When we think of children starting their very first dance class, we imagine little girls and boys who already know that dance makes them happy. But what about kids who don’t discover this until they’re older?
For some children, dance might not be something they’ve been positively exposed to until later in life. Perhaps they thought dance was too girly, too hard, or not something their family or friends did.
But it only takes one school musical, a friend’s dance concert or a magical night at the theatre for a child to decide ‘I want to do that.’ And once that desire kicks off, no matter what age it happens, you might just have a dancer on your hands.
So, if your ten or twelve or fifteen-year-old suddenly decides they want to tap, twirl or hip-hop their way to the nearest stage, here’s what you need to do.
FIND THE RIGHT SCHOOL
Make a list of dance schools in your area and find out what support they offer for older dancers just starting out. You’re looking for a school that welcomes new dancers of all ages, and offers a supportive, positive and joyful learning environment. Some schools have strict guidelines on standards and abilities that must be achieved for each class. This might mean they can’t accommodate a new dancer in a way that works for both teacher and student. A chat on the phone, or face-to-face, will help you understand whether it’s the right school for your child.
At Bayside Dance, we try wherever possible to place children and teens with a class of similar-aged students. Even though some students may have been dancing for years longer, our teachers are skilled at teaching the curriculum across varying abilities. This happens in much the same way that a gym class instructor would vary the intensity of exercise for students depending on their level of fitness. If the skill gap is a bit too wide, we may start the dancer in a slightly younger class for a period of time, with the aim of working their way up to their age-appropriate class.
For classes that rely heavily on basic skills and techniques, such as ballet and tap, it can be helpful to support the child’s learning with an additional class at a lower level. For example, a twelve-year-old learning tap for the first time could simultaneously take two classes – their primary class being with kids their own age, but supported by an additional class at an easier level.
We love a good bootcamp to deliver a burst of intense dance training! These can really help build or consolidate skills fast, especially when delivered during school holidays when students can really immerse themselves. At Bayside Dance, we offer beginner classes in tap and ballet each January for older students. This is also helpful for kids who decide they want to take Dance as a school subject in high school.
Although these are never compulsory, a private lesson or two can be hugely helpful in fast-tracking a dancer to a more competent level. They’ll get to focus for a period of time one-on-one, so the teacher can really identify where skills need to be developed. Bayside Dance offers private lessons by appointment in 30-minute, 45-minute or one-hour blocks.
One fantastic outcome of isolation has been the development of Bayside Dance’s online portal! We now have several hours of filmed footage of our teachers demonstrating steps and routines, which can be freely accessed anytime by current students. A keen dancer will benefit hugely from having this resource available to practice ‘with the teacher’ at home in their spare time.
Where appropriate, Bayside Dance allocates additional assistant teachers to classes where there is a need. It can be hugely beneficial to have a second set of eyes in the room to help point out corrections to students. If you have a dancer in need of additional help, these resources may be option.
So, there you have it! New dancers can learn to dance at any age when supported in the right learning environment. We even have beginner Adult classes! It’s never too late to start.
Kaitlin Hague is the Director of Bayside Dance, holds a Bachelor of Creative Industries (Dance) and a Master of Arts. She is a passionate dance educator, journalist, adjudicator and choreographer. When she’s not dancing she’s enjoying the beautiful Bayside lifestyle and spending time with her two dogs, daughter and husband.