Advice about Ballet

Parent Q&A

  • Beginning Ballet class for 10 year old?

    (8 replies)

    My daughter has a very strong interest in taking ballet classes, having never taken them before.  She is almost 10 (4th grade) and I'm having difficulty finding a ballet school that has introductory ballet classes for "older" kids.  In many schools, this age is already considered pre-professional.  We live in Berkeley - does anyone have a suggestion of a local school (within 10 miles) that may be a good fit for my well-behaved, motivated daughter?  Thank you!

    Have you contacted Berkeley Ballet Theater ( ? They don't have an introductory class specifically for older kids, but they will place your daughter in a suitable class. If she's interested and motivated she will eventually be able to catch up with her age peers.

    Van der zwann dance on Shattuck. We have a good friend who is taking beginning ballet at age 11 there and is very happy. I took my first ballet class around the same age and loved it. Good luck! 

    My daughter's ballet studio offers classes for beginning students of all ages and I'm sure your daughter would find it a welcoming environment. The Conservatory of Classical Ballet is in San Leandro, so not exactly local to you, but not too far either! They offer evening and weekend classes too.

    Shawl Anderson on Alcatraz Ave x College Ave in Berkeley (on border of Oakland) My 10 year old daughter is taking ballet for the first time and loves it. 

    My daughter started taking ballet at 10 or 11 at Van der Zwaan Dance Studio in north Berkeley (Shattuck and Cedar).  The classes indicate the age range, and although she's usually been among the oldest in her classes, there's always been at least one or two students her age.  She's made steady progress, and she's still taking classes there as a 14-year-old.

    I highly recommend Fusion Dance Project in Hayward. Its worth the drive. Their introductory classes are open to a broad range of kids and your daughter would certainly not be the oldest. The instructors are welcoming and do an amazing job with the kids. The place really has a friendly and positive vibe. They have an annual recital in June each year, which you might want to attend with your daughter. I went to it last year while trying to make up my mind about where to send my daughter for dance and was blown away with the performance. My daughter is happily enrolled this year.

    I think our dance studio would be out of your 10 miles radius (Walnut Creek) but they offer private lessons and I'm sure other studios do too. It might be better for her to do private lessons to start while she learns some of the fundamentals and then she can transition to a class that is age-appropriate. Plus, she will likely learn a lot quicker in a private class environment.

    Additionally, our studio offers a free teen/adult intro to ballet drop in class. Not sure your daughter would be considered "teen", but might be worth a phone call.

    The Ballet School - 925-934-2133


    Hi- check with Shawl Anderson. It’s a very friendly studio with a robust program for kids ages 3 through teen. They offer good ballet instruction in a warm manner. 

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  • Ballet Assesment/Tutor?

    (1 reply)

    We are looking for someone who would be able to give us an honest assessment of our child's ballet skills because the school seems unwilling or unable to provide this kind of information - in addition to perhaps providing supplemental instruction (already attends class 3x week).

    RE: Ballet Assesment/Tutor? ()

    Check out Van Der Zwaan. Ms. Paula and Santia are great.

    We have been with them for seven years.

    New replies are no longer being accepted.

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Ballet for Pre-Schoolers Ballet for Older Kids Ballet for Adults

Ballet for Pre-Schoolers

Berkeley City Ballet VS. Berkeley Ballet Theatre

 Sept 2014

I am searching for a reputable ballet school for my 4.5 year old daughter to take classes either after school or on the weekends. She has been asking for it for a long time. She is a student at EBI and I don't think there are any ballet classes in spanish around here (If there are, please let me know!) So,.... I'd love to know what your vote is: Berkeley City Ballet VS. Berkeley Ballet Theatre? Why? mama

I looked at both and went with a third option based on a friend's recommendation, Danse Lumiere: My daughters (4 and 5) are in their second year with Katherine, including summer camp,and I'm very happy. They are doing the Nutcracker this year but you'd better get on the stick and call her bc I think after this week she might not allow any more kids to join! Call! Amy K.

