Don’t be a “jack of all trades, and master of none”
Many parents seem to want their children to get an exposure to many different activities when they are young and consequently enroll them in a series of activities perhaps including dance, gymnastics, soccer, piano, acting, painting, etc. It seems like the plan is often to do one year of each thing or to continue until the child tires of it and doesn’t want to do it anymore (often less than one year!). Many of our older students have been at it for many years and have the healthy habit of sticking with something, pursuing it diligently, enjoying some success, and attaining a more advanced level of skill. You can’t learn to fully enjoy anything while you barely know how to do it. Reading is not much fun when you have a 1st grade vocabulary, but is much more enjoyable when you get to the point where you can read Harry Potter or the like. Skiing isn’t much fun when you fall all the time, but once you are whooshing down the hill it’s exhilarating. The same is true of dance. After some movement exploration as a young child, and some technical training as an elementary schooler, you finally feel like you can dance and turn and leap and soar.
Physical activity is a must
Children these days spend a lot of screen time in front of many devices, whereas a generation ago much of that time was spent outside playing, and two generations ago, there were no screens! Some children scorn physical activity because it is strenuous or painful. Who wants to run or do calisthenics if you can sit in front of a screen? If you can get a child to be interested in a physical activity and follow through with it for many years there will be a tremendous benefit in terms of the child’s physical fitness, general health, and a life-long desire to stay physically fit or active.
Stick with it for a few years
Those of you who have started your child in dance, we hope you can let them continue their pursuit, encourage them to keep at it and not give up, and advise them to pursue this thing further rather than explore the next thing in a very shallow way. We find a mathematical correlation between how many years the child has been dancing and the likelihood of their continuing the next year. The longer you commit to the healthy physical habit, the more you want to continue that healthy habit.
My experience as a child
I started serious music lessons (flute and piano) when I was young, having to practice every day, and then ballet at age 9 three days a week, on top of strenuous advanced academics where I was expected to get straight A’s. Some of our students do the same, pursuing more than one art or activity seriously. Then at a later age you can decide. After 10th grade I made a choice between music, dance, or an academic path toward M.I.T. I chose the ballet path at the time (I’m currently pursuing the academic path in my 50’s and 60’s!). So if a child maintains serious interest in more than one thing, sure, help him or her to pursue multiple possible paths. But don’t keep changing activities annually where the child never explores anything enough to find out if they love it or accurately decide which one they love more.
Not a career
Sure, most of our students are not pursuing this as a career, but some try for a while, and the rest are doing exactly what they would be doing were they pursuing it as a career. I’m not sure you can say the same about many of the local swimming, gymnastics, music, acting, or team sports activities. There is a lot to be said about doing something the way it should be done with total commitment, professionalism, determination, discipline, etc. It’s an experience that has been shown to help children succeed in whatever career path they choose in life.
Stick with us
Here at the Greenville Ballet School we feel that we are doing just that, and we hope you will bring your children here and keep them here until they have fully explored the possibilities, truly experienced the discipline, art, and love of dance, and followed it through to the point where it will have a life-long positive effect on their health and happiness.