Dance As Sport
I LOVE dance as a sport as much as I love baseball. I can fondly remember my daughter as a thigh-high, tiptoeing toddler, in our cozy home with sparse living-room furniture, dressed daily in rummage sale prom dresses and pink tutus, leaping and swirling to the crescendo of Antonio Vivaldi from the stereo, and beaming with delight on her every move till the final bow, “Bravo ma petite enfant! Bravo!” In these living room “performances” came her desire to dance ballet and train professionally like the “big girls” at a studio in the hopes to become a prima ballernia. Seems like only yesterday. Tho much older, my favorite dancer still leaps, twirls and I still beam!!
Throughout my daughter’s joyful, magical childhood I watched her dance spontaneously, tirelessly, and I experienced firsthand how creativity occurs in the moment, timelessly and freely.
Any and all forms of creative movement and dance give students numerous benefits, including a solid foundation in musicality, physical fitness, and social connections based on a shared love of dance. Dance is a great way to exercise and create healthy habits, but you might be wondering if dance is something your child will personally enjoy. There are so many different styles of dance that it seems the question is not, “Is dance right for my child?” but rather, “Which form of dance will my child enjoy?” There are many different dance genres to choose from. All dance forms provides significant rewards to your child’s character, as dance requires discipline. The physical rewards of dance are obvious: our country is currently in battle with an obesity epidemic. Therefore, it is vital for us as parents to find physical activities for our children. Children acquire musical skills through dance, therefore participation in dance can lead to their development as musicians as well. Dance is equally important for boys and girls for developing strength, flexibility and an appreciation of the performing arts. Children will continue to benefit from experience in dance when they participate in any future physical activities, whether a child wants to pursue dance as a career or not. Please consider this overview of the different dance genres to help you make your decision about which dance genre your child might enjoy.
Most dance genres begin with a form of creative movement. In creative movement, children learn about their bodies, develop physical skills, and have fun! Through the use of scarves, visualization and music, creative movement provides children with a unique dance experience. Creative movement focuses more on creativity and fun than technique, which makes this dance genre accessible for all levels of fitness and abilities. Participation in creative dance increases musicality, and is a potentially rewarding practice for creative expression, in addition to being a great physical activity.
Ballet instruction usually begins over the age of four. Introductory classes expose children to basic ballet movements and positions, providing a foundation in technique. Boys and girls who participate in ballet can gain many positive benefits, including confidence, strength, musicality and physical grace. Intense technical training begins around the age of eight. It takes several years to develop the strength and mastery of techniques that are required to go en pointe, and for the student’s growth plates to finish closing (around age twelve).
Modern dance was created as a reaction to the strict nature of ballet, and focuses on expressionism and movement that emphasizes the torso rather than the feet.
Tap dancing allows kids to wear cool shoes that make noise! (I have never met a child who is not fascinated by the metal taps on the bottoms of tap shoes.) Tapping gives students a strong foundation in rhythm. Introductory tap classes teach students basic terminology. Students learn by first listening to sound, and then repeating it. Feet are used as an instrument in tap. Coordination and footwork are emphasized, but tap also provides a cardiovascular workout.
Hip hop is highly improvisational in style. It is an interpretation of street dance styles, such as breaking, locking and popping, and is performed with hip hop music. Jazz is also improvisational, and features bold movements, incorporating a mix of styles. When you think of jazz, think “Michael Jackson,” as he was a master of and a contributor to the genre. A variety of folk dance opportunities available, but these often vary depending on the cultural heritages that comprise your community. Many cultures have a folk dance associated with them. While dance is always a cultural activity, folk dance styles typically do not require professional technical training to master. Rather, one learns folk dancing by watching and becoming part of it. Some popular examples of folk dance styles are Turkish, Polish or Norwegian folk dance, clogging and square dance.
If your daughter/son are uncertain of which area of dance they would like to try consider enrolling them in a hybrid dance class. Typically, the class will spend half of their time on one dance genre, and the other half on a different genre. A common example of this is type of class is ballet and tap. Camp is another way for students to gain exposure to a variety of dance genres, or to increase knowledge in one area. A musical theater camp can allow students to explore choreography, even if they have never danced before. Perhaps a ballet student is interested in Broadway.Camp would be the perfect opportunity for him or her to explore an interest in musical theater. Summer camps can facilitate new dance experiences, without adding to an already hectic schedule during the school year and without ongoing commitment.
Dancers focus on learning movement and techniques, but a dancer’s diet requires equal attention in order to stay on their feet. All dancers in every genre require adequate nutrition. High quality nutrition and hydration are essential for dancers to stay healthy and injury free. Protein helps to repair muscle tissue, stabilizes blood sugar and helps to maintain energy throughout the day. Good sources of protein include turkey or chicken without the skin, soy beans, rice and beans. Carbohydrates fuel the body. Bread, fruit, pasta and potatoes are excellent sources of carbohydrates. Fat is also necessary for the dancer’s diet. Fat helps to form healthy cell membranes and insulation around nerves. Taking quality nutritional supplements can ensure that a dancer gets enough micro nutrients, as a deficiency in any of minerals can impair performance or increase risk of injury. It is important for dancers regardless of age to pay extra attention to staying hydrated, as physical rigor heats muscles and produces sweat, which depletes the body’s supply of fluids.
The advantages of incorporating dance into your child’s lifestyle are significant. Dance
provides your child with the opportunity to have fun and be physical, learn discipline, grow musically and gain stay healthy habits. Your child can learn about another culture through studying a folk dance associated with it, or become an expert in a particular genre, or carry the skills learned through dance to other sports. Focusing on nutrition and hydration will keep your dancer healthy and happy. Now the only question is: which dance genre will your child prefer?
Regardless of choice…Crank up the Music and Let’s Dance!