[Editor] also recommended: Berkeley City Ballet and Brasarte World Dance Center

Ballet for 4 year old twins

Feb 2014

My twin son and daughter will be four in June and they seem to be interested in trying out some kind of dance program. I'm interested in hearing about people's experiences with these and other programs-- particularly from families who have tried more than one of them. Many thanks. Debra

Have you considered the Berkeley YMCA for your 4 year olds? We offer a variety of classes for pre-schoolers, including sports, swimming and DANCE!! In fact, we have a free workshop happening the last week of February - and a new session beginning the first week of March. If you aren't a member but would like to try out the YMCA or our youth classes, please contact me for a guest pass. Here are the workshop details: FREE YOUTH DANCE WORKSHOPS Workshops will held in the Youth Movement Studio the last week of February! These fun, drop-in workshops are deigned to introduce your child to dance opportunities at the YMCA. ItÂ’s the perfect way to try out our classes before committing to a full session. If your child enjoys class, a new session begins the first week of March. Check the class schedule for additional Spring Session class times, too.

We tried out various dance studios in the Berkeley area for my 2 daughters. We did not try Berkeley City Ballet, but my favorite , in order from most favorite to least, was Shawl Anderson, Danspace, Berkeley Ballet Theater, and last would be Kathryn Roszack. At Shawl Anderson, they teach a love of movement for little ones. A plus is that for your son, there is a class just for boys taught by a really great teacher as he gets older. I recommend a dance class that is not too rigid for little ones. They can seek out the more rigid aspects of ballet as they get older.

Ballet Class for 7-year-old boy?

Oct 2013

Hi- We are looking for a ballet class for our 7-year-old son. Are there any classes in Albany, El Cerrito, El Sobrante or anywhere else in Contra Costa that have boys in their ballet classes, or better yet, classes for just boys? I have checked the schools I know about in Berkeley without any luck. Thanks for your help balletboy

Try Katie's Dance Studio in El Cerrito. There are several ballet classes during the week, taught by a young man, Kevin, who's excellent with the kids. There are several boys taking ballet, but I'm not sure which classes they're in. Call Katie for more information: 524-1310. Dance Mom

Hi, This is the wrong direction, so maybe it's out of your realm of possibility, but Danspace in Oakland ( has boys in its ballet classes. My daughter is an almost 9 year old who has a boy in her class who has been there for a little while. And if you look at their montage you'll see a few male faces. It's worth a look. We love it there and travel from Alameda to go to class at terrible times of the day traffic-wise because my daughter has had such a good experience. Good luck Claire

Have you checked out Berkeley Ballet Theater? There are several boys enrolled at the school--I don't know their exact ages, but there is a special boys' class in addition to the regular classes with the girls: Edna

This may be too far for you, but Dance/10 in Alameda often has boys in ballet classes ( My son is in the pre-teen ballet class, and there are 3 boys in that class. You could call to check the younger class. They do have boys only classes for tap and jazz / hip hop if your son is interested in either of those. Their studio has been really great for my son who loves to dance. Good luck. Love those dancing boys!

You might speak to Elizabeth Godfrey, the artistic director at Berkeley City Ballet. This is a small nonprofit school and Elizabeth does a good job of organizing the classes around the kids who are there at a given time. Last year there were four boys in about the 8-9 year range and they had a class just for them, and the one that had been there the longest also took some classes with the girls closer to his level. I heard that one boy has since left for SF Ballet and I don't know how classes are working for the remaining three. Good luck! ballet mom

Ballet for almost 3yr old daugther

Sept 2012

Hello parents, Can anyone recommend me a ballet class in the bay area ( Berrkeley. Albany, cerrito, El Sobrante, Pinole ) for my daughter that will be 3 at the end of the year.. Also gymnastics will be nice to try out for her. Any ideas or places you have experienced your children at would be appreciated. thank you! Julie

I highly recommend Kids N Dance with studios in Oakland and Lafayette. I believe that their pre- ballet class starts at 3 but I have seen 2.5 year olds in it. They also offer gymnastics classes, sometimes combined with the pre-ballet class. My daughter has loved all of the classes that she has taken there. Happy dance mom

Berkeley City Ballet at Dwight and Grant has pre-ballet classes on Saturdays for 4- to 7-year-olds (divided into three classes by age). You can see the class descriptions and schedule here: My daughter started in pre-ballet at 7 and is still at BCB today at almost 13. It's a great program with small classes and a very close-knit group of kids. Highly recommended. Teresa

Toddler and me ballet class?

June 2011

I'm looking for a dance/ballet class for our toddler in the Piedmont/Montclair/Rockridge/Grand Lake neighborhoods. She loves ballet and tutus and dancing. In San Francisco, we participated in a mommy and me class at the Tutu School, which she loved. I haven't been able to find something similar to that -- most classes seem to be more tumbling/gymnastics or music oriented. She is almost 3 and wants to do a class with me or daddy and not on her own. Mom of dancing girl

Kids 'N Dance and Theater Arts has Parent & Me dance classes. They are THE BEST! Their phone is 531-4400 and they have a website too. anon

Which Berkeley ballet school for 4-y-o?

