How much technique should 3-4 year olds be learning in class?
There are many approaches to teaching so every teacher and dance studio is going to structure their tiny tot dance classes differently. How much technique to teach in a 3-4 year old class will depend on the goal of the class, type of dance, and the quality of the teacher and studio. If the class is designed to be a general movement or creative dance class, specific dance technique may not be taught and that is okay. The teacher will most likely concentrate on the creative side of dance and developing the dancers’ imagination. Teaching and encouraging expression, pretend play/ dance, coordination, music and listening are key in such a class.
I believe all of these things can be taught in a class in addition to introducing the basics of technique. There is a reason fundamental classes are so popular for 3-4 year olds, it is the perfect time for them to be introduced to basic dance technique. This age is beneficially challenged by learning basic balances, turns, jumps, and choreography and specific technique such as 1st position, plié, and introducing the ballet barre. In a tiny tot tap class, dancers can learn heel and toe digs, shuffles, stomps, and shuffle hop step to name a few. The specific technique taught is not as important as a good teacher using moves and activities that have a purpose. The movements taught in the dance class should build a basic foundation compared to a class where the teacher goes from one activity to the next with no ultimate plan or goal in mind.
I often hear parents asking if their dancer is learning enough technique or they want their dancer to move up a level so that they will learn more technique. I caution parents to have this mentality. Dance lessons need to be age appropriate. If a dancer is doing something that is too old for them, they will not be successful because they are not strong enough to physically execute the dance move, which is why dance teachers plan curriculum appropriate to not only a child’s mental ability but their physical ability. Also, in a dance class that is not age appropriate for your dancer, the movement would be presented in a way that is too mature for the young dancer and therefore will lose the dancer’s attention.
The most important thing for a tiny tot dance class is that the class has a good balance of learning ‘dance’ moves while also having fun. Everything, even the technique, should be taught in a fun, creative and game-like manner to keep the young dancers engaged and wanting to come back to class each week. As they get older and stronger with a higher attention span, the teacher will introduce more and more technique.
Brittany White, Dance To EvOLvE Director