November 30, -0001

So You Think You’ll Take Dance?

Dance Classes Do More Than Teach Children How To Move: They Develop Important Life Skills

By Cristina Dimen

Little ones often showcase their first dance moves—swaying, bouncing and clappingbefore they take their first steps. As they grow, many kids show an interest in further exploring dance, whether classical ballet, modern dance, tap, jazz, hip hop or ballroom. Yet with so many worthwhile extracurricular activities available, why choose dance?

Why Dance?

Dancing positively impacts children’s lives in multiple ways. In addition to gaining self-confidence and learning to express themselves through creative movement, kids develop proper posture along with strength and flexibility; learn to work well with others; cultivate a sense of musicality and more. In fact, says Virginie Mecene, director of the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance and artistic director of Graham II, dance classes even prepare children for school, as one of the first things small dancers learn is to “focus and pay attention to the teacher.” “Dancers are organized individuals who can juggle their academic and dance classes,” adds Kate Thomas, director of the School at Steps. Through dance, “kids develop patience as they wait for their turn and improve their memory as the sequence of steps gets longer,” says Hanne Larsen, artistic director of Downtown Dance Factory (DDF).

What To Look For

When considering dance classes, “Parents should look for a school with experienced teachers who have a warm and positive approach to teaching, a well-equipped facility and, if possible, live accompaniment,” says Julia Dubno, director of Ballet Academy East (BAE). Consider the teaching method as well; Renata Celichowska, director of 92nd Street Y’s Harkness Dance Center, recommends a lyrical and storytelling approach for teaching creative ballet. Most of all, says Jo Matos, director of children’s programming at Joffrey Ballet School, look for a great teacher. “The teacher’s background is more important than state-of-the-art facilities,” Matos says. “The teacher should be in control of the class, while being caring and loving.”

Most schools offer a range of programs for different age groups, from Mommy & Me classes for 2- and 3-year-olds to pre-ballet classes for 3- to 6-year-olds to more intensive classes for kids 7 and up.

Getting Serious

a child’s casual interest in dancing transitions into a more serious
pursuit, parents should expect an increase in commitment in terms of
time. “By 11 or 12 years old, students committed to dancing take classes
four to five days a week, plus rehearsals for performances,” says
Matos. Yvette Campbell, director of The Ailey Extension, notes, “Serious
13-year-old dancers take one to two classes a day. At this point,
dancing could be their only activity outside of school.”

Supporting Your Dancer

can nurture their child’s interest in dance by watching their latest
moves, attending student performances and taking them to live
productions. Finally, “parents should dance—if kids see their parents
dancing, it will encourage them,” Celichowska says. So go ahead, boogie
down with your kids, and revel in the joy of creative expression

It’s A Boy Thing, Too!

Many boys show an
interest in dance from an early age, but too often they write off taking
dance classes as a “girl thing.” To dispel this perception, remind boys
that superheroes move in dance-like steps, suggests Virginie Mecene of
the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance. Yvette
Campbell of The Ailey Extension adds that little sports fans may be
interested to know that many pro football players take dance classes to
improve their speed and agility. Hanne Larsen and Melanie Zrihen,
co-founders of Downtown Dance Factory (DDF) in Tribeca, report that boys
make up 11 percent of their students, in part because of musicals like
Billy Elliot” and hit shows like “So You Think You Can Dance.” Once
your boy is ready to give dance a try, start by enrolling him in an
all-male class—the ones at DDF are taught by male instructors trained in
dance, sports and martial arts. “Boys have no sense of reticence in
attending classes since they’re with their guy friends, and not an
‘oddity’ in a girls’ class,” Larsen says. —Cristina Dimen

Where To Take Dance In NYC
74th Street Magic, 212-737-2989,

92nd Street Y’s School of the Arts, 212-415-5500,

Albee School of Dance, 718-852-7025,

The Ailey Extension, 212-405-9000,

American Youth Dance Theater, 212-717-5419,

apple seeds, 212-792-7590,

Applause New York City, 212-717-0703,

Ballet Hispanico, 212-362-6710,

Broadway Dance Center, 212-582-9304,

Brooklyn Arts Exchange, 718-832-0018,

Children’s Museum of Manhattan, 212-721-1223,

Church Street School for Music and Art, 212-571-7290,

Creative Arts Studio, 718-797-5600,

Creative Play For Kids, 212-729-1667,

Dancing Divas and Dudes, 917-279-4351,

Discovery Programs, 212-749-8717,

Downtown Dance Factory, 917-587-6386,

The Early Ear, 212-877-7125,

Eastside Westside Music Together, 212-496-1242,

Gymboree Play and Music, 212-838-4301,

Gymtime Rhythm and Glues, 212-861-7732,

JCC of Manhattan, 646-505-5700,

Jodi’s Gym, 212-772-7633,

Joffrey Ballet School, 212-254-8520,

Kidville, 212-362-7792,

Lower East Side Dance Academy, 212-343-1620,

Lucy Moses School, 212-501-3360,

Manhattan Movement and Arts Center, 212-787-1178,

Manhattan Youth Ballet, 212-787-1178,

Mark Morris Dance Group, 718-624-8400,

Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance, 212-838-5886,

Miss Kristin’s Shooting Stars Performing Arts Company, 212-987-2203,

New York Theatre Ballet, 212-679-0401,

Peridance Center, 212-505-0886,

Reebok Sports Club NY, 212-362-6800,

The School at Steps, 212-874-3678,

The Sports Club LA, 212-355-5100,

Xtreme Rhythmic Academy, 646-457-7527.

YMCA, 212-630-9600,

For more dance venues, check out our classes guide!

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