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I know that to get to the studio, I had to take an intimidating flight of stairs up, up, up to
the second floor. But truly, I have only the haziest memories of wearing what must have been a
tiny pink leotard and tights, paired with pink slippers or shiny black tap shoes that my mother
magically attached beads to, just once a week. Perhaps it was twice? It is impossible to even
recall as nearly 20 years have passed since I was that cute and round little four year old. The only
distinct memory that I have of one of those classes is running and leaping over the massive
puddle in the center of the room (this was my teachers black skirt, placed on the floor). But
this is all I have left of that time.
As a collegiate, pre-professional level dancer, I am among a population of people
females, specifically- who have been dancing since childhood. We have an interesting culture,
given that we are now old enough to be refining very specific skills that we have been working
on for well over a dozen years. Naturally my memories of university dance classes exist as the
freshest and clearest in my mind, followed by those in my high school or awkward,
uncoordinated preteen years. Before those years there were several years in which I dabbled with
soccer (unsuccessfully) instead of taking dance. The years spent dancing as a child, from ages 36, have slipped quietly from the depths of my memory. It would seem that any activities or
exercises or phrases of movement done in those years could not possibly have contributed much
to my growth as a dancer because they have left me. What, then, is the purpose in placing a
young child in dance? Is it because a parent or guardian hopes to get the child a head start on
training and a professional career, or is it because the child needs more friends or better social
skills? Is it because the parent needs an hour or so a week to get errands done? While dance as a
movement practice is beneficial to children for various reasons, parents must consider some
criteria to determine whether their child as an individual is actually ready to begin formally

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taking dance. A parent should become aware of what the norms are for kids in dance- they can
learn what should be available and for what age. A parent should also consider a more scientific
way of thinking and look at readiness within physical, cognitive and social development.
Following these two sets of criteria, a parent should reflect upon what potential outcomes, both
negative and positive, could result from their child being enrolled in dance.
1. Expectation-based Criteria: Global Norms
Before enrolling a young child in dance, a parent or guardian should become educated on
what types of classes are typically available for specific ages. While it is difficult to find
information via accessible sources such as the Internet regarding dance classes for children in
Africa, Asia, and Antarctica (naturally), it is far easier to find information for the continents of
North America, South America, Europe, and Australia. I teach dance at The Covey Center for the
Arts in Provo, Utah. The youngest age we accept is three years old. We offer creative movement
classes to three and four year olds, and pre-ballet as young as 5-7 years old. At the studio that I
grew up attending, Jennis Dance Company in Winter Haven, Florida, 2 - 4 year olds can take
creative movement. Pre-ballet, jazz/tap combination, and pre-dance are available to 4-6 year
olds. The Wright Step School of Dance is another studio in central Florida. They offer a
mom&me class for two year olds and their parents to participate in together, as well as predance for 3-4 year olds and beginning tumbling, jazz, ballet, and tap for five years and up. All of
the aforementioned classes have duration of forty-five minutes, with the exception of a couple
hour-long classes. These types class offerings/age requirements reflect most studios or schools of
dance across the United States. Creative movement is typically available for three and four year
olds, while tap, ballet, and jazz become options once a child is five and older.

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Unidanza in Guatemala City, Guatemala offers pre-dance 1 for 3-4 year olds, pre-dance 2
for 4-5 year olds, and pre-primary for 5-6 year olds. Traveling south from North America to
South America, the trend of class types continues. Bailemos Todos in Santiago, Chile offers an
introduction to dance course for 3-5 year olds, as well as pre-dance, pre-ballet, and even tela
circo (ropes and silk dancing) for 5-7 year olds. Classes are an hour in length. Estudio InDance
Buenos Aires, Argentina, has baby ballet for three year olds, pre-ballet for 4-5 year olds, and
ballet 1 for 6-8 year olds. Each class is an hour in length.
The trend in dance classes for children extends from North and South America across the
Atlantic Ocean and over to Europe. At Dance UK in Glasgow, Scotland, girls between the ages
of two and five can take minimovers classes. Stage 1 (2-3 years) includes beginner fun,
progressive dance tuition in ballet, and funky pop dance moves. Stage 2 (3-5 years) includes
more advanced fun, progressive dance tuition in ballet, funky pop dance moves plus the new
subject of tap dancing! (Dance UK; Preschool Children Dance Classes). Classes are an hour in
length. At Dynam-Nic Dance in Edinburgh, UK, ballet and tap are available for ages 18 months6 years. Those students are Tiny Twinkles, Twinkle Toes, or Mini Stars (depending on their age).
Tiny Twinkles classes are thirty minutes in length. At Balettakademien in Stockholm, Sweden,
Danslek 3-6 years is available. They offer Danslek Ballet (beginning ballet), Danslek Show
(performance), and Danslek Song (creative movement). Balet Studio Giuliana in southern
Romania allows students as young as four to begin training in ballet.
Australia is yet another continent where a young child can be enrolled in dance, just as in
the previously mentioned continents. All Starz Performing Arts Studio in Sydney advertises their
Early Childhood Program that includes Ready Set Dance (2-3 year olds), Ready Set Dance (4-5
year olds) and Ready Set Ballet (3-5 year olds). Selected 5 year olds are allowed to attend the

