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Why your child NEEDS Classical Ballet

We all want the best for our children – and exposure to things like sports and the arts help them to become more well rounded young men and women. Have you thought about ballet?

Kids are into all sorts of afterschool sports and other activities like piano and violin lessons. Dancing is a great medium for both girls and boys. And, they can start very young.

Classical ballet may have been pushed aside in favour of tap dancing, hip-hop, jazz, Latin dance and other forms. But, did you know that beginning with ballet will help with these other types of dancing, acting, modelling and some sports as well?

Ballet dancers make it look effortless as they move across the stage. From the lifts to the toe points, many wonder how they can do it. Your kids can also be a part of this through the practice of classical ballet.

Our Pre-Ballet classes can start for preschoolers from ages 2, and our Ballet programme from age 4.

Ballet is important for a variety of personal, physical and life skills including:

  • learning to follow instructions
  • gaining a sense of discipline through learning new positions and steps
  • learn coordination, balance and how to control their bodies in motion
  • getting regular exercise and being active
  • become comfortable performing in groups and in front of audiences

When a child is young, learning new things is easier for them as they can adapt quicker than when they are older. So by starting children in ballet from a younger age – they are not only learning a valuable art but getting trained for the life ahead.

Though this is just the beginning. As they continue with ballet – you will see more benefits appearing – especially as they become adolescents and into their teens. These include

  • develop long, lean, and strong muscles from the practice of ballet
  • gaining self-confidence and pride in their bodies and in what they can accomplish
  • learn how to work and practice to get what they want out of their performance
  • ballet skills are transferable to other forms of dance such as jazz and tap, and even other forms of sport
  • they appreciate proper nutrition to keep their bodies in shape to let them dance well
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Why your child should get involved in youth theatre

I understand there will be a lot of time commitments for your children – especially if your child has a busy academic schedule. However speaking from personal experience and a teachers experience, there are many reasons why performing arts should play a key role your child’s education In many studies, researchers are now linking involvement in the arts to better child development and higher student achievement.

HIGHER ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT

Studies such as this report from the Arts Education Partnership suggest schoolchildren exposed to drama, music and dance are more proficient in reading, writing and math. In countries with the highest rankings in math and science, such as Japan, Hungary and the Netherlands, arts and music education form a mandatory part of the school curriculum. Children also learn to take instruction from adults and respect authority.

CONFIDENCE & SELF-PRESENTATION SKILLS

One of the most obvious benefits of performing arts is the development of skills in self-presentation. A child must learn how to present him or herself in front of an audience, be it big or small. They develop the ability to converse with adults in a mature manner. Participation in the arts allows them to grow their self-esteem and self-confidence, developing poise and learning to overcome anxieties.

Performing arts are also about social interaction and cooperation. Your child will no doubt make life-long friends with those who share the same passion as they do.

A MEDIUM FOR SELF EXPRESSION

The arts allow for deep self-expression from a child’s heart. It can help them make sense of their emotions and develop new ideas to express themselves. For example, musical children may find their “happy place” when they are playing songs to themselves that reflect their emotions. Or maybe the dancer is better able to express their emotions through physical movement rather than vocally.

Performing arts are also great exercise – even opera! A singer must be physically fit and have a good lung capacity to reach and hold notes for a period of time. Some performing arts are based on cultural history, which may allow a child to connect with their ancestry or ethnic background.

PROBLEM SOLVING & PERSEVERANCE

Performing arts help teach children both self-reliance as well as collaboration with others in order to reach a goal. They learn that there are many different pathways to develop a skill.  Performing arts develop reasoning and creative thinking, as well as motivation, concentration and teamwork.

EMPATHY & COMPASSION

Performing arts help promote interpersonal skills. Some of the previously mentioned benefits can come through participation in sporting activities, but performing arts also promote and develop certain skills and characteristics such as empathy and compassion for others. The creativity involved in performing arts extends to emotional creativity and can open children to new ways of seeing the world. In group settings, there’s less of a focus on winning or losing, and more about working together as a team towards a shared performance goal, as well as the child’s individual journey of development.