Jan 2010

I'm trying to decide whether to start my 4 year-old daughter in ballet classes at Berkeley City Ballet or Berkeley Ballet Theater. I've love opinions on experiences at either school. Thanks Erin

My daughter is finishing her third year at Berkeley Ballet Theater , and we think it's a wonderful school. This is her third ballet school: she started lessons in San Diego, then we tried one school up here that we did not like. (Note: we did not go through pre-ballet at BBT, so this review is based on our experience beginning with Level 3).

BBT takes very good care of their students. At the end of each school year, they have a parent-teacher-student conference, where they discuss the progress your child has made throughout the year, and what he/she needs to work on. The teachers are warm and caring, but also very well trained; my daughter's current teachers performed with the San Francisco Ballet and the American Ballet Theater. In addition to the dance training, she also has the opportunity to learn about related topics, such as anatomy and nutrition.

Beginning with Level 1, the students can all participate in the Nutcracker and the Spring Performance. Pre-ballet students have their own spring show. In addition, older students can sign up for optional performance workshops and modern dance.

I highly recommend BBT to anyone interested in ballet at any level! EH

My daughter who is a senior at BHS has been going to Berkeley City Ballet since she was six and loves it. The teachers are professional and caring. Elizabeth Godfrey, the director, instills a sense of order and discipline into the students while creating a nurturing community of dancers. The kids start participating in the annual performance of the Nutcracker, the highlight of the year, once they reach Ballet 1 as Ginger Snaps and work their way up through the party scenes (mouse, soldier, Clara, Fritz and other party kids.) Then they start dancing in the second act dances, such as Chinese, Arabian, etc. Once they're proficient in pointe shoes, they start dancing in Snow, Flowers, etc. All the dancers have a ton of fun! Several graduates of the school have gone on to dance at professional companies and study dance at conservatory/college levels. My daughter will study classical ballet at Butler U. or U. of Utah, both highly regarded programs. I would recommend BCB to any prospective student! ballet mom

We love the Berkeley City Ballet . Our 7-year old daughter has been going since she was barely 5. Its been a wonderful experience for her and has impacted her taste in music and her self-esteem wonderfully. She really enjoys it. joanna

My 9 year old daughter is in her fourth year of attendance at Berkeley City Ballet . She spent the first three in pre-ballet, where the youngest children explore creative movement and ballet fundamentals. The environment created here is very fun and playful for them while they learn control and comfortability of their bodies. In ballet one and beyond, the program becomes more disciplined and focused with a very safe and healthy approach. I have been impressed with the professionalism and dedication of the director Elizabeth and also love that they are a non-profit school. Though they do not have an adult company, the higher level students are BEAUTIFUL and WELL-TRAINED performers. They also partner with renowned companies in their Nutcracker and Spring performances. Like all good dance schools, the parents do not watch the classes but are able to attend the last class of the semester to observe their child's progress. As a mother with a dance background, I proudly support and recommend this ballet school. Andrea

I spent a lot of time investigating the different ballet schools in the Easy Bay for my 9-year-old daughter and chose Berkeley City Ballet . I viewed classes at the different schools, met with the directors and spoke with the students. I have been thrilled with BCB the program and can't say enough about the combination of world-class instruction and close-knit camaraderie. Unlike many pre-professional ballet programs, these girls work hard but treat each other like family rather than competition.

The school is the perfect size - students get individual attention, parents get to know each other and the standards are very high. The program even offers a month-long summer camp for the pre-professional classes to give them their first experience with ballet intensives. My daughter is loving the program and enjoyed performing in her first BCB Nutcracker over the holidays. I was blown away by the talent of the older students and very impressed with the production staged by artistic director Elizabeth Godfrey.

