One thing is certain: Dancing and media are ingrained in our culture. In the ’70s, everybody learned to disco, thanks to Saturday Night Fever. The movie Animal House reintroduced the dance-floor classic “Shout.” Music videos from Michael Jackson taught Gen Xers to break dance and moon walk. And today, kids learn dances from their favorite music videos such as “Watch me Whip (Nae Nae)” or from TV shows like “Dancing with the Stars.”
When your kids are in the mood for some dance-related media, here are some ideas for your playlist. These tales range from an animated dancing mouse to real-life dance competitions and the challenging journeys some dancers have taken in pursuit of their dreams.
Books for Kids Who Love to Dance
Tallulah’s Tap Shoes
Tallulah is really good at ballet. When she tries tap in summer camp, she’s insecure about being a beginner. Patience when trying new things is a great message in this story.
Taking Flight: From War Orphan to Star Ballerina
At times sad, scary, and hopeful, this amazing story of an African orphan becoming a ballerina in New York is always inspiring. Her young life started in a war zone, so there are details not meant for younger or more sensitive readers.
An App for Kids Who Love to Dance
Creativity and activity come together nicely in this app. Choose your dancers, costumes, and music, and then make everyone move to the beat.
Mad Hot Ballroom
Fifth-grade New York students prepare to compete in a ballroom dancing competition in this terrific documentary. We see their confidence and self-respect grow as they learn.
Boys and girls compete in this documentary that stars hard work and great desire.
A Ballerina’s Tale
As a role model for young dancers, you can’t get much better than Misty Copeland. Her perseverance and hard work paid off, and she is an inspiration. This movie showcases her rise in the American ballet world, and it also offers a look behind the scenes of a major ballet company.
A young boy discovers ballet in 1980s England. He is teased and told to stop, but the drive and desire to dance won’t go away. Be aware that there is strong language throughout this movie.
TV Shows for Kids Who Love to Dance
Yo Gabba Gabba!
Life lessons are taught with a musical beat in this colorful show. Dancing and singing along with the characters promotes movement, as well as sharing, friendship, and good decision-making for the preschool crowd.
It’s not too difficult to tell if a child likes to dance. You’ll see them wiggling and swaying to TV theme songs as toddlers. They’ll tap their toes to pop songs on TV — or go into full-out routines in the living room. In fact, it’s probably true to say that most kids will shake their groove thing when they’re little. The question is, “Are dance classes the logical next step?”
If you’re looking for an after-school activity for your child, dance offers plenty of benefits. According to the London-based Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing (ISTD), this activity is perfect for kids who aren’t necessarily drawn to other team sports, but it’s also perfectly wonderful for those who seem to be good at all things athletic. In fact, it can improve flexibility and strength, which may help those kids improve at another sport. Read on to learn more about the perks of enrolling your child in dance classes or a dance camp — and to see the answers to some commonly asked questions from parents.
What are the benefits of dance classes?
According to Berkeley Wellness, dance offers myriad benefits far beyond what you might first imagine. “Dancing provides physical, psychological, and social benefits galore,” says their online article entitled “The Many Health Benefits of Dancing.”
Dance is a fun activity for kids that exercises both the body and mind. In addition to increasing fitness levels, dance classes for kids also help with better posture, creativity, and cultural understanding. It helps improve balance and flexibility. Studies have found that dancing can reduce stress, depression, and anxiety. It can bolster self-esteem. It can help kids achieve and maintain a healthy weight. It provides both cardiovascular activity and weight-bearing activity, so it’s good for kids’ hearts and bones.
It can also open doors to a variety of careers, including more obvious options such as dance teacher, professional dancer, and dance movement therapist (using dance and movement to support physical and emotional health). It also can lead to other careers that support the arts in general or dance specifically, such as a publicist, producer, costume designer, or promoter.
How do I know if dance is a good activity for my child?
First, consider your child’s personality and interests. Have they enjoyed dancing in the past? Do they ask for lessons? Do they like to watch other people dance? If so, it’s worth trying a dance class or a summer dance camp. A one- or two-week dance camp is a great way for kids (and parents) to figure out if regular dance lessons will be a welcome addition to your regular routine. It can also allow you to check out different studios to find an instructor and location that is a good fit for your kids and your budget.
Many studios allow parents to be present during class or view from a window in the lobby of the studio. If they take an introductory class or participate in a dance camp, watch your child and make sure they are smiling and having fun during class. Dance class can be hard work at times, but it should first be enjoyable.
