My young dancers want to experience as much "grown up dancing" as possible. I am finding that many dance studios introduce ballet vocabulary much earlier than I think is appropriate. My students discuss ballet with their friends at school and often show me steps their friends have taught them. Sometimes, my students have another dance class at school where very different material is being presented. I want to teach developmentally appropriate material but at the same time keep my students excited and engaged. I find myself searching for material that feels both new, "advanced", and exciting but at the same time is building the strength and pathways my dancers need to be successful.
One way I like to challenge my young dancers is by teaching ballet vocabulary. We discuss that the language of ballet is French, and we practice using the French vocabulary. Each week I quiz my students on the vocabulary. "Who can raise their hand and share with the class the name of this step?" "Who can raise their hand and share with the class what the word "tendu" means?" "What language is the word "tendu"?" Generally, for my students aged Pre-K through 1st grade, we learn the words:
My students feel proud for knowing and using these words in class. Many of these movements are even done at school in gym class (hop, jump, leap, gallop). However, by using the ballet vocabulary, the students are adding another layer of knowledge, and are approaching the movement differently. This keeps them excited about practicing hops in our obstacle course instead of saying, "I know how to do that, that's easy!" Stay tuned for more descriptions on how I approach teaching this material! I would love to hear what ballet vocabulary you introduce to young dancers.