How to Teach Preschool Ballet

image copyright Tommy Wong

Things You'll Need

  • CD Player
  • CDs

Teaching preschoolers is no easy task, no matter what the activity is. Although most preschool girls jump at the chance to be ballerinas, it takes someone special to keep them in line during their classes. If done right, this can be extremely rewarding for both the children and the teacher.

Set ground rules. The students should learn quickly that ballet takes discipline. They should pay attention to what the teacher is doing at all times and should not talk when the teacher is talking.

Keep the class moving. Preschoolers do not have long attention spans, and therefore you only have a few minutes before they're ready to move on.

Teach them about posture and proper ballet stance, standing up straight with your bottom tucked in. Model this posture for them and have them mimic you. It is also appropriate to gently push their shoulders back with your hands until they are in the correct posture as this way they will get a feel for the way a ballerina should stand. Remind them to tuck in their bottoms. For students who are having trouble understanding this, place your hand on their stomach and hand on their lower back to mold them to the correct position, just as you did with the proper posture.

Teach them about proper turn out (toes always being pointed out). Demonstrate turn out and be diligent about correcting them if their toes point forward or inward during routines or lessons.

Teach the five basic ballet positions. Have them stand in a line while you demonstrate the positions. Face them when demonstrating and have them mirror you (children this age cannot readily distinguish between right and left). It is important to tell the children which positions you are doing as you do them, correcting their positioning as they mirror you. Have the children repeat "First position, second position" and so on as you move through the steps so you know they are identifying the steps properly. Eventually, you will be able to create a flow with the positions so they can be moved through like a routine.

Ask the preschoolers to identify different types of music and think about what a dancer might be trying to tell the audience when dancing to a certain type of music.

Avoid barre work. Preschool children should be learning about proper stance and music identification. Many of them are not even tall enough to reach the barre, which results in their minds and bodies wandering.

Focus on the basics and simple steps in your routines and in class. Things like tendus, pliés, the positions, simple kicks and arabesques, the ballet walk, arm movements and sashays should be mastered to build a good foundation for a rich ballet education later on.

Teach simple routines that are about on third of the length of a song with simple moves they have learned in class. You can also introduce them slowly to a long routine by teaching them a little bit at a time, making sure they master one section before moving on. When teaching the children, it is important to have a routine so that they may show their friends and family what they are doing in ballet class. Keep the routines simple (and stress free) and reinforce the basics they have been learning. It may take the entire year to build upon a routine that is about two minutes long for a dance recital for their parents.

Keep your cool. Even if kids are disruptive, do not yell at them. Keep order without losing yourself in the process.

Plan your lessons ahead of time so there will not be any time wasted.

Encourage children to support one another. Sometimes children fall when learning the very basics of dance and let them know it is normal and natural. Do not allow other students to sneer or snicker at another student's mistake.

Don't over correct or over praise a student. Even if a student is struggling, do not focus all of the attention on them as this could be seen as embarrassing to the child or favoritism. Try to correct and praise the students equally.