Ballet for 5-7 Year Olds

Parent Q&A

  • My soon to be 7 year old has been taking ballet for two years and loves it, but we are interested in exploring the options available in our area.  She has a lot of promise and passion for dance of all kinds and we want to encourage this but have no dance experience or real understanding of how to best develop a dancer.  I've looked through the archives but am looking for info on recent experiences with different ballet studios in the Berkeley/Oakland area (further out as well if they are great!), particularly in terms of teaching great technique and a solid dance foundation.  In addition, we'd like a place that provides any individual feedback to students and/or parents and is interested in helping to grow dancers.  

    Based on your post, I'm not sure you want to know about ballet specifically or dance in general, so I'll try to answer both as the parent of a teenage dancer with 10+ years experience.

    If you are at all thinking about your child becoming a dancer professionally, especially in ballet, it is imperative that you find a qualified ballet school, not a school that teaches multiple forms of dance. Why? Because most dance is built upon the foundation of ballet, and most good ballet schools teach it well, and because the discipline of learning ballet is invaluable to a young dancer and will extend beyond their dance lives. There are some good ones out there - Berkeley Ballet, Alameda Ballet, Oakland Ballet Academy (though they have limited days),  to name a few. I've heard good things about School of Classical Ballet in San Leandro. SF Ballet has a school that I think your child is young enough to get into without an audition, but I can't speak to the quality. You want her learning really good, clean ballet technique first and foremost, which is the best way to develop a young dancer. Kids who learn bad technique find it really hard to correct as they get older. Other forms of dance shouldn't be taken until she is at least pre-pointe (11 or 12). Once she has a solid ballet foundation she can explore jazz, modern, contemporary, all which build on ballet, and then your choice of schools can broaden to the many fine programs the area has to offer.

    Unfortunately, in my experience with ballet, you won't find a lot in the feedback department. Sure, you can ask teachers what your dancer might need to work on to grow, etc, but most schools do not provide the same kind of dialogue that say, your elementary school provides. Why? Because honestly, 99.9% of the kids will NOT go on to dance professionally. How will you know if your child might? At least in ballet, you won't until she gets on pointe. Why? Because she may be a great dancer in soft shoe, but may (or may not) have all kinds of issues on pointe, depending on her anatomy/bone/foot structure. Honestly, ballet is a beautiful and cruel art form, and there are a very small number of dancers with the desired body shape and strength to dance ballet professionally. In a school of 150 students for example, one or two might actually go on to have a career in dance.

    So to sum up my advice, I would just find an excellent ballet school, keep encouraging her, keep the lines of communication open as much as possible with her teachers and let her enjoy! In addition, take her to performances, have her watch really good ballet and dance of all forms, and see where she leads you. Whether or not she is promising as a dancer you won't really know for a few more years, but she may enjoy dance just for herself her whole life with the gift of education you are giving her!

    Berkeley Ballet Theater. They offer a solid foundation in ballet and modern dance. Although most of their graduates go to college (my daughter and her friends are at Columbia, Harvey Mudd, Boston University, and other elite schools), the training is of high enough caliber that some go on to professional dance careers. In addition, they encourage all to dance, even if they don’t conform to the traditional ballerina body shape. My daughter started there at the age of 7. We moved to the Bay Area, and initially enrolled her at a different ballet school. After one semester at the other school, she was no longer interested in dance, but a single class at BBT was enough to change her mind. 

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Questions

Intro to Ballet for a 6-year-old Boy?

Aug 2013

My 6 year old son has a real interest in taking a ballet class. Can anyone recommend a ballet-specific program that is supportive of boys? African American instructors would be a huge plus for us. Any East Bay location works. Future dance mom?


Try Kids 'n Dance in Oakland (MacArthur + 35th Avenue). They offer great ballet and other dance/theater classes for girls and boys, and have at least a few African American teachers. I have heard that Ariel, in particular, is fantastic. Little dancer's mama


We're past our ballet days, but enjoyed our classes with the following instructors who appear to be still active - both with some African-American background: Antoine Hunter http://urbanjazzdance.com/site/class/ Nikita Jew http://urbanjazzdance.com/site/our-dancers/ Both used to teach here: http://www.eastbaycenter.org/Training/ClassSchedules/tabid/324/Default.aspx. HTH! Former ballet mom 


Ballet for 7-year-old beginner

Feb 2009

Looking for recommendations for beginning ballet classes for 7yr old in Berkeley-Albany area. Thanks. Nana 


We found the Berkeley Ballet Theater at the Julia Morgan Theater to be much, much too serious when our 5 year old took classes there. Girls were scolded for not having their hair pulled into a ''proper'' ballet bun, and they dictate the style and color of the leotard and accessories. While we understand they are training girls to become ballerinas, we thought the discipline imposed on the beginners class sapped all the fun out of it for our daughter. not a ballet dad


We have been happy with the pre-ballet program with the Berkeley Ballet Theater . It is more serious than other programs (there is a class uniform, must have a bun, etc.). However, my daughter loves it--and has asked for this after years of dancing at a more ''general'' studio.