For example in musical theatre, children may have to learn to work behind the scenes as well as on stage. By having to carry out a variety of tasks and roles, they are able to look at the world from different vantage points.

Whether it’s acting in a play or performing in a dance, encouraging your child in performing arts is a great way to create a well-rounded education.

 

Kenton Youth Theatre

This is a special programme combining dance (in various forms), drama and singing to prepare students for performing on stage. So it is a little different to our standard classes

What is Youth Theatre and what does it involve?

The dance programme focuses on the routines and choreography. It is recommended that our students take ballet, and ideally tap and theatre also to compliment this class in terms of developing their technique. Routines are designed to fit in to the story line of the theatre project of the term and will involve mixing with singing sections and drama.

Our drama offering is designed to develop their scripted performances, as well as improvisation skills. Again the programme will fit into the theatre project of the term.

The singing work will involve techniques for singing in chorus, for movement and singing, as well as building general confidence as a singer.

How is the class structured?

This class is 2 hour 15 minutes. Time is split between the 3 disciplines and will focus on certain aspects of performance. As projects start there will be more planning and preparation time in drama – such as script writing and improvisation activities. Singing will focus on learning the words and practicing performance styles. Time is also spent learning about performing – the stage, the wings, prop management – all essentials for any theatre performer

What is needed?

It is recommended a drink and a small snack is brought along should this be needed (fruit/vegetable snack perhaps). Water will be available.

Students will need our school leotard and jazz shoes for this class and may wear jazz pants, or shorts, our school vest or t-shirt (not stage blacks) over the top. A jacket can be worn for the drama/singing elements. To start with – leggings and t-shirt are perfectly fine!

No jewellery and hair should be tied back. A notebook will be very useful to jot ideas and script plans to look at too.

This is a performance based group. As mentioned the technique is not a huge focus – should you have any questions about the best class to compliment this – please do get in touch! Monday classes – ballet and tap and theatre would work great and we have a multi class discount so don’t hesitate to get in touch!

Strength training for ALL dancers

Dancers are strong. Performers on stage are true athletes – demonstrating endurance, strength, poise, posture, grace and so much more.

It doesn’t come easy – but it does come with dance. Even for young children. Many dance technique exercises – ie ballet barre work, corner work in freestyle, tap practice – are designed to strengthen and build endurance.

Why be strong?

Being strong gives the dancer the ability to perform. It is not about big muscles or looking muscley, it is about the strength and how efficient that muscle is. It lets them control their own body better, manage moving their body weight both slowly and fast. It prevents injuries – especially to joints – such as knees and ankles which can dislocate easily.

How – is it the same for all dance?

Not really. All types of dance require a basic level of strength – usually in their core and legs. Some styles develop more specific strength – street for example is a lot of lower body work – so they have strong legs, breakdancing incorporates more upper body strength for arm holds and balances. Contemporary has a great deal of core strength, ballet, a lot in the legs and ankles.

How to be a strong dancer?

Practicing in class – the steps and techniques at the start are designed to prepare the children for their class, their muscles for the work that they have to do, and their minds for what movement patterns to make.

To develop strength their needs to be an element of overload – meaning pushing to work harder to the point of being tired. 2 kicks will not work, 8 kicks is getting their.

There MUST BE BALANCE for children – it is still meant to be fun. But the stronger they are the healthier they will be and the better dancer they will be come.

Fun, games, and dance

Dance classes should be purely dance technique and practice?

Yes and No

It depends on the class – is it a technique based class or exam prep? Is it in the run up to a big event or showcase? Is it the first week back after summer? Do we have a lot of new students? Do we need ideas.

Dance class should always be fun, challenging, but always fun. And most of the time this will come through from the dance itself – the enjoyment of practicing your favourite steps or new routines, or perfecting old ones.

Sometimes though, there is room for change….

Games in class

Introducing games into class may seem a little strange – but we aren’t talking about a round of football or snakes and ladders.

Games can be extremely beneficial to a class in many different ways – so long as they are used appropriately.

Warm ups

Fun ways to warm up for a Freestyle class or a cardio based class – may be a twist on the game or tag or even traveling relays (instead of running try skipping, jetes, leaps, turns). It ensures that the part at the start that gets them ready to move is effective. Boring will result in a lack of effort and then not being warm enough for mobility exercises.

