Keeping little ones engaged in ballet class can be tricky. We want to teach them all the things and we know they want to learn all the things, but gosh—their attention spans sometimes do not wish to cooperate!
It is not uncommon for a tiny student to change the topic entirely in the middle of dancing. Even if you are dancing something TOTALLY fun. Skipping to the ice cream shop? That’s some fun stuff, right? So why in the middle of skipping to the ice cream shop does little Timmy suddenly proclaim, “I’m a kite!”…??
A useful tool I have discovered is to use their stories and ideas as often as is reasonably possible. Here are three examples of ways I have done this in my classes.
You have planned to do the “Ice Cream Shop” skips (from the Level 3 Curriculum). You are talking it up to them and getting them ready for the great adventure this dance will bring. Of course, they will have their own ideas about what should happen in the dance. Perhaps someone suggests the ice cream shop is filled with baby bunnies. Take this idea and say “yes” to it.
- YOU: Oh my! Baby bunnies in the ice cream shop? That is so funny! Are they serving the ice cream?
- THEM: Yeah!
- YOU: Ok! Then let’s skip to the ice cream shop to see the baby bunnies and maybe we can have an ice cream party with all the baby bunnies when we get there!
Create a dance where the story changes every single time you do it. Call it “Once Upon A Time” and have “pages” that you turn to discover what happens next. This dance can be anything you want it to be, but for this example I will use walking around the dancer’s circle.
- YOU: Everyone go to their circle spots, please. We are in a giant story book and as we walk around the circle we are turning the page. When we stop, we have arrived at a new page and get to find out what is happening on that page! How many pages does our story book have?
- They will give suggestions and you take the one you like. Let’s say you chose 5 pages (the last page is always THE END!)
- YOU: What happens on the first page?
- They give you suggestions and you continue with this for all the pages. Then you stand up and do the dance. Each time you stop, you tell the part of the story on that page and they can act it out. You will need to keep the story simple.
- PAGE 1 [Once upon a time there was a puppy. His name was Mr. Puppy]
- PAGE 2 [Mr. Puppy saw a squirrel jumping through the trees and wanted to be friends]
- PAGE 3 [So Mr. Puppy called to the squirrel, “Hey Mr Squirrel! I have some yummy snacks! Wanna be friends?”]
- PAGE 4 [Mr. Squirrel replied, “Why thank you Mr Puppy! Don’t mind if I do! Then Mr. Puppy and Mr. Squirrel were best friends forever and ever.]
- PAGE 5 [The End!]
Ask them what their favorite story book is. Next class, bring one in. Read a page or two and then stand up and do a dance that expresses that part of the story and then continue this pattern until you reach the end of the book. This is a great way to mix up class. You don’t have to change the steps they are learning in class or even the music you are using because the story itself will help it all feel brand new. The horse gallops you have been doing for weeks will be more exciting when they are a mouse riding a schoolbus.