Did you know that Karen Kain, retired Canadian Ballet principal dancer and current artistic director of the National Ballet of Canada did not start her formal ballet training until the age of 11? Prior to starting her training with the National Ballet Ms Kain studied… Creative Dance!
Why do I mention this? It is often assumed that children need to start rigid technical dance training at a young age if they are to be successful as a dancer. However, this is not the case. Ms Kain provides a wonderful example that the focus of early dance training should be on expression, body awareness, and creativity! When Ms Kain was auditioned for the National Ballet of Canada she was simply asked to walk across the stage like a princess. What the directors were looking for was a dancer who could emote, take on a character and move with the confidence, grace and creativity! It was this expressive skill, coupled with the genetics of having an ideal dancer’s body that gave Ms Kain entry into Canada’s most prestigious ballet school.
Early dance education should provide children with an environment where they can develop a love for dance and their body. It is of no benefit to spend countless hours working on technique that children are not ready for developmentally. This only leads to boredom, disengagement, frustration, and burn out rather than nurturing a passion for dance.
Early dance programs should be based around the foundational skills dancers need to become artists. For each developmental stage dancers should be gradually introduce more formal dance technique using a holistic approach that is focused on the child’s needs and dignity not the requirements of a syllabus. Dance is more than a series of technical steps and elements. It is first and foremost an expressive art using the body, mind and spirit. Dance that touches both the performer and audience comes from the heart!