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Primary classes. Just Dancing Dance School in Melbourne offers a classical ballet/jazz combo
class for 3.5-5 year olds and a classical ballet/jazz combo or tap for 5-6 year olds, all at forty-five
minutes per class session.
It is apparent that there are global trends relating to young children studying dance. Many
locations around the world offer training to students as young as three or four year olds, and the
genres most available to the youngest dancers are pre-dance, creative movement, or balletic in
nature. If a parent desires to enroll a child in dance, this information is quite useful because it can
help establish some understanding and expectations of what might be available. Furthermore,
this information is interesting in and of itself due to what it tells us about people across cultures.
It is apparent that there are people all over the world care that about dance- obviously this is a
common trait in many cultures and societies. In some cultures dance is highly revered as an art
form that must be preserved. In some cultures, dance is an integral part of spiritual worship. In
others, dance is more often praised and applauded as a sport. Whatever the reasoning or purpose
for moving may be, it is clear that adults across cultures find it important to expose children to
2. Scientific Criteria- Developmental Readiness
The scientific study of developmental psychology seeks to explain the progressions by
which children and adults change over time. Within this approach are a variety of theoretical and
research areas, including physical, cognitive, and social development. When studied and
understood, this information can translate into some criteria by which a parent might should the
readiness of a child to begin formally training in dance.
The degree or level of physical development of a child is a key indicator in his or her
potential to successfully participate in a dance class. One approach to physical or biological

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development that would be especially pertinent to dance training would be through Bartenieff
Fundamentals. Irmgard Bartenieff labeled six patterns of total body connectivity as
Fundamentals. As outlined by Peggy Hackney in Making Connections, they are breath, coredistal connectivity, head-tail connectivity, upper-lower connectivity, body-half connectivity, and
cross-lateral connectivity (Hackney vii). These are physical capabilities humans should naturally
progress through, starting as soon as they are born. Hackney points out that each Fundamental
Pattern represents a primary level of development and experience, and each is relational. Each
organizes a way of relating to self and to the world (Hackney 15). Looking at a child in dance
will reveal varying levels of pattern development. For example, a three year old might have no
trouble, relatively speaking, in reaching to her distal edges (core-distal), but might struggle with
a motor step such as skipping (cross-lateral).
Cognitive development is the development over time of the ability to understand the
world in which we live, as defined in Developmental Psychology: An Advanced Textbook
(Bornstein 275). In addition to physical development, cognitive development is yet another key
element which can indicate a childs readiness to study dance. Saul McLeod, a graduate teaching
assistant at the University of Manchester and PhD candidate, references Piagets Cognitive
Theory as a crucial sector of developmental psychology in his online psychology database. He
states that, [Jean] Piaget (1936) was the first psychologist to make a systematic study of
cognitive development. His contributions include a theory of cognitive development, detailed
observational studies of cognition in children, and a series of simple but ingenious tests to reveal
different cognitive abilities. Two components of this theory, which are particularly relevant to a
child in dance, are schemas and adaptation processes. A schema is the basic building block of
intelligent behavior- a way of organizing knowledgeit is useful to think of schemas as units

