In over 25 years of performing arts education for children – dance, music, and theater – we’ve had this conversation countless times:
MOM ON PHONE: “What will my child do in his/her ballet class?”
A: “Lots of things. In a fun and age-appropriate way, we’ll introduce them to proper ballet positions, barre and center combinations, French terminology, classical music and composers, good ballet class etiquette, self-discipline and…”
MOM: “Oh my, do we need all that? We’re not planning for a professional ballet career, we’re just looking for them to have fun!”
The fact is only a tiny percentage of dance, music, and theater students eventually aspire to performing arts as a profession, and an even smaller number actually make it to that goal. Obviously those who do must receive the right kind of training from the beginning, with strong fundamentals and a progressive plan for continuous development and achievement.
But what’s in it for all the others, the recreational students? Why go to that much trouble getting good classical training when it’s just to have fun? Unfortunately, many arts educators “lower the barre” for recreational students for this very reason – and the students inevitably suffer from lower expectations and a lack of emphasis on correct training.
Instead, it is helpful for parents to recognize that high-quality classical education in the performing arts is its own reward. Here are just a few of the benefits of getting good classical training from the beginning:
TECHNIQUE: Performers realize this keenly at the more advanced levels – the more difficult the dance combination or musical passage, the more important it is to have a solid base of clean technique. Parents should seek out teachers who focus on good fundamentals from the beginning, even with very young students. The better the foundation, the easier it is to build upon later. Well-trained classical ballet dancers transition quite easily to jazz, modern, and even tap dance because they have a strong core of ballet technique.
ARTISTRY: Serious performing arts education, especially ballet and classical music, instills in young students a deep appreciation for and recognition of Beauty. One of the classic “transcendentals” (along with Truth and Goodness), beauty is more than just in the eye of the beholder. Students of the classical arts, even very young ones, absorb concepts like balance, proportion, line and shape, symbolism, and aesthetics, without even knowing what these terms mean! And someone who has absorbed these as a child is much likelier to appreciate them as an adult. A child trained in classical arts is an art-lover for life.
HUMILITY and SELF-DISCIPLINE: We live in a nation and culture of great self-indulgence, and most of us can have whatever we want, whenever we want it. Classical arts training instills a healthy dose of humility and self-discipline. The piano or violin student practicing scales, and the ballet student working every day for the perfect plie or tendu, are building lifelong habits of hard work and continual improvement. The joy of reaching a hard-fought goal is enhanced by setting a new and higher goal each time.
GIVING TO OTHERS: Performing artists learn early on that it’s not about them, it’s about the audience. A ballet student leaping onto the stage should already know that the work of preparation and discipline has led to this moment of beauty and delight for those in the auditorium seats. This pattern of training for performance as a gift instills in students a lifelong desire to serve others first. In this way, classical arts training doesn’t just make for better dancers, musicians, or actors – it makes for better human beings!
If you are a parent of a young child who is interested in the performing arts, seek these attributes in whatever school or program you consider. Whether or not a professional performing is in the making, you’ll have the assurance of giving your child the very best in life skills!
-Andrea C. Hill, Artistic Director -Alex E. Hill, Executive Director
5814 Oleander Dr. #3
Wilmington, NC 28403
Andrea and Alex Hill are career educators in the performing arts, and have trained thousands of children and youth in ballet, music, and theater arts, some of whom are now members of professional ballet companies, symphony orchestras, and theater troupes throughout the United States. They have six grown children and reside in Wilmington NC.