I began learning dance at 3 years old. At age 4 I was pulled out of classes because all I would do was sit in the floor, chew on my shirt, and cry obsessively as I watched myself and everyone else in the mirror. At age 5, I had a friend want to go to ballet and jazz dance classes with me, and the rest is history.
My instructor, Belinda Hurst (she also taught my mother ballet at the original studio out on S. Hwy 191, Moab Ut) taught the basic’s of course in all my dance classes. I learned from the Cecchetti (Italian) ballet technique method first, mixed with a little Bob Fossy jazz. By age 9 my body development was strong enough for me to advance up to point ballet. Yep! I have been on point since I was 9 years old.
I can’t imagine dance without the basic’s that were taught to me in my younger years. Now days, when I assume the duties of instructor, I really like to take the time to evaluate a dancer and check their body strengths, before choreographing a dance. Not checking body strength and ability – that’s how people get hurt. Those rules were repeated to me year after year by my ballet instructor BelindaHurst. I’ve never forgot them.
Here is a nice clip showing the proper form for moving through the ballet positions. This is how you should look. If you aren’t being taught this in ballet class – you aren’t being taught by a knowledgeable instructor.
Belinda was right in the fact that too many people want to push forward when their bodies aren’t really ready. So important! Your feet – your bones, they must all be ready.
I’ve seen dancers at high school competitions with pulled hamstrings, inner thigh and groin muscles pulled, as well as chin splits. Generally these dancers began their training in high school, with very little studio training before hand.
These types of injuries are also way too common in young dancers who attempt to do things before they are ready. Nothing is more frustrating than to see a young dancer being pushed beyond their level before they have developed the ability to do stunts without risk of injury.
There is always time to learn a new dance. But you can’t learn the technique for a new dance over night. Technique is something that you practice, over and over again. It’s through that repetitious training that you develop a beautiful form; not sloppy and gangly.
If you don’t have the proper technique you are probably just slopping it together. In the competition field you will stick out like a sore thumb to any judge, and to any seasoned dancer/parent. I give first years a little slack, but by year two – you better be making some headway.
I judged at a 3A-4A regional’s Drill Competiton in St. George Utah a while back. It is obvious which dancers were practicing technique, and which ones were not. A strong team means a dedicated coach is there to make sure they are properly trained before hitting the floor.
I have to say there was one particular team that completely ruled the show. They had everything from technique, to costume, to presentation, to the overall theme. This team also took state as well. You want your team to be that memorable.
Growing up in and around the world of dance competitions, you learn quickly what you need to do to win. At the lower age groups you might come up quickly. But as you mature, if you aren’t studying and practicing daily – you will have a hard time winning at the higher levels.
I can’t tell you how many summers I spent learning new technical tricks, turn combinations, and honing in on my gymnastics and tumbling skills. While everyone else was out having fun, chances are I was in the dance studio somewhere or looking to tumble. I practiced first – then I had fun. Still today, I’d rather be at a masters dance clinic, teaching, or judging. It’s what I like. There is really nothing wrong with that.
The basic’s are so important for young dancers to understand. Muscle memory only comes from doing something over and over again. If you learn technique as a youngster, the chances are as you mature, you will perform better. You have to stay on your toes. Remember your competition is counting on the fact that you don’t have the proper technique. Show them they are wrong.
Below are a couple nice websites for the beginner dancer who wants to start increasing their knowledge of dance. My suggestions however are to find an instructor who is knowledgeable about proper technique and stick with them. Some areas don’t have studios with properly trained instructors. Sad, I know. But it happens. If that is the case, seek out those individuals who you know do have that training and ask them if they will do one-on-one instruction. Attend camps and clinics out of the area if your budget will allow it.
Your feet and legs are the only set you get in life. If you mess them up when you are a kid, you might not get another chance.