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of knowledge, each relating to one aspect of the world (McLeod). In dance, a student might
have a schema about a type of movement, a movement quality, or even the order and pattern of a
class. A schema for a young dancer might include what actions to take when the teacher gives a
set of simple commands, such as to form a circle and hold still. It is not difficult to make a clear
connection between the necessity of schemas and success in a dance setting. Adaptation
processes allow for intellectual growth through assimilation and accommodation. Assimilation
relates to using an existing schema to deal with a situation, but accommodation relates to an
existing schema not working and adjustment being needed. With young dancers, the act of being
near a ballet barre might call upon a schema of climbing and hanging upside down, and
accommodation would be necessary in order for the child to learn that a different behavior is
actually appropriate.
Social development accompanies physical and cognitive as a third indicator of a childs
potential to thrive in dance training. According to KidsMatter, a government-sponsored
information source in Australia, social development involves learning the values, knowledge
and skills that enable children to relate to others effectively and to contribute in positive ways
to family, school and the community (About social development).It is known that social skills
have some correlations to happiness and varying categories of success. This starts in childhood.
Merrill Roff states in Social Adjustment and Personality Development in Children that among
the most interesting and illuminating phenomena of social interaction are the patterns, bases, and
consequences of social acceptance and rejection in the peer society of children (Roff v). As
children develop, they react to acceptance and rejection in different ways. These reactions affect,
their self-concepts and their attitudes toward others (Roff v). Among all possible social skills,
children learn over time how to behave in various environments amid peers, how to

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communicate effectively and timely with peers and adults, how to take turns, and how to work in
some way with peers. Varying levels of social development are evident among young children
who are beginning to study dance. Some skills, such as timely communication or taking turns,
might be completely non-present. The opposite end of the spectrum is also possible.
3. Potential Outcomes as Criteria
With a sample of statistics representing the ages around the world at which children may
begin studying dance, paired with scientific insight as to developmental readiness, a parent can
consider the possible scenarios that may result from enrolling a child in dance. There are worstcase possibilities- negative outcomes that may result from a child studying dance at too young an
age. Likewise, there are best-case scenarios that may result from a child studying dance at that
same age.
A parent may ask, what harm might come from enrolling my young child in dance,
especially if so many other children (around the world) have this opportunity? If a child is
noticeably less skilled than his or her peers in some type of movement pattern, there could be
embarrassment or frustration. I have a student in a class of three and four year olds that is, for
some reason, incapable of cross-lateral movements such as skipping. In the first few class
sessions she did not seem to be aware of this, but gradually she began to realize that she was not
moving in the same rhythmic and fluid way as the others. Her frustration is evident each time I
have the class practice skipping steps. Physically, there is also a risk of injury or long-term
damage to a young child in dance. In an Internet post for Parents magazine, Karin A. Bilich
explains that more than 3 million children experience a sports-related injury in the United States
each year, although the majority of these injuries arent serious and many can be prevented.
She offers three reasons as to why children are prone to injury. Bilich states that children are less

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coordinated and have slower reaction times than adults, and due to kids maturing at different
rates there can be substantial differences in height and weight among children of the same age.
Also, as children grow bigger and stronger, the potential for and severity of injury can increase
Aside from physical reasons, is it worth the financial loss to have a young child enrolled
in dance? If a child is in a class where mostly silly games are played, some children mess and
bicker with each other, and some insist on running around in circles instead of paying attention,
is it worth the money? I have a five year old that refuses to participate in approximately 85% of
the activities and exercises in her pre-ballet class. She would much prefer to run circles around
the students working on technique or put herself in time-out because, as she has said herself, she
hates ballet. I would argue that after seeing her behave this way for over six months it is not
worth her mothers money. A final point of a worst-case scenario is the possibility of the training
of a young dancer having little or no impact on training in later years. It is difficult to say that
practice in saut de chat or pli as a four year old will influence skills in saut de chat leaps and
plis as a maturing dancer even just five years later. From my experience as an instructor, I
would argue that it is highly unlikely that a young child will suddenly become excellently skilled
as a dancer, or that anything done in the creative movement or pre-ballet classes will have any
lasting impact in terms of dance articulacy.
Negative outcomes aside, a parent may just as soon ask, what positive outcomes could
result from a child studying dance at an early age? One could counter the physical injury
argument with the notion that physical activity aids in development. In a cross-sectional study
published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, researchers sought to prove that physical
activity has a beneficial effect on bone development in circumpubertal children. They reached

