“But how can my 3 year old learn ballet?” We hear questions like this from time to time. For very young children, they are learning much more than ballet steps in preschool ballet classes. They are learning how to follow instructions, take turns, and stand in a line. They are also learning social skills. For many this young, this is the first or one of the first times they are in a classroom setting and are learning as part of a group.
Of course, they are learning ballet steps too. They even learn to say “plie” as they bend their knees and “tendu” as the stretch their foot in front of them.
We will also do non-ballet movement activities that help to develop strength, flexibility, and coordination needed later in ballet. For example, bunny hops strengthen the feet and ankles for jumps and eventually pointe work. Frog hops strengthen the backs of the legs, aiding in beautiful leaps across the floor one day.
Children also develop creativity, through free dance exercises at the end of a preschool ballet class. Sometimes their free dance is entirely open-ended—it can be anything they want. Sometimes it follows a theme. They may be asked to dance a wintery theme, pretending they are snowflakes or ice cycles during an Ice Princess themed lesson. Here, in addition to creativity, they are learning about seasons and how they relate to a story.