Ballet Beginnings (age 5-8) Syllabus

Overall Objectives of Ballet Beginnings (ages 5-8)

After the ballet-themed Mini Sessions (or if the dancers have not had, or are too old for Mini sessions) this Ballet Beginnings is intended to be for beginning dancers. Instruction should:
1) encourage participants to MOVE.
2) encourage participants to use their minds to think of two things at once, and to imagine.
3) be an enjoyable and positive experience for every dancer.

Dancers progress beyond Ballet Beginnings according to age. Still, it is wonderful to familiarize every participant with how to be the B.E.S.T. dancer they can be:
1) B=Body. Dancers should be encouraged to move MORE of their bodies as they dance - heads, hips, feet and hands, eyes, bellies. Help them raise awareness of incorporating more of themselves into their movements.
2) E=Energy. Practice light/heavy, fast/slow, sharp/sustained or soft.                                                    3)  S=Space. Explore personal space (near reach/far reach), as well as patterns on the floor (straight, diagonal, zigzag, circle, squiggle), different directions for movement (forward/backward/to the side), the levels of low/medium/high, and moving alone, with a group, and with a partner.                                    4) T=Time. Help dancers identify the counts, or rhythms of the music and begin to connect their dancing to the sounds they hear.                                                                                                                    5) FORM: For the sake of this class, this is simply the structure within the dance class - how it begins, the rules of a dance class, the rules of being a good audience, and how the class ends. Concepts relating to telling a story through movement MAY also be covered.

Of note: Ballet terminology and excessive teacher demonstration should be avoided. Move enough to help dancers know that movement is good and expected. Don't give corrections on technique - just encourage dancers to move MORE - more of their bodies, bigger, more musically. Essentially you are working within the movement capacity they already posses to help them simply be a better dancer (NOT a better BALLET dancer). As the class should encourage the use of the dancer's own creativity and imagination, and as some children are more comfortable simply mimicking the teacher or other participants, try to minimize demonstration and praise and highlight the dancer's own movement choices.

Class Outline

First 5 minutes: Free dance. While dancers arrive, encourage them to dance/move freely to various pieces of music. Choose pieces with different dynamics and tempos. Take roll during this time. And as you observe the dancers, give compliments by name on qualities of movement, moves tried, use of space, interpretation of music, etc, especially  highlighting concepts you have discussed in previous classes. (Ex: "Julie, I love how your arms are moving so softly in all directions." "Fred, that was a really high leap." You may also give challenges, like, "Sammi, those were some amazing spins! Can you try spinning the other direction?" Or, "Patrick, your feet were moving in interesting patterns! Can you move your arms more as your feet move?")

Next 2-3 minutes: Follow the leader-warm-up. Give directions for dancers' movement and encourage them to follow the leader. (Any simple movement the majority of the class can do is fine - walking in a circle, hopping, skipping, running, moving arms separately or at the same time in various ways, isolating head movements, etc.) This "warm up" gets them using gross motor skills, should get their heart rate slightly elevated, helps everyone to participate, and establishes that the rest of the class will be following the teacher's instruction. End this time with sitting and teaching and/or reviewing rules of a dance class. Namely, that 1- the teacher teaches and dancers listen and try, 2- that there is no climbing on the barres, and 3) no touching other dancers unless you are instructed to do so.

Next 10-15 minutes: Concept introduction/explanation and review. While the dancers are sitting, ask them what they learned about the following week. Then, while still sitting, introduce the new concept and give instructions on the first concept exploration activity. Stand and do the first concept exploration activity. Then follow it with 2-3 other activities/exercises related to the new concept, instructing on each subsequent activity while dancers are standing. (This should be apx 1/3 to 1/2 of the class to this point.)

Next 10-15 min: Practice. If the dancers have shown familiarity with the new concept, incorporate concepts from previous classes in this time. You may choose to break the class into groups and have some watch while others dance. (Remember a lot can be learned by observation.) Don't shy away from exploring each concept in more depth as well. You may choose to use ALL this time playing in and working with the new concept.

Next 5-10 min: Solos. During this time have all class members sit at the front of the class while one volunteer performs a brief solo, taking turns so each member of the class has the opportunity to "perform" once. You may ask what tempo the dancer would like to dance to, and play musical selections accordingly. This time develops the confidence of the dancers, but also develops dancer observation and audience etiquette. Dancers who do not volunteer to take a turn may be asked by name if they would like a turn. If any dancer declines, respond simply and encouragingly with, "Maybe next week." 

Next 5 minute: Coordination challenge. This can be WHATEVER - alternate which foot is pointed and flexed, balancing on one foot without hopping, clapping with each march or skip, jumping over object (leaps or plyometric jumps). These should be fun and engaging, and something the dancer could work on at home. There can be multiple challenges in this time, or just one. Repeat challenges for a few classes if the dancers are excited about arriving at mastery. (Think of challenges that will eventually lead to ballet skill: "Can you spin and only see your eyes every time in the mirror as you go around?" "Can you lift your knee up, then turn it out and back in before you put your foot down?" "Can you do four jumps - one facing each wall?" (These may also be demonstrated, but the completion of the challenge is the "technique" that should be praised.)

Next 5-10 minutes: Stretches/cool down. Play soothing, relaxing music to this and move seamlessly from one stretch to another. These ARE appropriate to demonstrate: touch toes, pizza and taco, sitting butterfly, butterfly on back.

Finally, end class with a "good-bye movement." Do some sort of slow, follow-the-leader movement to music and say something as you move like, "I had fun dancing with you today. Now our class is over." This may only be a few counts. It can/may vary each time. Other class members may wish to lead the good-bye movement. You CAN lead bowing or curtsying. You may begin with one thing and add more movements as the class progresses. 

Class Planning

Ballet Beginnings is most often offered in brief 6-10 class sessions. * Before a session begins, plan what concepts to cover in each class. Be sure that within a session, the dancers learn concepts from one of each of the elements of dance (Body, Energy, Space, and Time). * Review suggested wording on how to introduce a concept and know what music you will need to help dancers engage in each concept. At this age attention spans are short - move quickly through all the activities, spending less time on explanation and more time on dancing. Remind dancers as often as necessary about class rules. * Though this class should be fun and engaging, class members should learn respect and orderly class behavior; listening and following instructions is an important part of learning how to be a better dancer!

PERFORMANCE: Classes that are more than 6 weeks in duration (or 8 classes) may have a "Parent Watch" for the last class. The instructor can determine if she would like to invite parents for the full hour OR if she would just like to invite them for solos, the coordination challenge, stretching and the good-bye movement (ie: the last 15 +/- minutes of class). Please let Steffanie know what your preference is for parent watch one week before the final class.