Learn to dance ballet for kids. Ballet is an art form that can be enjoyed from a very young age, and like other types of dance, learning ballet benefits children in many ways.
What is Classical Ballet?
Classical ballet is a style of ballet based on precise conventional steps performed with graceful and flowing movements.
Developed from Court productions of the Renaissance, ballet was renewed under Louis X1V in the 17th century when the five primary ballet positions were developed.
Significant developments in the early 19th century included pointe work (balance on the extreme tip of the toe) and the emergence of the prima ballerina – the leading female dancer in a ballet company.
Russia became the centre of ballet production and performance in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Since then classical ballet has become popular in Great Britain, North America and many other countries, including New Zealand.
The Royal Academy of Dance was founded in 1920 to advance the standards of teaching in classical ballet worldwide. It provides syllabi which have been carefully developed to enable a young dancer to progress through his or her dance training in planned stages.
Dance is an art-form that knows no barriers and can be enjoyed by anyone. There are many benefits to students learning ballet.
- posture and physical strength are improved;
- co-ordination and appreciation of music are developed;
- increasing confidence and self-esteem, communication skills and self-motivation are developed;
- new and exciting challenges and opportunities to meet like-minded people are provided;
and above all, students have fun!
Where do you learn Ballet?
Young dancers generally join a local ballet or dance school or academy. Some such schools are classical ballet focused only, while others incorporate various other types of dance including jazz, tap and hip hop.
In the early stages of tuition, the young dancers will learn in the group or class situation, developing their dance skills alongside peers of similar age and experience.
There are advantages with the group tuition, where young children interacting with others creates an enjoyable synergy which is stimulating and fun.
As the young dancer progresses individual tuition is available through private teachers. However, the dancer would generally be expected to be fairly well advanced.
In New Zealand there are approximately 200 teachers with Registered Teacher Status with the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD RTS). These teachers, who have the training necessary to teach dance to young children and students, adhere to a carefully structured syllabus which is both fun and safe.
What age can your child start Ballet?
Some dance schools have pre-school dance classes for children from as young as 2½ years. These are a great way for the children to develop an awareness of dance and an appreciation for music generally.
Many children start later in their pre-school years, or at primary school age although it’s not uncommon for young teens to commence ballet lessons if they are keen.
How do you progress over time?
There are a variety of options which are outlined below:
The Royal Academy of Dance believes that participation in ballet should be available to all young people and includes classes for those who, for various reasons, may not be able to cope with formal examinations.
Therefore, if a young student desires to learn ballet with an RAD teacher, but doesn’t wish to take the examinations, they may follow the programme of Presentation Classes (minimum age is five years, for Pre-Primary) up to Grade 8 level.
For these students, Presentation Classes offer a programme of work which can be matched to their physical ability or pace of learning, leading to a sense of achievement and self esteem, which can equal that of those passing formal examinations.
Graded Examination Syllabus
Students aged 6 years and over may take Graded examinations from Pre-Primary to Grade 8.
At Grades 1-3 level they will be able to co-ordinate simple movements to produce a combination of steps, respond to music, and perform with confidence before an audience.
By Grade 6-8 they will have the ability to demonstrate a comprehensive knowledge of dance movements, interpret music sensitively in performance and perform with confidence and self-awareness.
The Graded syllabus consists of three different components; classical, free movement and character dance:
Classical: the Classical work is the foundation and the most important part of the Graded Syllabi.
Free Movement: the free movement section incorporates movements in common with other dance styles such as natural movement and contemporary based dance.
Character Dance: is the theatrical presentation of national dance using original ethnic dance and music which has been freely adapted for the theatre.
Vocational Graded Syllabus
Students aged 11 and over who want to study classical ballet in greater depth with a view to pursuing a career in dance can follow the RAD Vocational Graded Syllabus.
Those wishing to study Vocational Graded require excellent physical health and fitness as the study is demanding. They need to be able to concentrate for long periods of time and also be open to constructive comments and correction.
What gear do you need for Ballet?
Leotards, ballet shoes, character skirts (for girls) and character shoes are required. The ballet teacher will be able to advise the specific requirements and offer advice about where to purchase these.
How much does Ballet cost?
Lesson prices vary but you can expect to pay approximately:
- 30 minute lesson — $80 – $110 per term
- 45 minute lesson — $90 – $120 per term
- One hour lesson — $100 – $130 per term
Terms are ten weeks in duration and coincide with the school terms. Beginner classes commence at 30 minutes and increase to 45 minutes as the student progresses.
Leotards $35 – $45
Ballet Shoes: Ballet Flats $35 – $43, Pointe Shoes $75 – $85
Character Skirts $45 – $55
Character Shoes $50 – $60
Examinations: the costs of examinations vary according to the grades:
- Presentation Classes $35 – $91
- Graded Examinations $90 – $115
How much time does it take to learn Ballet?
This is something to ask the ballet teacher. Different studios have different schedules, which vary depending on the level. Extra lessons may be required near exam time. However, all schools work in conjunction with the school terms.
The young dancer would be expected to practice daily, commencing with 30 minutes and gradually working their way up to one hour daily.
Great Classical Ballet Websites
Website of the New Zealand Royal Academy of Dance.
The site about all things ballet and dance in the world (and the UK) in great depth.