Characters

Getting into character when performing can be hard – so introducing something like charades is a good way to bring shy children out of their shell and get them to use their body and facial expressions to show emotion or ideas.

Acting out things, places, films, also gets them to think about using their body in different ways.

Social

It brings the team together – so many times dance is a solo routine (for exams for example) or you part in a specific piece, where you dance with a set team, time again. Team games brings everyone together in a different activity where dance ability is not key. It allows more experienced dancers to help new members, you become friends with your new team, and encourage and help those who you perhaps don’t normally work with.

Creativity

It frees the mind – playing traveling games or aversion games, charades, makes you thing about movement in new ways to normal in class. Dodging a “tag” may give you ideas on sharp turns, quick movement or use of space. Not talking means you have to use different ways to express ideas and new arm movements or postures may come to mind.

It lets your mind free itself from the constraints of “dance steps” and lets you think outside the box

FUN

It is fun, which is the aim especially for our little ones. They need the time to explore ideas, their bodies, their abilities, to make friends and interact.

Yes there is an element of competiton – but healthy competition, where they strive to be THEIR BEST, not necessarily THE BEST.

 

7 Reasons I am Lucky to Dance

Today is my Birthday and since it’s lucky number 7th November I thought I’d share with you the 7 reasons I feel lucky to be able to dance.

1. The music

Oh my goodness – how much music is out there! And as a dancer you can try and experience it all – from slow, lyrical to fast passed dance, hip hop to classical, remixes to mash ups. And make it your own – you can interpret it and really feel the rhythm, the music, the life, and the meaning! You can enjoy deep emotional pieces or simply enjoy dancing to some cheesy hits!

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2. Cultures

You can learn so much from dance. Understanding the cultures through national dances or dances that are synonymous with them. Being able to try bhangra or salsa, highland dancing or reggaeton. Seeing how ballet is interpreted in Russia, Spain, the US. It opens your eyes!

3. Emotions

We know that music can cause “feels”, that goosebump moment in a power ballad, or the urge to move as a showstopper reaches the climax. Good, bad, happy, sad, you can interpret this through dance.

4. Challenges

Boy does dance challenge you. You try things that you only dreamed of before and you fall, you get bruised (your body and your ego). But you try, you develop the inner strength to keep going despite it being “hard”. It’s learning never to give up!

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5. Growth

Watching people grow as dancers is one of my favourite things. Experiencing it too is amazing. From being too shy to stand at the front of a class to performing solo’s on stage. From being too unsure to try a tap class to nailing your first timestep. Meeting new friends, embracing competition, success and failure – it’s all in dance!

6. Success

And when the hours of practice pay off – whether it is simply getting that pirouette or the leap, to making it through an audition, or being singled out in class for showing musicality. Successes come in many ways and dance allows us all to achieve – week in week out!

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7. FUN!

Should be number one – but lucky number 7 – IT’S FUN! I LOVE IT. Every aspect of it – all the reasons above, your fellow dancers, your dancing heros, how it keeps you fit and active, how you develop personally, how you can have a bad day turn good by stepping on to the hall or studio floor!

 

Early Years Dance

The Benefits of Dance for children

There are many clubs and activities available for children – right from pre-school age to teenagers – so why choose dance? What are the benefits of dance to a child – aside from it being a fun activity?

Physical Development

The youngest are taught basic steps and creative movement in class which creates the lovely performances we see at the end of term. However it goes a little further it helps children to understand how to move safely and imaginatively with bodily control, co-ordination, flexibility and balance. It helps improve spatial awareness and promotes a greater range of motion. Dance is an activity that offers a greater range of motion, co-ordination, strength, and endurance than most other physical activities – it incorporates the full body and so is great for total body fitness and as part of a healthy lifestyle.

Creative Development

Dance is more than physical exercise – it is allows ideas to be communicated through physical actions and promotes non-verbal communication via movement and expression. It helps children to use their imagination to create ideas, characters and narratives which helps in their cognitive development.

