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Joy in the journey - progressing through dance

You have enrolled your child in a dance class; they love it but you have no idea if they are progressing, what they should be learning and what to expect as they continue their journey.

Dance class is a lot like school: your child will explore new ideas, practice skills and solve problems. Unlike school, dance classes do not have a new grade level every year. Dance students may experience a growth year where they advance a level, and a grind year where they continue in a class or level.

Progress is taking place no matter which type of year your child is in. Injury can sideline a dancer and can be frustrating, which is why we ensure proper alignment and strength as well as foundational skills before promoting a dancer. This also helps reduce the risk of developing bad habits in technique which can inhibit maximum success.

One of our priorities at Upstage Center of Performing Arts is to make dance accessible to everyone – and to paint an accurate picture of their child’s unique path. We use annual progress reports and acrobatics assessments for skills sets in class to help parents know how and what their child is learning. We are excited to include Discover Dance assessments for our preschool age dancers as well as Discover Maps this coming year.

Here are some quick tips to learn more about assessing your dancer’s progress.

1) To help you measure your child’s progress and they are able to communicate goals, talk to you child first! All parents want their child to enjoy their activities. If your child is making friends and enjoying the experience, then you can move onto to questions related to progress.

  • ·Ask your child how class went. Avoid yes or no, or one answer questions. “Did you practice a new step? Did you work on that leap you have been struggling with? How did your recital routine practice go?

  • Even if you don’t know the “lingo”, talk to your child about how their class is going. For many children, dance is also a social experience. So seeing their friends and catching up with them is as important as the steps. If they express frustration over a part of class, help them set goals around it or help develop questions to ask their teacher (if they haven’t already).

2) Participate in observation days at your studio to see for yourself. Many dance studios, including UCPA, offer opportunities for parents to view or participate in class several times a year. This is a good time to see how the class is structured, how the students interact with each other and observe the skills your child is learning. At Upstage Center of Performing Arts, we also have a viewing window and keep the doors open in most cases so parents can peek in on their child.

3) Talk to your child’s studio owner o program director objectively.

  • Schedule a time with the studio owner or director outside of class. If the dance teacher is included in the meeting, they often do not have breaks between classes and may not have time to have a full conversation.

  • Come to the meeting with an open mind – the studio owner and the dance teacher have your child’s best interest at heart. We all want our child to be challenged. Listen to their point of view as well as they listen to yours.

  • Have any questions ready ahead of time. How can I help my child with a specific skill set? How can we help them reach this (specific) goal?

4) Embrace the journey – what is the correct rate of progress for my child’s age and experience level? There is a methodology to dance and all children learn at different rates and reach milestones at different times. Not all dancers will pirouette at the same time and that is OK! It is also OK to ask questions to gain understanding of the technique, placement, etc so you can support your child in their specific journey.

At Upstage Center of Performing Arts, we believe in age-appropriate classes so children are engaged with their peers while also being challenged individually. Emotional and physical maturity are factors in a child's placement. Often in our classes, teachers will offer options so all students can be successful as well as challenge themselves in a safe environment. It’s not “I can’t” but “not yet” and “I will soon.”

What happens when we make mistakes? NOTHING! We get to try it again! We use this statement to reinforce that class is for learning and not perfection. We take class to learn and build on the foundations that have been set as early as preschool creative movement.

Our team is equipped to teach classes to allow each dancer to explore their potential. Doing more or moving faster isn’t always a sign of progress. The true signs of growth come from the perseverance within; not necessarily from the obvious places. And the grinding hard work is what makes it possible.

Effort + Time + Intensity. (Shanna Kirkpatrick)

We will enjoy celebrating the wins with dancers as they accomplish new skills and demonstrate strength as peer leaders. We will collaborate on goals and develop a plan to overcome challenges. As a staff, we hope that you will trust in our guidance and expertise and know that our goals align with yours. We are committed to helping your child discover their potential sharing their gift!

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