If you’re a young dancer or a parent, or even an adult who is interested in studying ballet, you might be asking how and when to start ballet training? How old is too old? Or how young is too young? We’re here to answer those questions in today’s blog.
How to Start Ballet Training
The first step in starting ballet training is to identify a reputable ballet school. It’s important that the school you choose has a curriculum that can support your goals, whether those goals include dreams of dancing professionally, recreationally or for health, fitness and development.
Keep in mind that a dancer’s goals can also change over time. For instance, your pre-school age child may not be ready for ballet lessons yet, but they are old enough for early childhood movement classes that will set the stage for ballet lessons later. Your beginner dancer may not be ready for pointe classes yet, but she is ready to work on positions and flexibility in Level 1 or 2. An adult dancer may simply be interested in the health and fitness benefits of dance. And a single dancer may pass through all these phases of development throughout their dancing life.
Something to consider when choosing a ballet school is that each school has its own curriculum and may cover different skills at different times. Switching between ballet schools can lead to gaps in a dancer’s training if a dancer moves to a new school. This is sometimes unavoidable, such as when a dancer gets a late start or moves, but ideally, it’s best to start ballet training by selecting a ballet school that can support all stages of development so that those gaps don’t occur.
At Joffrey Ballet School, although we are known for our youth and pre-professional trainee programs, we have programs for dancers through the full range of their development. We offer preschool movement classes, ballet training for dancers ages 4 and up, and even adult recreational dance classes.
When to Start Ballet Training
The question of when to start ballet training is one that many dance parents ask. We frequently hear of young dance prodigies who started dance training as early as three, or older dancers who were quick studies, who didn’t begin until much later. Plus, there are the recreational adult dancers who start well past the age when many professionals retire. What this demonstrates is that there isn’t a simple answer – it all depends on the dancer, their goals and what’s appropriate for them developmentally.
However, there are some general guidelines that should be followed. These include keeping the dancer’s physical and cognitive development in mind and not to progress or push a young dancer beyond their physical or mental capabilities. Here’s a typical progression of when to start ballet classes depending on a child’s age and development.
Preschool and Early Elementary
Very young children from preschool through about age 8 generally are more appropriately placed in pre-ballet or creative movement classes. These classes offer a smaller class size for more individual attention, or may involve parents (as in “Mommy and Me” classes) to ensure that young minds are engaged and able to understand and have fun as they learn. At Joffrey Ballet School we offer Children’s Ballet classes for ages 2 – 7 that allow children to dance and have fun while learning the foundations of ballet through creative movement and basic ballet steps that encourage creativity, musicality and physical development in an age appropriate way.
Tweens and Teens
As children get a little older, they develop a longer attention span, greater physical ability and the mental capacity to study ballet more seriously. This typically happens around age 8 (although it could be earlier or later depending on the child). Once a child reaches this threshold of maturity, they can begin ballet training in earnest. To determine developmental readiness, ballet schools often require that dancers take a trial class so they can be placed at an appropriate level.
At Joffrey, we offer two programs for this age group. One is our Youth Ballet program, which begins at age 8 and goes through age 18. It is a program with 5 levels. Young dancers progress from learning basic ballet positions in slippers twice a week in Level 1, through Level 5 when they will be working 7 days a week on variations in pointe shoes. As dancers complete one level, they begin the next, learning and having fun along the way.
This Youth program provides opportunities to prepare for the rigors of advanced and pre-professional training by developing strength, flexibility and proper technique. Our students also receive training and mentorship from some of the world’s best ballet instructors along with performance opportunities not available anywhere else.
We also offer a Community ballet program, with once a week classes and progression from Beginner, through Intermediate/Advanced levels as well as a Teen division. There is a lower time commitment for this program, and no performance requirements.
Older Teens and Adult
Of course, a dancer doesn’t have to start ballet classes in preschool or even elementary school. Older children, teens and adults can begin ballet whenever they develop an interest; it’s simply a question of what their goals are.
Most professionals do get started at a fairly young age, beginning with studying ballet at around age 8, moving to pointe shoes around age 12 or whenever they reach Level 5 in their training. From there, they progress to pre-professional training in their mid- to late- teens, followed – with the right combination of training, connections and luck – by landing a role with a professional company. But for most dancers, dancing professionally isn’t the goal. The goal is simply to learn and have fun, build strength and flexibility, and enjoy movement – goals you’re never too old to pursue!
At Joffrey, we offer classes to support older dancers too. We offer community ballet classes for older children and teens, along with Open classes for dancers ages 13 and up, including active adults. These are walk-in dance classes taught by our master instructors that include Beginner Ballet, Hip Hop, Intermediate Ballet, Advanced Ballet, Jazz, Contemporary and Pilates. They are a fantastic way to keep fit, move your body and have fun.
Ready to Get Started with Ballet?
Ballet is not just for those with professional aspirations: it’s something everyone young and old can enjoy. If you’re ready to get started with learning ballet, contact Joffrey Ballet School or register online today. We can help you find the ballet class that is right for your age, abilities and goals. Call us today!