home school my children even before I was married, and I’ve been a home school mom for over 14 years. When my children showed an interest in dance at a young age, I started taking classes again, and ended up teaching a few classes. One thing led to another, and in 2010, a dream was planted in my heart by master teacher and entrepreneur Misty Lown. I was going to open my own dance studio for young children, offering a quality dance education in an inviting environment.

I look at the tapestry of my life as I can see it now, and I understand how many, many things have fit together in a way that I never could have imagined. Now as I sit in the Share Time Circle every week, listening to students tell us about their day or their pets or their favorite color(s!), I am in awe. Getting to know all of the sweet students who come into the studio every week is a precious gift that I do not take for granted. The opportunity to help shape and reinforce the positive life-lessons learned in a creative but disciplined environment is an amazing adventure that I am thrilled to be able to share with my students’ parents. Teaching them about flamingo passes and rocket sautés and cat and mouse gallops is a serious endeavor; I want to create great dancers. But really, that is just the icing on the cake. The real prize is knowing that Pure Dance Works is providing a place where children can come to be nurtured physically, cognitively, socially, and emotionally, AND have a blast doing it!

It is with gratitude for every life event and every person along the way that has brought me to this place that I humbly reflect on God’s great plan for my life and understand that I have a responsibility to use what has been given to me in a way that blesses others. So thankful!

Kate's Kart Book Drive Challenge
By Tiina Hazelett on October 12, 2013

Philanthropy “love of humanity"

The practice of giving money and time to help make life better for other people

1. Goodwill to fellow members of the human race; especially: active efforts to promote human welfare
2. a. An act or gift done or made for humanitarian purposes
   b. An organization distributing or supported by funds set aside for humanitarian purposes

A few years ago I was talking to a friend and she mentioned that she volunteers for Kate’s Kart, an organization that delivers free books to hospitalized children in our community. Intrigued, I asked her more about it. She was a volunteer who spent 2 hours a month wheeling a cart full of books around the pediatric ward of a local hospital. Each patient got to peruse the books on the cart and choose to one keep. What a great idea! I knew I had to get involved in this somehow.

Like many good ideas, this one kept coming and going in my mind. Finally, I got the idea to host a book drive for Kate’s Kart through Pure Dance Works. So, from October 7-31, 2013, Pure Dance Works is collecting new books and money to donate to Kate’s Kart.

I believe it is important to help make the world a better place and to teach children that they are never too young to help others. Because Kate’s Kart not only serves children by providing a diversion in a difficult circumstance, but also promotes literacy in the community, I feel that Kate’s Kart and Pure Dance Works are a perfect fit. They love kids, we love kids, and we both believe that meeting kids where they are with the tools they need to thrive is an essential part of any community.

“I WAS IN THE HOSPITAL HAVING BACK SURGERY AND KATE’S KART GAVE ME TWO BOOKS. THEY REALLY BRIGHTENED MY DAY AND MADE MY STAY IN THE HOSPITAL A BETTER EXPEREINCE. THANKS KATE’S KART!”
–OLIVA KRUSE
PURE DANCE WORKS TEACHER

To make things a little more fun, I decided to challenge our “landlord,” Steppin’ Up Physical Therapy, to see which organization could do the most good for Kate’s Kart. Both businesses are collecting books and money for Kate’s Kart from staff, students, patients, and any interested community members. We are also encouraging everyone to participate in the 2nd Annual Bookin’ It for Kate’s Kart 5K Run/Walk and Kids’ Fun Run on October 19, 2103. Both Pure Dance Works and Steppin’ Up Physical Therapy promote fitness as a lifestyle in our community, so this run is a perfect way to support fitness, philanthropy, and family fun!

If you would like to contribute to Kate’s Kart during our Book Drive Challenge, just drop off a NEW book or a financial donation at 10006 Auburn Park Drive, FW, IN 46825 by October 31, 2013. New books may be placed in the book basket in the studio (it may be in the closet during non-dance hours). Checks and cash can be placed in a provided envelope in the lock box on the wall just inside the therapy entrance. Be sure to write, “Kate’s Kart/Pure Dance Works” on the envelope. Checks should be made out to Kate’s Kart.

Thanks for reading!

Tiina Hazelett
Director, Pure Dance Works

Leap 'N Learn Licensing Journey
By Tiina Hazelett on September 24, 2013

The start of a new school year is always a whirlwind. Typical “me,” I decided to throw in some extra special “plans” into the mix at the last minute. The last week of August I learned that Leap ‘N Learn, the early childhood dance curriculum we use at Pure Dance Works, was holding a studio licensure/ teacher training session over Labor Day weekend. So what did I do? I applied to become a licensed Leap ‘N Learn studio, spoke with the owner of Leap ‘N Learn, Beverly Spell, and bought 2 plane tickets to Louisiana, all in the space of 5 days.

