Young Children and Advancement-Part 1

When it comes to competition teams my sweet spot is 10 and under jazz.  I love them.  I absolutely adore them.  They are open to anything and love everything!  This is such an important time in their dance education, it’s where the good habits are formed and the foundation for growth is prepared.  In this article, I am going to talk about advancement for these little guys, particularly 8 and under competitive kids.

A lot of what I am going to go over pertains to all kids in dance, recreational or competitive.  I am focusing this blog post on competitive kids only because they will usually have multiple classes per week, a class that is strictly for the practice of technique and a class strictly dedicated to learning and cleaning their choreography.  Because they are in the studio more they tend to advance faster than a once a week recreational dancer and their parents are more vocal about advancement and are often times achievement-driven.

What does advancement look like?
Parents can get wrapped up in skill development of older dancers and wonder when their little dancer is going to do it. For example, a pirouette.  Parents don’t always know that the things a teacher is working on in class are stepping stone to learning a pirouette.  A pirouette, or any dance step, has a recipe that needs to be put together for the dancer to be completed successfully.   Releve’,  passe’, straight supporting leg, strong core, alignment, shoulders rotated down and back, arm placement, spotting, a strong prep; if one thing is left out the recipe will fail, like baking a cake without flour.  There are so many things these young brains have to do at one time for one movement.  So as teachers we take all these pieces apart and work on them one at a time before we put them all together.  You may see some practice of things you may not expect to be relevant to the development of a pirouette, like walking across the floor in releve’ and passe’.

Big picture choreography vs details
These are 2 very different skills a young dancer needs to master; big picture choreography and detailed choreography. Usually, dancers will master big picture choreography early but it can take a long time to master the details.
What are the differences? Understanding and comprehending big picture choreography looks like a dancer moving in the correct direction but with the wrong feet, or moving in the right direction but not stopping at the right spot or not with the right rhythm.

When it comes time to place the dancers in a formation I will choose the dancers who are father along at grasping the detailed choreography concepts.  They may not necessarily be the “best” dancers in the group but they will be able to lead a backline and help them pick up on those details faster.  If a dancer is having a hard remembering the details of the choreogrphay she may be more comfortable in the back so she can cue off the dancers who are just a bit further along.  As a parent the only thing you can do to help them get better at remembering the details in choreography is to encourage them to practice at home, really this skill is tied to their personal brain development and a child’s brain will advance at its own pace.

Work ethic
For very young (under 6) this may be the first time learning is not wrapped up in creative play or always having fun.  This can get hard for the teacher and the student.  Dance is fun, competitions are fun, being part of a team is fun, the costumes and hair and makeup…all fun!  Doing a kick-ball-change 10 times in a row…not fun.  There is an element of dance that might not be fun for a little guy.  They don’t understand the lesson of “you get out what you put in”.   But they’re learning the life skill of being your best is not always easy and it takes work.  It’s not always recess time and sometimes the practice can be a bit boring. Parents need to take the lead on this and make sure the same life lessons are being taught at home.  It takes a village!

Stay tuned for Part 2 in next week’s blog!

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