Pre-Ballet Pointers

I have taught pre-ballet (ages 2-5) for seven years now, and I’ve picked up a few things about kids and dance and separation anxiety.  Here are three pointers for parents and teachers on working with the little ones.



1. It’s okay if they cry.

I’ve had kids cry for the entire 45 minutes because they’re so focused on the fear and anxiety that they can’t focus on the fun they could be having. In a class of 5, I had 3 screamers (like, belly-scream, this-kid-might-throw-up-and-pass-out scream).

By the end of the year they were all fine. But they took some time. Luckily I had 2 assistants to help me out.

But I’ve learned that cryers are gonna cry, so get the crying out of the way and move on. A parent who is reluctant to hand their kid over might ask to come into the studio with the student. I’ve learned this only makes it worse. I’ve also learned that it’s good to find out in advance how a child responds to being picked up. I had one who would cry a little but be okay if I took her hand and walked her back, but if you grabbed her, it was over.

2. Do not give them more than one piece of instruction at a time.


This also applies to multiple people talking to them at once.

Situation: Child goes into dance studio a little late.

Good scenario: Parent apologizes, teacher answers it’s okay, tells student to come into the classroom and shuts the door. Assistant remains quiet and demonstrates what the student should be doing.

Bad scenario: parent tells student to go into classroom and apologizes to parent, teacher tells student to come in and go to their color, assistant tells them to get into first position.

Why is that a bad scenario? Too many instructions. They have too many people telling one kid to do too many things. Same thing happens with an older student when the teacher tells them to stand on their spot, the assistant tells them to be quiet, another assistant tells them to put their hands on their hips. They can handle two instructions at a time, tops, until they get practice later in the year and they know what they’re doing.

3. Let ballet class be the “special treat.”



So many times I’ve heard “good job, let’s go get ice cream!” or “If you do well, momma will get you a treat,” or “if you are a good listener, then you will get a surprise.” This teaches the child that if they want something from mom, they need to jump through the hoops and satisfy her requirements.

 That’s not what you want. 

You want their love for dance to grow and flourish, for them to desire to put forth hard work and effort for their own personal success, for them to feel good about their dancing. In order to make that happen, they need dance to be the special treat, not the chore they accomplish to get their reward.


Do you have any pieces of advice you’ve picked up from teaching little ones?

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