BCB is a place where I know my daughter will receive top notch training in a positive, supportive environment. I encourage you to explore BCB and see for yourself! jodi

My daughter has been a student at the Berkeley City Ballet for 6 years now and I am very impressed with the training she receives. Before enrolling her, I looked carefully at all our choices in the area--including San Francisco Ballet across the Bay. I am a former ballet dancer and understand the need for discipline and high standards. But I also know that not all ballet studios provide a supportive atmosphere for girls growing into dancers (and teenagers). The director of BCB, Elizabeth Godfrey, has found a way to both give excellent training and nurture a healthy environment. The best showcase for this company is their annual Nutcracker Ballet which is a very professional, well rehearsed production. This year the most advanced girls performed all of the major roles. THey all did an impressive job and it was inspiring for the younger students to see what years of hard work can lead to. Even if a student does not end up as professional dancer, the ballet training will inform their sense of aesthetic, their work ethic, and their confidence in their bodies and strength for the rest of their lives. My daughter, at age 13, goes 5 days a week now (6 during Nutcracker rehearsals!) and she loves it. As her mother, I feel lucky that she has found a passion that requires so much hard work but rewards that will stay with her for a lifetime. Amy

Ballet for 4-y-o, not strict, not loosey goosey

Sept 2009

My 4 year old daughter wants to take ballet but I am getting the impression that the berkeley one is a bit too strict (if she is really into it I can commit more effort but she is only 4) so I was wondering if anyone has any thoughts on El Cerrito Ballet Center? Or any other thoughts on a quality experience that is not too strict or too loosey goosey. (KidsnDance seems a bit far away) Thanks

I'm not sure which ''Berkeley one'' you are talking about, but Berkeley City Ballet does not seem too intense or strict to my 4 year old AND it does lead into a serious program later on. Check it out if you haven't. anon

Saturday ballet/movement class for 3-y-o

Aug 2009

My 3-year old girl is ready for ballet/creative movement classes. Problem: I work full time and need to find a Saturday am class, as I am having a hard time finding classes other than those scheduled on weekday afternoons. Any recommendations? Thank you. Desperately Seeking Dance

Not sure where you live, but I can recommend Kids 'n Dance on MacArthur Blvd. in the Laurel District of Oakland. (They also have a Lafayette location.) They have both Saturday and Sunday morning classes: My daughter has been taking the Parent & Me Dance/Movement class for toddlers for almost a year and really loves it. Oakland Mom

I am also a working mother of a 3 year old ballerina and I was so happy to find Kids N Dance on MacArthur in the Laurel neighborhood in Oakland. They have Saturday and Sunday morning classes for 3-4 year olds. My daughter and several of her friends took pre-ballet with Tiffany and loved it. We are all signing up again for the fall session starting in September. Their fall classes are almost full - sign up at Martha Lyman

Try Kids-n-dance in Oakland. They have Saturday morning classes. Carrie

My daughter has loved taking creative movement classes at Danspace in Oakland on Hudson Street. I know they offer classes for 3 1/2 year olds and up. They do offer Saturday classes, but I imagine they fill up fast. The next session is starting in September. Good luck!

Kids n dance in oakland has weekend classes. Have fun!

Ballet class for 3 1/2 year old

Dec 2008

I am interested in hearing from anyone who has experience with the Alameda Ballet Academy. My 3 1/2 year old daughter is interested in continuing with ballet but not through Montclair Rec. If you have any other experience with other ballet classes (strictly ballet - not tap, jazz, etc.), I'd love to hear more about the class - including the Conservatory of Classical Ballet in San Leandro! mom of a ballerina

My daughter completed 12 years of wonderful classes at DANCE ARTS PROJECT in Alameda, on the corner of Chestnut and Encinal. The professional ballet training from the staff is excellent, yet not threatening to one's self esteem. Dance at this studio is very healthy, non-competitive, and beautiful. Girls blossom there and it is heart warming to witness. I endorse their work, fully. Louise A very satisfied parent of a now college girl

If you live in the Montclair area, check out Ballet Arts, located at 4923 Harbord Drive. It's tiny and pretty unassuming, but the director/teacher was once an instructor at SF Ballet and has quite an impressive history. They teach classic ballet in a classic ballet atmosphere, if you know what I mean. For the other end of the spectrum, check out ballet classes at Kids N Dance ( for gently structured instruction that encourages ''creative expression.'' And for classical ballet in a structured-but-accepting environment, I'd recommend Berkeley Ballet. Generally speaking, though, a 3-1/2 year old is not ready for real ballet classes. For that age group, check out the Serendipity class at Danspace, or Modern Dance at Shawl-Anderson, or Creative Movement at Kids N Dance. There are tons of great dance classes for 3 and 4 year olds in the area! Ballerina mom

Ballet class for 3 year old

Nov 2008

I am looking for a recommendation for a ballet class for my daughter who will be 31/2 in January. She has been taking ballet with Ms. Marilyn (Montclair Rec) for over a year now and continues to love it. She is not into what is offered through Kids n'Dance in Oakland so I'd like to hear about other programs around the Oakland area. I'd also like to hear from anyone who has experience with the Conservatory of Classical Ballet in San Leandro. mama of a tiny ballerina

