Special Report for 3, 4 and 5 year ol...

Ballet North's Special Report for 3, 4 and 5 year old Dance Students and Parents
March 25th, 2009 (Gladstone, MO, Kansas City, MO)

Parents of 3, 4 and 5 year old students are asking with increasing frequency whether they should enroll their child in activities at this very early age and also if ballet is the right activity for them. This report will seek to offer no-nonsense answers to these questions with the child's best interests at heart, not the profit motive or far worse, the trendy-fashion acceptance pop culture motive.

First, note the pictures below. An extremely powerful tool for use in determining the value of ballet as compared to hip-hop or jazz is to just look at production photos. See and compare yourself what is being presented on stage. You can find many photo galleries on both our blog,
(located on the right side of the page as "Ballet North Photo Bin")
or our website,
as well as many videos from our events by either clicking the youtube channel on our blog or just go to www.youtube.com and search for "balletnorth"
(all one word).
Then, ask to see or find out if there are pictures and especially videos
available from the hip-hop or jazz competition school - check them out
and you should be able to tell for yourself exactly which activity
holds real value for your money and your child's time and education. 

Typical Dance Competition or Dance Team Looks:



Now, Typical Ballet Performance Looks:


In which photo(s) are the dancers presented as objectified things or
objects of desire, and in which photo(s) are the dancers presented as
characters in a story telling a narrative?  Which would you want your
child doing?

1) Q: Is my child too young to start activities at 3 or 4 or 5 years of age?
    A: Children at the age of 3 and up can sustain activities and also begin to retain what is being taught at a moderate level.  However, there is absolutely NO deadline or cut-off point at so young an age.  Many gymnastics and hip-hop based programs state that children must begin their program at this young age or fall behind - but this is completely incorrect.  Many professional ballet dancers such as Mikhail Baryshnikov or Rudolph Nureyev began their training around the age of 7 or even as old as 15 and got to an advanced level around 17 years of age.  This is because when they began their training, they did so with correctly taught ballet and avoided learning bad habits and poor posture.  Young children of 3, 4 or 5 years of age benefit most from weekly class where they do focus on the learning of new positions as well as their balance and coordination - and save intense training for later on in adolescence. 

There is also something to be said for the claims of expertise by any
school or organization that advocates starting activities in an intense
way before the age of puberty.  The science of how the mind and body
learn and develop is very sound and universally agreed upon so such
claims that the child "must" get into an activity or fall behind come
from either ignorance on the part of that school or wiling deception of
you so as to get your money with no concern for what is best for the

       Neither girls or boys can retain and improve upon ANY advanced skills with regularity until they reach puberty; the muscles are far too flexible and weak, the bone growth plates are too fragile, their general growth rate is too fast to let them refine balance or coordination past a certain point and, with hyper-training or over activity, development is stunted in both girls and boys resulting in late or no periods for girls, lack of physical development, and for boys arrested development especially with height and overall body size.  Additionally, when performing an art form the artist needs to be at least old enough to understand what the material is they are performing; a 10 year old stands no chance of being able to perform the role of "Juliet" in Romeo and Juliet or "Odile" in Swan Lake because they have not had any life experiences yet (nor would it be of any benefit to attempt to get 10 year olds to understand matters that 18 - 25 year olds go through.  Childhood is over soon enough - no need to rush through it!).  

      With participation in ballet until the full onset of puberty (13 to 14 years of age) students will, 100% of the time, gain near perfect posture that lasts for the rest of their life, flexibility and strength, self-confidence and coordination.  This happens because at the age of puberty the body is more than 95% if not 100% done with growth and the student can fully master their balance, and improve upon the advanced skill set ballet requires in a permanent way.  The mind can completely remember these skills at the age of 13 to 14 years and the physical coordination patterns get firmly set.  Students who begin any activity at 3 or 4 years of age, hyper-train in it but burn out and quit by the age of 10 or 11 will realize zero benefit to them because the onset of puberty will completely erase any muscle memory and all mental patterns of whatever they learned as a child. 

      World-wide, ballet programs will offer what is called "pre-ballet" or a similar term to all pre-adolescent children (3 to 10 years of age) consisting of a class pattern of 1 or 2 classes per week maximum due to the science of how and when children develop and learn. 

(Many organizations and "experts" have advocated the so-called mommy-and-me classes for toddlers but the reality of mommy-and-me classes is that they are ineffective; no child retains anything at that young an age.) 

2) Q: Are sports better at developing team work than the arts or dance?
    A: In ballet many, many times dances require many dancers - sometimes 20 or even more - to move all together in complex ways, sometimes even holding hands or locking elbows and jumping in formations, all over the stage.  This requires extreme team work just to pull off.  Ballet lessons build both the student's awareness of their own selves, how to improve personal skills such as coordination, balance, flexibility - and also how to stay in complete lock-step with whoever is performing with you regardless of how complex the dance is.  In ballet, no one sits on the bench and everyone has to hit home runs or the production being done will just not work.

3) Q: Isn't ballet too hard?
    A: Many hip-hop and jazz schools tell students to shy away from ballet at a certain age and focus on hip hop or whatever.  This is because in order to train in ballet, teachers have to be very highly trained - nearly as much as medical doctors - in order to be able to understand how the syllabus works and what to do to train students through the very difficult age of the early adolescent years.  There is a fully documented movement science for ballet owing to ballet being created and developed from the 14th century.  Teachers must learn this syllabus in order to be able to properly train students.  Hip-hop and Jazz require no such training or expertise and since you simply cannot teach ballet without this knowledge, schools and studios who don't want to bother learning it have turned it around as something the student should avoid.  This is a deceit.  Students who master ballet and become professional dancers will not spend any more time in the studio than students who do competition hip-hop dancing (which also entails wearing very revealing costumes and wiggling around on stage like a street-walker in training) but the end result could not be more drastically different:  the student who became a professional ballet dancer will have a career that will last well into their 30's or 40's (how many professions offer that today?) whereas the student who spent the same amount of time and probably much more money with the competition dance hip-hop scene will be done dancing at 18, will not have improved posture or any lifetime benefits, and will never get paid to perform such wriggling dances.  Unless you count performing at places like Worlds of Fun in the summertime, not exactly a professional career.  

The real danger to hip-hop and jazz is that it follows the trendy, mindless pop-culture mindset which teaches girls to be the objects of someone else's desire; ballet teaches all students to be the objects of their own life and to pursue their goals with confidence and to not consider at all what the trendy, fashion/pop culture "cool" thing is at the time.  The overwhelming trend for teenage girls who get immersed in the pop-culture hip-hop/jazz scene is to be in a crisis of confidence by their late teen years and to end up with serious mid-life crises and even the high probability of having to take prozac or other mood changing drugs as adults because as human beings, we do not want to be someone else's object, we want to be able to pursue our own goals with freedom and confidence.  Hip-hop and Jazz competition and pop-culture tell children and especially girls that they should not have their own goals but instead defer to the trend-setters (whoever they are) and follow this to stay in the "in" crowd - the ultimate goal of pop culture for girls is to act in such a way that they are the ultimate object of desire - which sets up a major psychological and philosophical conflict of interest with the natural human urge to value one's self and seek to improve personal abilities.

"...The best interests of the student are the only interests to be considered."