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the conclusion that there are statistically significant and, perhaps important, associations
between physical activity and bone measures during early childhood, well ahead the onset of
peak bone massintervention strategies to increase physical activity in young children could
contribute to optimal bone development (Janz 1387). Studying dance at a very young age has
the potential to strengthen a childs body. Movement pattern skills, such as those outlined by
Irmgard Bartenieff, can be further developed and enhanced through movement study. This is
especially true if the student has a teacher whose pedagogical practices include the
implementation of Bartenieff Fundamentals.
It is also possible that, in addition to increasing physical strength and motor skills,
cognitive development might be enhanced in early dance study. Dancing is a complex
sensorimotor action for the one in motion. In The Neural Basis of Human Dance, published in
the Cerebral Cortex journal, it is stated, one of the principal properties of dance is that body
movements are organized into spatial patternsdances tend to be modular in organization, being
composed of discrete sections that are concatenated or interleaved (Brown 1157). To further
study this, Researchers conducted a positron emission tomography (PET) study with dancers
performing dance steps. They found that, a systems-level view of the brain areas contributing
todance performance revealed activations in bilateral motor, somatosensory and premotor
areas, right supplementary motor area, right frontal operculum, left medial superior parietal
cortex, superior temporal regions, right cingulate motor area, basal ganglia, and bilateral anterior
vermal and posterior-lateral cerebellum (Brown 1160). Perhaps since the brain plays such an
active role in dance, the process of studying it can allow for a child to easily develop new
schemas or adaptation processes.

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Surely a young child could benefit from studying dance in terms of certain social
implications, in addition to physical and cognitive. Interpersonal skills might be greatly
increased. A child might learn appropriate behaviors for some social situations by being
submerged in a dance setting. Concepts of self-esteem might flourish. And in this social
atmosphere it is, of course, possible for a child to actually develop some technical dance skills
which may be long lasting, assuming the child receives effective education. Given the right
descriptive cues, the six year olds in one of my pre-ballet classes are capable of making
noticeable improvement on skills such as the movement phrase of chass grand jet.
In many locations across the globe, young children have the opportunity to study dance.
However, before a young child begins studying dance, his or her parents should put a significant
amount of consideration into the decision. Areas in North and South America, Europe, and
Australia have easily accessible information regarding classes available for interested parents
and guardians. A parent should ask: is my child of an age at which any classes are available, and
in what genre or style of dance? Just because it is available, does that make it a suitable fit for
my individual child? There are scientific approaches including physical, cognitive, and social
development that may indicate a level of readiness, and those approaches can help one consider
what scenarios negative or positive- may result from the young child studying dance.

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Works Cited
"About Social Development." KidsMatter. Australian Government Department of Health, 2012.
Web. 06 Apr. 2015.
Bilich, Karin A. "Preventing Kids' Sports Injuries." Parents Magazine. Meredith Women's
Network, n.d. Web. 25 Mar. 2015.
Bornstein, Marc H., and Michael E. Lamb. Developmental Psychology: An Advanced Textbook.
Mahwah, N.J.: L. Erlbaum Associates, 1999. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost). Web. 6
Apr. 2015.
Brown, S. "The Neural Basis of Human Dance." Cerebral Cortex 16.8 (2005): 1157-167. Web.
Hackney, Peggy. Making Connections Total Body Integration through Bartenieff Fundamentals.
Amsterdam: Gordon and Breach Pub., 1998. Print.
Janz, K. F., T. L. Burns, J. C. Torner, S. M. Levy, R. Paulos, M. C. Willing, and J. J. Warren.
Physical Activity and Bone Measures in Young Children: The Iowa Bone Development
Study. Pediatrics 107.6 (2001): 1387-393. Web.
McLeod, Saul. "Developmental Psychology | Simply Psychology." Developmental Psychology |
Simply Psychology. N.p., 2012. Web. 23 Mar. 2015.
Roff, Merrill, S. B. Sells, and Mary M. Golden. Social Adjustment and Personality Development
in Children. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota, 1972. Print.
Studios Mentioned