How do I know if my child is ready to start dance classes?
Some studios will enroll toddlers as young as 3 years old. These may be called Pre-K or pre-ballet classes, or the like. Kids younger than this often lack the attention span and physical strength needed for basic dance lessons. Perhaps your child has friends who are already enrolled in classes or who are planning on signing up. Different studios offer different programs, and they may do a quick assessment to see which class may be a good fit for your child. This decision is best made by talking to the dance school instructors or owners about your child’s personality and level of interest, as well as any concerns and expectations you may have.
What can I expect the costs to be for kids dance classes?
Of course, as with any activity, costs vary depending upon your geographic location and factors affecting the individual studio, such who the instructors are (and what their background and skill level are), as well as how long classes are. Enrolling kids in multiple classes or enrolling more than one family member may bring down your per-class cost.
That said, the website Howmuchisit.org reports that dance classes cost about $40 to $120 per month and are typically held weekly. So the per-class cost will likely be $10 to $30. Private lessons typically cost more than group sessions. The studio may also charge a registration or membership fee.
Also inquire about the dance gear and clothing you’re expected to provide. Some studios have very strict policies about what they expect students to wear. Ballet classes usually require tights and leotards (sometimes in specific colors), while some jazz and hip-hop teachers prefer dance pants, capris, or shorts paired with a tank top, dance top, or fitted T-shirt. You’ll also need to invest in some good dance shoes. Ballet and tap shoes often are available at discount stores, but other footwear like hip-hop and pointe shoes may need to be special-ordered at a dance boutique or online. Prepare to spend $45 to $175 on the outfit and $12 to $60 for a pair of shoes, reports Howmuchisit.org.
Also keep in mind that most studios put on a yearly recital in which you’ll have to purchase a costume, usually averaging around $50 to $75 depending on the studio.
If you’re on a tight budget, ask the school if scholarships are available or if they might be offering a special deal or coupon, such as one that waives the registration fee. You can also look into purchasing dance gear and shoes online or from gently-used children’s clothing stores. Often once you get to know the families at your dance studio, those with kids in larger sizes will offer hand-me-downs to younger children.
What questions should I ask the dance teacher?
Many times the dance studio’s website will list each instructor’s bio, so you might want to check there first. You can also ask to set up a time to talk to the instructor. (They may have very little or no time between classes, so it’s best to arrange an appointment when they’re truly free.)
When you’re face-to-face, ask what the teacher’s background is, including where they studied and what they like to teach. Also find out if their emphasis is on classically training kids in proper technique or if they’re more focused on fun and physical movement. Many places offer a blend of both, but if they know you’d like a class that is heavy on serious technique, they may recommend some specific dance classes for your child.
Also, see what other dance activities the instructor is involved in; some teachers also run a dance camp over the summer or teach at different studios. Or maybe they perform locally. If so, you may want to take your child to a performance to show them what their teacher can do on stage.
Which type of dance is best for my child?
Kids usually get their interest in dancing by seeing it somewhere first. Many girls start out their dance experience with ballet simply because they dream of someday becoming a ballerina. Boys may express an interest in hip-hop or tap initially. Or if your child is seriously pursuing musical theatre opportunities, maybe their directors have suggested specific types of classes to help them pick up choreography for a show.
A good place to start is by showing your child as many different types of dance as possible then observe which appeals to them the most. Take your child to a dance recital or performance in your area and see which numbers hold their attention or pique their curiosity.
If they are still unsure, see if a local studio will allow your child to drop in on a few different classes and decide which is most enjoyable to them. Many studios also offer combo classes such as tap, jazz, and ballet all in one, with the recital numbers utilizing parts of the same outfit in each. For instance, a leotard may come with a ballet tutu, a fringe tap skirt, and jazz pants. This is less expensive than buying three entire outfits. If you enroll your child in a combo class, you might want to ask about recital outfit requirements and costs, especially if budget is a factor.
What other options are there besides studio classes for dancers?
For kids who have found their passion in dance and want a bit more flexibility than an organized class offers, a dance camp might be a good option. Dance camps expose kids to a variety of different dance styles and are also a great way to help shy kids break out of their shell before enrolling in weekly dance classes.
If you were once a ballerina, maybe it’s time to see if your kids want to follow in your footsteps — and dance steps. Get them interested by digging out your old costumes and shoes and letting them play dress-up … or sort through your piles of retired pointe shoes and work together on one of these simple-yet-clever craft projects. Have a daughter with her own worn-out toe shoes? Use these ideas to preserve them — and her memories of favorite performances.