I took with me Madeleine Calloway, one of our new teachers. We were immersed in lectures on childhood developmental patterns, best-practice discipline strategies, special needs children, and more from expert child psychologist Annie Spell, PhD. Then we hit the studio for hands-on experience in teaching with the Leap ‘N Learn method. A final practicum in which each participant had to “teach” a class to the other participants and receive detailed feedback on our methods wrapped up our long weekend.

What Leap ‘N Learn all boils down to is the most effective method of teaching dance to the early childhood set, ages three to six. Leap ‘N Learn is carefully written to address the physical, emotional, social and cognitive abilities and needs of each twelve-month age group. Lesson plans are developmentally appropriate from all aspects: children can learn to perform the material presented from a cognitive and physical perspective, and support for their specific emotional and social development is woven throughout the curriculum.

For instance, a three year old ballerina might walk heel-toe in a parallel position down a piece of painter’s tape, pretending to walk a tight rope at the circus with her arms stretched out straight. The focus is on walking a straight line, slowly and carefully. We might even let a Beanie Baby hitch a ride on her head to help with posture and keeping eyes forward. A six year old, in contrast, might walk diagonally across the floor toe-heel in a turned out position, performing a much more complex combination such as, “3 tendu walks, stop in tendu devant, raise your downstage arm to allonge, lower, repeat with your upstage arm; repeat all the way across the floor.” Beanie Babies might still hitch a ride occasionally in this class too J.

The bottom line is, we gained a wealth of knowledge that can only come from live teaching and interaction. We also came home with a variety of DVD’s and print material to share with all teachers and assistants. Madeleine and I are now certified Leap ‘N Learn teachers, and Pure Dance Works is the only licensed Leap ‘N Learn studio in the Fort Wayne area. It is a privilege and a pleasure to offer our students fun, engaging classes that meet them where they are in their developmental journey.

The school year is well under way, our classes have been very well received by new and returning students, and I think things are settling down a bit. Knowing me, however, I’ll be up to a new crazy idea before October.

Enjoying the Journey,

Tiina Hazelett

Director, Pure Dance Works

Philosophy Of Early Childhood Dance Education
By Tiina Hazelett on August 24, 2013

 Pure Dance Works' tagline is, “Engage, Create, Shine!” At this age, a child’s job is to play, and we make sure that everything we teach is presented in a fun, engaging manner. Props such as scarves and instruments are often used to help promote interest and facilitate an understanding and retention of the skills being taught.

                                                               Engage We first engage students with a conceptual approach that reaches beyond the typical experience that young children tend to encounter in a dance class. Specific dance concepts are presented at the beginning of each class and are then explored throughout the rest of the lesson. For example, if the weekly concept is Levels, we will write, “Levels” on the white board along with, “High, Middle, Low.” Children are asked to call out the name and sound of the first letter of each word, then the teacher reads the word and asks the students to repeat it. Next students are asked to give an example through movement of each word. This “See, Say, Do” introduction to the concept is followed by various uses of the concept as the class progresses through technique and skill building activities. Our weekly concept gives an added dimension to each skill practiced in class. For instance, rather than just asking students to stand in first position, first position is a zig-zag pathway on Pathway week, the angular shape of a pizza slice on Shapes week, and “heels kissing, toes apart” on Body Parts week. All skills are approached in this multi-faceted way weekly, giving students several levels of understanding, some of which each student will resonate with more than others.

                                                                Create In ballet classes, three and four year old students create via structured free dances at the conclusion of each class. They are encouraged to use the day’s concept in whatever way they choose, often with a prop. In 5 and 6 year old classes, students work in small groups to create short choreographic phrases based on the skills and concepts that have been presented in class. This fun part of class speaks to the multiple intelligences of logic smart (problem solving), people smart (working with others), and word smart (fill in the blank worksheets, word cards, and lists of skills and concepts to choose from). In our tap and musical theater classes, fun improv games wrap up each class, giving students a chance to create their own tap sequences or musical theater characters.

                                                               Shine All dancers need a time to shine and show what they have accomplished. Performance is an important, confidence-building part of any dancer’s education. We do not feel, however, that the typical year-end recital is always conducive to learning for young children. Rather, we offer in-studio parent performances at the conclusion of each 10 week session as well as an annual Pure Dance Party at a larger venue. Both of these offer students the opportunity to dance in front of an audience and demonstrate what they have learned as well as what they have created. 

Please feel free to login and share your thoughts on this approach to early childhood dance education!