If I could have music playing during this blog, I would have the sound of sugar plums quietly dancing in the background and you could probably guess the answer... so use your imagination and hear the music to give this blog extra emphasis. ;) There is really only one answer to this question and it is the classic story of the Nutcracker. Anyone can find a Nutcracker performance not too far away either on a professional or amateur level. Either way, the Nutcracker is a classic ballet that embraces the holiday season. It can be enjoyed by the whole family (even dads!) and is truly the perfect show for a dancer to see his/her first ballet. The Nutcracker has it all with an enchanting story of a little girl in a magical world with a Nutcracker, King Mouse, and dancing sugar plums. The scenery backdrops, costumes and dancing are beautiful, and the music will take you away. (You will recognize a lot of the songs from your holiday shopping in the mall).
A quick history...a version of the Nutcracker called The Nutcracker and The Mouse King was first premiered on December 18, 1892 in St. Petersburgh to limited popularity, but the score within the ballet by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was a huge success and brought us the classic song "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy." As history continued, the ballet really became famous when the world-renowned choreographer George Balachine choreographed a new version in 1954. If you have ever seen the Nutcracker it was most likely based off the choreography in Balachine’s production. It is one of the most famous ballets of today and should not be missed during the holiday season.
A professional company performing the Nutcracker will leave you breathless and in ‘awe’ but will come with a more expensive ticket. If you are looking for something a little more budget friendly, many studios do local versions of the show. For example, I have seen the San Diego Youth Ballet’s version of the Nutcracker for $15-$20, and I thought it was wonderful. At the end of the day, you can’t help but leave with that holiday nostalgia after hearing that classic music, seeing children in adorable costumes, and being impressed by the leading dance soloists.
Here are a couple professional companies offering the Nutcracker this year in the San Diego area:
City Ballet of San Diego
San Diego Civic Youth Ballet
West Coast Ballet Theatre
Keep Dancing Over The Holidays!
Brittany White, EvOLvE Dance Director
In regards to ballet classes and tap classes…
I believe there is a value and real importance in a dress code during a structured dance class, but I do question how seriously and when that dress code should be implemented. The clothing dress code helps a young dancer focus during class by 1. Understanding they are going to a structured class (compared to an unstructured playtime) 2. Ensuring that the clothing is not a distraction during class (such as when a dancer arrives wearing dress up clothes like a large party dress or fairy wings) and 3. Makes certain that a dancer is appropriately dressed to be necessarily covered. I do not think a dress code is necessary during general movement or Mommy and Me type classes. Of course dance leotards, tights and tutus always add to the fun, but they are not required for the educational development in any tiny tot dancer during dancing class. If a parent is watching the budget (and who isn’t nowadays?) or a child does not want to wear the suggested clothes, a dancer can be equally successful and have has much fun during class wearing a basic pair of leggings and a t-shirt. If this is the case, I would suggest setting aside the leggings and t-shirt for dance class only, so again, the dancer learns that these clothes are affiliated with a structured class and not just playtime.
The dress code that I do struggle with is when a dance studio requires a specific leotard or a specific color for a children's dance class, that is usually sold or branded by the dance studio. The real reason behind this requirement is not to benefit the dancer but to create additional revenue for the dance studio. Money seems to fly out the door enough as it is when you have children aside from having to spend money on expensive dance clothes that they will quickly grow out of. Besides, at that age, dancers should be having fun and what is more fun than picking out your favorite color leotard? Even if a studio does have a strict dance code, don’t get sucked into the unnecessary pressure to buy everything from the studio. You can find great dance clothes at great prices at www.discountdance.com or www.dancedistributors.com.
With all of that said, a dress code becomes more important as the dancer gets older, especially in ballet classes. Proper dance attire enables the teacher to see the dancers’ positions and movement in order to give necessary corrections for the benefit of the dancer’s education. A dress code also teaches discipline, which is important in an art as demanding as dance. For a very traditional ballet class, students are usually asked to wear a black (or solid color) leotard and pink tights. Pattern leotards can be a distraction to the teacher’s eye.
The other parts of a dress code in dance classes includes hair pulled back in a bun (or at least a ponytail) and proper shoes. These both are important for the dancer and should be adhered to. (Again, shoes do not need to be bought directly from the studio when there are less expensive options.)