By Katie Femia
Once upon a time you may have just tossed those old pointe shoes into a closet or storage box, but many dancers today are finding ways to turn their toe shoes into works of art. Crafting with your old pointe shoes is not only a great way to repurpose these items (because as you know, they weren’t cheap!) but also a wonderful way to start a conversation with your kids about your own dancing days.
If you have some pointe shoes in your closet — or perhaps your child has a few pairs of outgrown or worn-out pointe shoes of her own — take a look at this roundup of ways to showcase them. Whether you are looking for something to decorate your child’s room or add some charm to your home, you are sure to find an idea that appeals to you. Oh and don’t worry: You don’t have to be Martha Stewart to do these projects. In most cases all you need is a quick trip to the craft store and a little time at your “crafting table.” So let’s get started!
How to Tidy Up Your Pointe Shoes Before Crafting
You may want to spot-treat your pointe shoes to help remove stains or grime prior to crafting. Use a soft cloth and a gentle cleaner such as Dawn dishwashing liquid to work on any unsightly spots. If frayed ribbons are a concern, you may want to recut them with a sharp fabric shears and then apply nail polish or glue to the new ends to prevent future fraying. Some people have been known to use a lighter, gently running the frayed area over the flame to burn off the loose strings and form a seal.
Now that your pointe shoes are in better shape, you can start crafting with them. Here are our picks for some pretty projects:
1. Fill Them with Flowers
Here is a simple and elegant way to create an homage to dance recitals gone by. Tie the ribbons of your pointe shoes together and hang them from a hook. (An over-the-door hook works, if you don’t want to mar the woodwork.) You can then arrange some faux blooms directly into the toe of each shoe. Or, should you wish for fresher flowers, make use of floral foam to prolong their life. First, tuck a piece of plastic wrap or a small plastic container into the toe of each shoe (to prevent the shoe from becoming soaked). Next, cut a piece of floral foam to fit inside the plastic, and set both foam blocks in a container of water for a few minutes to soak up moisture. Last, insert the foam into the “prepared” toes, then add a few of your favorite fresh blossoms.
Think beyond just decorating your ballerina’s bedroom with this craft. It would be a beautiful addition to a wedding or graduation party where a ballerina is being of honored.
This super-easy project makes a creative addition to a powder room, guest room, or the college dorm of a dancer. To make it, purchase an antique or vintage-inspired frame at a local thrift shop, garage sale, or craft-supply store. Remove the glass insert, if there is one, as you will need only the frame itself. Paint the frame the color of your liking, or gently rub a few spots with sandpaper for a distressed look. Tie the ribbons of the shoes together and hang them from a nail or hook, then hang the frame atop it.
For a real pop of color, try framing multiple pairs of shoes in a variety of frames and arranging them into a wall collage. You can also spray-paint or dye the shoes prior to hanging so that they match the color scheme of the room.
Want to make this craft even more fun? Don’t forget the inside of the pointe shoe as well! Consider painting the inner sole of the slipper, which is sure to catch the eye. Or line the interior with a pretty piece of patterned fabric, cut to fit and attached with glue.
4. Decoupage Them with Memories
Grab some Mod Podge and pick your favorite sheet music to embellish your pointe shoes. Cut or tear the music into smaller pieces and strips, and dip them into a shallow dish of the Mod Podge mixture. Apply to the slippers, following package directions, and taking care to smooth your fingers over the paper to remove air bubbles or excess solution.Tie a piece of tulle (perhaps from an old tutu) or the ribbon from a recital bouquet to the shoes to add fluff … and memories. To make this craft even more personal, use the sheet music from a recent performance.
This would be a wonderful gift to offer a dancer at the end of a recital or a special performance.
Are you inspired yet? If so, head to the craft store, then dig out those old pointe shoes. Making these DIY projects sure beats storing them in a box. And pointe shoe crafts are an excellent way to highlight and remember the many pirouettes performed in them!
Is Your Child’s Interest in Dance Piqued by These Pointe Shoe Crafts?
Check ActivityHero for dance classes near you for all ages and abilities and in styles that include ballet, hip hop, jazz, tap and more. It also might be time for Mom to look for a dance class for herself! You deserve some me-time, too, and many studios offer adult classes as well as ones for kids and teens.