Personal, Social, and Emotional Development

Dance is social – whether performing along or in a team – it involves other people – both as observers and participants. It encourages children to become more social, to develop trust in others and interacting in new social situations. It encourages them to work alone, in partners or small teams and as part of a large group – increasing the range of social and group dynamics that they are exposed to. It helps them to decide how to use movement alone and with others both to explore their feelings and share their views.

The range of music available and the people the children meet will allow them to explore new cultures, ideas, beliefs, and increase their understanding of the world around them. This taken with accepting the moral code of the group – generally an open welcome to all people regardless of race, gender, ability or beliefs encourages open mindedness.

Communication Development

Dance is non-verbal but uses both music with and without words. It helps children to understand expression through music, noise, rhythm as well as words, text, rhyme and stories. Ballet allows exploration of stories through music and mime, tap incorporates rhythm to express emotion, street dance expresses its history and the musicality of songs.

It allows children to develop their skills in negotiation and conversational skills in both taking instruction and working to develop their own ideas. It builds skills in observations and appreciation through talking about their own performance as well as others.

Dance is based on learning – kinaesthetic learning with understanding of physical and sensory experiences, develops and understanding that language and movement is intertwined so promoting sensory awareness, cognition, and consciousness.

Musicality for dancers

Dance is more than just movement – it is listening too and interpreting the music – the feel, the mood, the tempo, the rhythm.

It’s understanding phrases in songs or pieces, how to interpret the music with the movement – the height, the speed, expansion and contraction.

Importance

Being able to connect to the music you are dancing too is key. You can’t dance the same to Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy as you would do to Crazy in Love. You can’t dance the same to “Everything I do” as you would do “Sweet Child o’ Mine” – even if the steps are the same

Developing Musicality

In our classes (and you can try this at home) we involve these aspects from pre-school classes (in less obvious ways such as our Rig a Jig track or Twinkle Twinkle) to our dance club and older with using beats and bars.

  • Tempo – using different speeds of music for the steps or combinations and asking children to dance to the music
  • Using 3/4, 4/4/ and even 2/4 tracks to help develop understanding different music arrangements
  • Using a combination of steps and dancing them to different styles of music and asking them to show the type of music through the steps
  • Putting music on for improvisation – emotions, adventures, party, space, forest and landscapes and ask them to use their movements to express the type of music

 

Is dance just a hobby?

Yes – it can be, it can also be the start of a lifelong love affair or a career in itself.

It also doesn’t need to be decided at the first class. We are just relaunching here at React Dance (October 2016) and so welcome everyone who is interested to come and try our classes. We will be expanding – we have great plans afoot. But we also will always realise that sometime – your child just wants to come along once a week to have some fun, see their friends, dance about and then head home.

Mondays at present are our Dance Clubs – no strict syllabus, no exams, no pressure – yes we will do a termly showcase, but everyone who wants to dance for a class a week is welcome. We will soon be launching our core subject classes (January 2017) with options to do exams with the IDTA, workshops to develop skills, opportunities for additional performances and solos.

But having a fun hobby that is there without too much pressure is important too!

So if you are looking for a welcoming, growing dance school – come along for a trial class, bring a friend – you are all more than welcome. Leanne@reactdance.co.uk

Improvisation

Improvisation is key to being a good dancer. It comes from being able to listen to music, and interpret the emotions and story through movement.

It is also done with very little preparation – there are no hours of choreography to do, no weeks of research – it’s about reaction and feeling.

You will know – sometimes a song comes on and you get a certain urge to move. This is especially true for dancers – though it is not simply a wiggle or step and tap. You hear accents that require leaps, or crescendos that require expansive moves.

Your body reacts to show whether the song portrays hurt or joy.

Talking through what a song makes you feel – is a great way to introduce even the littlest ones to improvisation. Does it make them happy? Do they think they should run or jump? Should they float like a fairy? Does it sound angry and stampy?

This is just one way dance is amazing for a child’s development – especially their emotional well being. Being able to understand and recognise feelings that come from events and sounds.

Pick some of your favourite songs and ask them what they think. Things like the music from “Frozen” or “Aladdin” by Disney are great as they are designed to evoke feelings.