Once you lace up your pointe shoes, there's nothing like the high of becoming one with the music. Everything else in the world fades away when the music begins. Your breathing coincides with each graceful movement, as your feet whisk you away across the dance floor. Like “The Nutcracker,” every dance to a dancer seems like a magical fairytale… and we get to dance it.
Croise devant, demi plié and arabesque may seem like foreign terms to outsiders, but to dancers, these moves are within a beautiful language all their own. Dance is not just a hobby or passion… it's a lifestyle.
From tiny tutus to the big leagues, we've danced our hearts out on stage in gorgeous leotards and costumes; we've dealt with all sorts of blisters on our feet. The irreplaceable memories that have gotten us to where we are today show that the battle scars are well worth it. Within the elegance of being a dancer, it's also an extreme workout.
Any dancer will tell whoever thinks dancing is not a sport that they’re completely wrong and encourage them to try dancing in our shoes for a day. Professional dancer Shanna LaFleur once said:
It takes an athlete to dance, but an artist to be a dancer.
Dancers grew up with each choreographed number being a magnificent work of art — the stage as their palette and each move, a vibrant color. In addition to harnessing creativity, dance is an outlet to alleviate daily stresses and bring so much happiness to those who embrace it. It's an incredible escape from reality, where you can lose yourself in the movements. There's actually research that proves people who grew up as dancers are less stressed and happier.
According to Prevention, Swedish researchers conducted a study involving 112 female teens. Each of the girls was dealing with back and neck pain, anxiety, depression or stress. Half of the studied teenagers were involved in dance classes each week, while the other half of the girls did not attend classes. The results were very positive for the teens who incorporated dancing into their weekly routines. Mental health was improved for these girls, and it was also reported they experienced a mood boost.
In a press release, lead study author Anna Dubert stated, “…dance can result in high adherence and a positive experience for the participants.”
Prevention goes on to say it's never too late to benefit from dancing, and you don't even have to be a prima ballerina to reap its rewards. Enrolling in ballet, modern or lyrical classes after work/on the weekend is a great way to incorporate dancing into your life. And soon enough, you'll be twirling down the pathway to happiness.
Psychology Today says dancing makes you happier than simply hitting up the gym or going for a run. A study conducted at the University of London involved patients dealing with anxiety disorders. They dedicated time to one of the following therapeutic environments: an exercise class, a modern-dance class, a math class or a music class. Out of all the settings, the modern-dance class was the one environment that reduced anxiety a significant amount.
Author Vicki Baum once said: There are shortcuts to happiness, and dancing is one of them.
Another benefit of dancing frequently is that it stimulates the mind and sharpens cognitive skills at every age. Dancing stimulates different brain activities at the same time, including emotional, rational, kinesthetic and musical. This increases the way your brain functions in a positive way. Imagine that, a fun activity with a wealth of health benefits that keeps us in shape, makes us feel good and makes us smarter!
I’m a dancer, and I have done it all: ballet, pointe, tap, jazz, modern, Irish, hip-hop and plain-old rocking it on the dance floor. I have to say, I agree 100 percent with the conducted research. Dancing has all of these benefits and so much more.
Happy feet are truly good for the mind, body and soul.
- Alexa Mellardo
Your child is busy, taking hours of dance class per week, and you are wondering, “Is all of this money going toward the right things? Is my budding dancer getting what he or she needs for the best value?”
When you have a child in dance, you pledge your own resources to the process and it makes sense that you want to make sure these resources are not going to waste.
Something has value when what you get out is equal to or greater than what you put in. Reward ≥ Dedication (of time, of funds, of spirit, of motivation, of thought, etc.)
The “bad” news?The return on value is not always immediate, particularly in dance. Rewards can come much later so it can be hard to tell if you are getting value. That’s why I think so many parents ask the questions above.
The good news? Good value is measurable, even in the moment, if you know what your values are.
What is valuable to you? Dance is a treasure chest of riches to be unlocked. Even if your child never steps foot into a dance studio again after high school, it is likely he’ll have received something from the experience. Potentially, these could be valuable life lessons.
Take some time to determine what you and your child want to get out of dance beyond any professional aspirations. Then, reflect on your child’s dance program and schedule based on these standards. For instance, if self-discipline is something you value, assess if the school encourages and expects dancers to focus and make choices. If it’s creativity, make sure your school provides opportunities for dancers to participate in the creative process. Look at the wider scope of rewards in dance when you evaluate and you’ll have a better idea if you are putting your money where it really matters for you.
Quantity – How much is valuable? At a dance studio it is easy to get caught up in quantity. There are a buffet of different dance styles from which to choose. These have the potential to be enriching experiences for your child, no doubt. But they can begin to accumulate, each one seeming to be crucial (and expensive) pieces to a puzzle.
In this quest for fulfilling every need with more classes, more awards, and more performances, the importance of other rewards is underestimated. Perhaps sensing a gap or void, parents begin to wonder how many, or which of these puzzle pieces are really necessary.
But it isn’t about the number really. Nor is about having all the “right” pieces.
What matters is that each piece is considered before it is placed, works toward your child’s current goals and interests, and is supported by a solid foundation of quality training and true enthusiasm for movement and the art of dance.
Quality – What is valuable in dance? Dance parents can get into a mindset in which all the decisions made about a child’s classes are bent on best preparing their young dancer for that maybe, what-if chance that he or she wants a career someday. This too neglects the other valuables dance has to offer.
If your child definitely has aims to become a professional or if you are concerned that they might one day, consider this:
I’ve never heard a college professor or choreographer or critic lament that a dancer just didn’t take enough classes, or win enough awards, or perform enough as a kid.
I have witnessed disappointment in the training and technique a dancer has received. Clearly the focus is on quality not quantity.
Quality vs. Quantity Granted, when we talk about quality dance training, quantity does come up. Standard estimates for what is considered “enough” technique to progress to certain levels of training do exist. You may have a better understanding of how training (the course of techniques learned) differs from having experiences in a variety of dance styles.
The ability to adapt to many different dance forms comes only when there is good training and technique to build upon.
Denise Wall, studio owner (and mother of Travis Wall and Danny Tidwell) says she never wanted to own her own studio, but after teaching in studios where success was measured more by enrollment and retention than by students’ improvement, she changed her mind. “Unless you own your own studio, you cannot control curriculum,” she says. “I would rather be poor than sacrifice technique.”
That dedication to quality, rather than quantity has helped Denise Wall’s children and students find success in the dance world.
Bottom line: When you make a commitment to quality over quantity and aim for experiences that support your child’s goals and values, you can almost always feel confident that your investment (whatever that is) is going to have great returns for your child.
Find a studio devoted to quality instruction of techniques and training. It may not always be the least expensive option. It may not always be the most expensive option, either. But it will be the most bang for your buck: the better value.
Abide by your own commitment to quality when considering the addition of classes or other expenses (or how much dance your child is taking).