As a dancer growing up, I always took ballet. I took ballet seriously even though I knew I had no interest in becoming a ballerina. Why? Why prioritize ballet class when my interests were with other dance styles like jazz and tap? Well, the answer is, studying ballet afforded me the opportunity to be technically stronger in the classes I really enjoyed.
I took ballet 3 – 4 times per week. Sometimes I even took private lessons. Having a solid understanding of technique was something that people noticed everywhere I auditioned. Dancers don’t always realize this, but oftentimes at auditions, choreographers and casting directors will use a ballet combo or two to make the first cuts. I auditioned for Spider Man the Musical when it was on Broadway in NYC, which was a call for modern dancers, and the first 2 cuts were all ballet combinations. I had to get passed that before I could really audition for the show and learn the more modern choreography, which actually turned out to include a lot of acro tricks and was definitely more acro based than it was modern. Just another reason to be well rounded.
Ballet class and training helps the body to achieve a certain aesthetic for dance. It teaches your body to use muscles to achieve turn out, extensions, back flexibility, balance, posture, and stamina. It is not about making your body fit into the “look” of ballet, but allowing the exercises that ballet teaches to build your body as a dancer. It will help each dancer achieve things like extension and flexibility safely, teaching proper muscle placement and body placement. Sometimes, especially with the influence of social media, we want to get these cool looking lines fast, so dancers are pushing their bodies fast and in ways that are not the healthiest. Pulling muscles and tearing ligaments is not the answer. As dancers we want as long of a career as possible, not one with hip replacements and knee replacements before the age of 25. That is why ballet is so important. It teaches you to push your body within its limits. It teaches patience and discipline. It is also honest, and true. There are no quick fixes, you have to work hard to master the technique and you can see the actual progress or lack thereof.
So, why take Ballet? For me, I was never told no due to lack of technique. I was able to do everything asked of me when it came to auditioning professionally for non ballet productions. Anything I was ever chosen for, I was asked who taught me ballet. I was able to stand out in my jazz, contemporary and tap classes because my technique was strong.
When you enroll your child in a ballet class, if you can, allow them to attend it more than once per week. It is a technique that builds and once a week is just sometimes not enough. Its like learning how to read. You have to learn all the letters and the sounds before you can start to put the sounds together to create the words. Then you have to learn the vocabulary to understand the story. By the time your dancer is a senior in high school, if they attend multiple ballet classes per week, you will be able to see some beautiful stories unfold.
Aside from all of the physical benefits ballet has to offer, it also helps build dancers emotionally. Combinations at the barre are often taught quickly. Dancers are expected to remember the combination quickly and correctly. This is a great skill to have in everyday life! It keeps dancers focused and paying attention to detail. It also keeps dancers accountable. There isn’t really anyone to blame when a combination is taught and you are the only one who doesn’t know it in the class. These skills are great skills to have when working, as well as when in school.
Ballet class also helps with posture, and is probably one of the best things to help dancers with scoliosis.
So just remember, ballet is not every child’s favorite dance class, and that is OK. But your child will thank you for pushing them on the days they just “didn’t feel like it” one day. It may not even be because they became a dancer, but one day they will thank you because it benefited them in a way they didn’t even think could happen.