Ballet classes for six year old Richmond

May 2008

I am researching a ballet class for my 6 year old granddaughter. We are looking for a fun not too rigidly classical class in the East Bay. Richmond to Oakland. Summer classes would be great. Nonna Gail


KIDS N DANCE ! It's on MacArthur, in Oakland's Laurel District (with another studio in Lafayette). If you are in Richmond, it would be a bit of a drive for a ballet class, but in our opinion, well worth it! We've met families there who drive from Richmond, Berkeley, Albany, El Cerrito, San Leandro, Hayward, etc. They offer a wide range of dance and movement (as well as musical theater) classes. Our daughter started taking classes there last year and just LOVES the classes, and all the teachers. I can't say enough about how wonderful this place is for children. Steps, positions, technique, etc. are taught using imaginative play and creative movement, so the emphasis is on having FUN while learning. They use costumes and props for ''theme'' dances and have a blast-- getting exercise, using their imaginations, and learning dance all at the same time. At the end of the approx. 11 week session, each class has a performance that all the adults are invited in to the room to watch.!

All the teachers we've met are not only great dance instructors, but also great with kids. Our daughter is very shy around unfamiliar adults, and hesitant to try new things, but she has really blossomed there. The teachers have done an amazing job at not only teaching her, but also helping to build her confidence and self-esteem. The woman who runs it, Kris, is also wonderful. I could go on and on, but I'll stop. They have a website, Kidsndance.com, but the best thing is to experience it first-hand and go check it out. You can watch the class going on in the adjacent room on a big monitor, and you can hear it, too. And you'll see how happy the kids are! Ok, I'll stop. The phone number is 510 531 4400. It's a great place.


Ballet for promising 6-year-old

March 2004

Our 6 year old. daughter has been taking dance lessons at the local dance school for almost 4 years. Her ballet teacher tells us she has ''promise'', and it is somewhat obvious (even to a non-dancer) that she is advanced for her age. Her current dance school is good, but not great in any one area, and I am hoping to get recommendations for real ballet schools in the area. We live in Hercules, but would be willing to drive as far as Berkeley or Walnut Creek in the other direction.


Since you're willing to go to Walnut Creek, I would recommend the Contra Costa Ballet School, which is very professional and has some of the best teachers around. In Berkeley, there are two schools you could consider, Berkeley City Ballet and Berkeley Ballet Theater. They're both quite good, but as a former professional dancer myself, I'd recommend the Contra Costa Ballet first. anon


Ballet lessons for 5-year-old

Feb. 2004

My 5 year-old daughter would really like to take ballet lessons, and I'd love to hear about some places that offer them near Berkeley. I know about the classes at the Berkeley Y (they seem too big and informal?). Also, she's taken the creative dance class at Julia Morgan, and while there we've looked a bit into the classes through the Berkeley Ballet theatre (the program seem a bit intense, and with a long commitment?). Does anyone have any other ideas, or feedback on the two places I mentioned? Thanks for your help. Marilyn

Recommendations received:

Other advice:
Although at your daughter's age it's not the worst thing, I would beware of what I like to call ''Dolly Dinkles School of Dance'', little neighborhood schools that usually feature a lot of photos and trophies and costumes. They tend to also feature bad training, which can damage bodies permanently, especially since lots of parents like to see their little darling in ''toe shoes'' and tutu. Putting young children on pointe too soon is extremely harmful. They bones need to be hard, and they should be around 12. Training that is too rigorous at a very early age can also defeat the purpose, driving children away from ballet because it isn't ''fun''. I often recommend tap class for young kids, because it strengthens the knee and ankle joints,increases foot articulation, gives instant feedback because of the percussive nature, and enhances their sense of rhythm, among other things. For that, I find Katie's on San Pablo on the El Cerrito/Richmond border quite adequate, although they are of the Dolly Dinkle's tendency, and really orient themselves toward shows. ''The Beat'' down on 9th St. off Dwight has great tap classes, but they are more serious. The Shawl-Anderson classes in Beginning Ballet with Reeny, and their Modern classes for kids are again, probably a great place to start. Feel free to ask me more... kim


Real ballet school for 7 year old

Dec 2004

Can anyone recommend a ballet school in the Oakland/Montclair area for an almost 7 year old girl. My daughter has taken ballet on and off for about 3-4 years and she is really interested in continuing this pursuit. I think it is time to enroll her in a ''real'' ballet school. I am looking for a place that is pretty reasonably priced, not too high pressure and is pretty close to our home in Montclair. I'd love to get feedback, good or bad, about this question. Thanks! Maureen


You could try classes at Danspace, Shawl Anderson, or Berkeley Ballet. Danspace is the most inclusive, least snooty, and they work from a philosphy that anyone can dance, and be creative and expressive. Shawl Anderson is a little more technical, sort of in the middle. Berkeley Ballet is the most hard core. They aim for strict technique, are less inclusive in terms of body type and natural talent, and are definately snooty.

Personally, I would not put my child of seven in a situation where she will begin to feel bad about herself, her talent level, or her body. But, Berkeley Ballet does develop dancers who go on to professional careers. former professional dancer


Ballet School for a promising 6-year-old

March 2004

Our 6 year old. daughter has been taking dance lessons at the local dance school for almost 4 years. Her ballet teacher tells us she has ''promise'', and it is somewhat obvious (even to a non-dancer) that she is advanced for her age. Her current dance school is good, but not great in any one area, and I am hoping to get recommendations for real ballet schools in the area. We live in Hercules, but would be willing to drive as far as Berkeley or Walnut Creek in the other direction.


Since you're willing to go to Walnut Creek, I would recommend the Contra Costa Ballet School, which is very professional and has some of the best teachers around. In Berkeley, there are two schools you could consider, Berkeley City Ballet and Berkeley Ballet Theater. They're both quite good, but as a former professional dancer myself, I'd recommend the Contra Costa Ballet first. anon