Featured in the May 2005 issue of “Dance Teacher” Magazine!!
First Steps in Dance for Preschoolers
First Steps in Dance is designed for age-specific levels and abilities. Classes are 45 minutes long and meet one time per week. All First Steps in Dance classes are combination classes providing instruction in tap and ballet for the preschool student. Approximately one half of the class time will be spent in each discipline.
All classes generally begin with tap. The rhythm activities and musical awareness taught during this portion of the class are invaluable tools for all forms of dance and help the students to focus on rhythm and music which will be used for the rest of the class period.
The ballet portion of the class continues with a center warm-up that includes stretching and strengthening the major muscle groups, correct posture, balance, and coordination. These will increase in difficulty as the dancer’s abilities increase and form the basis for more advanced discipline specific training.
The next section of the class is devoted to developing essential locomotor skills required for all forms of dance. These activities begin allowing the student to move through the dance space using specific locomotor skills such as skipping, hopping, and galloping. This time also allows for the development of musical awareness, relationships to others, class etiquette, etc.
The final section of the class brings all the activities together through a creative expression of the dancer’s understanding and is based on a monthly objective. Through a variety of creative dance exercises that teach additional skills such as listening to music for tempo and mood, levels of movement (high, medium, low) and direction (forward, backwards, sideways) the dancer can express and reinforce the activities of the day.
Young dancers who are consistently exposed to this type of activity early in their dance training are generally more creative in their choreographic efforts in later years and have greater freedom of motion and expression as they develop.
Developmental Skills Taught In First Steps in Dance
It is important to remember that physical skills that often seem quite simple to adults are very difficult and complicated to young children.
3 - 4 year olds
Three and four year olds are new to a classroom environment and are still learning how the body moves. This course gently introduces the young student to the dance classroom and focuses their attention on the parts of the body and how they move.
Some of the concepts include stretching of the body, balancing on one foot, transferring weight from one foot to the other, jumping and landing, moving the arms, and moving across the floor. There is also a focus on sustaining balance. Many types of movement characterizations are used to develop both movement quality and imagination.
Jumps are done in basic patterns and skipping is taught both forward and backward. Students begin to learn moving with a partner while continuing to work with learning to count music and rhythm.
4 - 5 year olds
The complexity of the concepts established in the earlier years increases. The focus on counting music continues and students begin to use varying rhythms. Independent movement between arms and legs is encouraged during movement and across the floor exercise. Patterns of weight transfer become more complex while motor skills are refined.
6 year olds
Students who turn six during the dance season will transition from First Steps in Dance to the more traditional disciplines of dance with the beginning of the next dance season. The ground work from the earlier years is related to specifics in the different forms of dance. By the time the student turns seven she/he should be ready both mentally and physically to begin study of any one of the exciting forms of dance and perform with confidence.
Finally . . .
OurFirst Steps in Dance program is specially designed to provide children between the ages of three and six with a strong foundation in dance, rhythm, and movement. It teaches the young dancer the basic elements of movement and dance: space and how we relate to it, both as an individual and as a member of a group; the eight basic locomotor movements; musical rhythm, beat and time; opposites and directions; some elementary positions of ballet, and basic steps of tap. Integrated with these physical concepts are the intellectual concepts of self-awareness, creative expression, imagination, teamwork, and basic body/health awareness.
Through participation in these classes, students also learn the basics of classroom behavior and manners, which remain the same throughout their dancing and school years. These concepts include how to take turns, following another dancer or being a leader, waiting patiently, working together with others, and having a positive attitude.
Educators know that training young children in the concepts of movement sequencing, patterning, and spatial relationships lays a strong foundation for the later development of reading, mathematics, and other educational skills. Children in our First Steps in Dance program work actively in all of these areas.