In regards to hip hop classes…
A dress code for a hip hop class should be very general. To promote the culture and energy of the hip hop style, the dress code should simply be sweats, t-shirts, and tennis shoes with laces. Dancers will often do floor work and is why long stretchy pants are needed and t-shirts are important to cover the dancers as they start moving. Tied tennis shoes with less traction are good for sliding and turning. Girls’ hair should be pulled back so they don’t develop bad habits of fidgeting with hair while they are dancing.
Overall, a dress code is important in any dance class but the strictness should depend on the age and where to buy the required clothes should always be questioned or sought out at lower prices if preferred by the parent. Nothing should keep us from dancing...
Brittany White - EvOLvE Dance Director
This is a common question with an easy answer...it’s really up to you as the parent and what you are looking to get out of the experience for you and/or your child. EvOLvE Dance offers a Mommy or Daddy & Me class for ages 15 months to a young 2 years that is a parent interactive class. Is the class structured the same as our ballet classes or does the teacher have the same expectations? Of course not, but it is a great class for a little one to start developing coordination, social skills, understanding the connection of music to movement, and a bonding experience between the child and parent. The class is designed to be a general movement and music class to hopefully start developing a love of dance.
What if your child is younger or older than those defined ages? Every child’s development is different so slightly younger or older students are fine if the parent has different expectations when going into the class. For example, a 12-month old can enjoy and benefit from the class but won’t be able to physically do everything in the class...and that is okay! These types of classes should have a more general and relaxed format to accommodate the various ages in the class. Students who are 2 years, or by age definition, eligible for the older class are still welcome to take the Mommy or Daddy & Me class if the parent feels the child is not ready to move up or if the parent is just looking for that special experience with their child.
I know many studios say 3 years is the average age to start a student in dance class. I agree if you are looking to start a traditionally structured ballet, tap, or hip hop class. But if you are looking for a class that simply introduces movement, music, and fun...start them early! Get them dancing! Dancers looking to study the more technical side of dance in a more serious, structured class usually begin this path around the age of 6. Their attention spans usually enable them to take an entire hour of one style of dance compared to combo classes.
With that said, a lot of parents ask is it too late for my child to start dancing? A simple answer: no, it’s never too late. Dance is an universal love that all ages can experience. :)
Brittany White - EvOLvE Dance Director
There are four words you will consistently see in our marketing: affordable, high-quality, convenient, and fun. Each and every one of them create my ultimate goal for EvOLvE: Value. Here is a quick recap of why I chose those words and what they mean to me.
AFFORDABLE: In this economic time, we are all looking for better ways to spend our money without feeling like we are sacrificing. I have always been a believer in value. (Even in my personal life, I am always searching for value as my shopping sprees focus on TJ Maxx and specifically, the clearance rack at TJ Maxx). The highest price does not always ensure the highest quality and this is why I created EvOLvE. Because our classes are held in recreation centers, we are able to offer affordable classes, passing the savings on to you with no extra fees such as registration, recital, or competition fees. (I am not an advocate of competitions in general and what they can bring to a studio, student and family, but that is a whole other blog.) A traditional dance studio with all the bells and whistles does not guarantee great quality of instruction, which should always be the priority. I often feel that the ‘bells and whistles’ can be a distraction, especially for our tiny tots who do not need all of that at such a young age. Finally, our flexible trial and make-up policies add value to every registration.
HIGH QUALITY: I ensure value through great classes with great teachers! Being a mobile company, I put a lot of training and faith into my teachers since they become the face of EvOLvE Dance. I hope you are seeing your EvOLvE teacher’s passion for dance in every class. This continues through the use of age appropriate curriculum, ensuring good class management (there are daily surprises when working with 3 year olds), the use of creative methods to engage your students and yearly professional development opportunities. That is just the basics, but I can’t tell all the secrets that creates our great teachers. ;)
CONVENIENT: Who has time to do any extra commuting than is already required? No one. Hopefully our multiple locations help with this one to add value to our classes. (I think our trial and make-up policies could also fit here, but I won’t go on and on about them.)
FUN: The last part of the goal is ‘fun’. I am continuously hearing parents say they have tried other classes and they were too serious or the teacher didn’t engage the students enough. How do we expect a child to learn or want to come back to class if they aren't having fun? With all the pressures in today’s world...fun is key! Fun enables the dancers to relax, feel comfortable and use their imagination in class and before they know it, they are actually learning the fundamentals of dance. Smiles and giggles are always encouraged!
I am going to resist hitting the TJ Maxx clearance rack for a new sweater as this rainy weather hits us...so in the meantime, keep dancing!