Try Berkeley City Ballet at Grant and Dwight. My daughter has been dancing there for about 10 years, and I can't say enough good things about them. You need to leave your phone number and wait for a call back since they don't have a full-time receptionist, but you can also get information online. It might be a small trek for you to come to Berkeley, but I think it's really worth it. Their yearly Nut Cracker performances are really stellar. This year they will be back at Zellerbach Little Theater. If you can attend the performance, that would be a good way to see what they're capable of doing. yuko

As an ex-professional ballet dancer, I get asked this question a LOT, and I always know that my answer will be disappointing. 3 1/2 years old is way too young for a real ballet class. A lot of questionable studios will give ballet training this young, and often have young students in pointe shoes (''toe shoes'') long before their bones are ready to face this demand, simply because children and moms think it is ''cute'' to be in pointe shoes and tutus. There are excellent ''pre-ballet'' and children's dance classes that give a sense of movement and rhythm without compromising the health of a young body with the demands of turnout, extension, and other high-price ballet tools.

Shawl-Anderson on the Berkeley-Oakland border does an excellent job. Luna Dance is more free-form. Be very careful though, that she goes to an extremely reputable school. Things to look out for: an over-emphasis on ''recitals'' with costumes; encouragement to come in tutus, or pushing for pointe work; making small children take ballet positions with the feet turned out when they cannot hold those positions from the hip.

I know many young women and a few young men who have permanent knee and back damage from incorrect training. Better still would be to do tap, which strengthens joints, and gives great ''instant bio-feedback'' for sound & rhythm, or modern dance, even acrobatics, teaching fearlessness with inversions and developing the upper body. Good luck! k

My 4YO has been doing Pre-Ballet I at Conservatory of Classical Ballet in San Leandro. She certainly likes it. The other moms in my neighborhood say it's a classical program, implying they want something looser for their kids (more along the lines of Kids'n'Dance). I can't tell what classical really means, since I don't know beans about ballet. But along with positions and following directions they do running around (a.k.a. ''scarf dance'') every class. For my kid it's a good mix of play and discipline. You can come check it out Saturday mornings at 9 a.m. -- I think no one would mind if you watched. Certainly the parents do. Also, San Leandro isn't that far. It's just two exits below the Oakland zoo off 580. Cathy

Ballet school in Berkeley for 2-year-old

July 2008

I have a two-year-old who has shown a lot of interest in dance -- right now she's dying to take a ballet class. I would like to find a place where we can take a ''mommy & me'' dance class together, and where I could also sign up for casual adult beginner classes and/or classes for my 5-year-old (if she shows interest as well). The three places nearby that seem to fit the bill are Berkeley Ballet Theater (in the Julia Morgan building), Shawl-Anderson, and Berkeley City Ballet. I've read the available reviews on BPN, but many are several years old. I'm wondering if anyone has advice on how to pick a dance school, or can offer any current reviews, or comparisons between the three? Thanks.

At 2 and 5, your children are too young for ballet, though the 5-year-old enjoy a pre-ballet class. The three schools you mentioned are focused on the ''serious'' dancer though they do offer fun classes for younger students. All of them have excellent reputations for developing young dancers. Most dance classes offer a trial class for the little ones. You should try them out, or at least observe a class and see which one seems to fit your family. Some schools are more rigid than others about all kinds of things, like what kids wear and how their hair is done, how they behave in class, etc. And you want to pick one that fits you and your child's personality. If you have a problem with ''conformity'' then these formal dance studios might not be right for you. Also consider: Kids N Dance in Oakland, they have a variety of classes for the kids, plus some fun ones for adults like tap, hula and theatre arts! Brenda

My daughter has done several sessions of Dance With Me at Berkeley City Ballet . It is great! The classes are a good balance of learning ballet basics (1st, 2nd, 3rd position), plies, port de bras (arm stuff), with free movement (dance like an animal, make shapes with your body), and the children learn the stories of famous ballets and dance to their music. Now she is going on to pre-ballet, where your 5 year old would go. BCB also has adult beginner classes. You should definitely go check out a class. happy bcb parent

Ballet in Richmond or Pinole for 4-year-old

Sept 2007

I am looking for a BALLET class in Richmond or North for a 4 year old. The dance studios around here offer tap dance for this age group. We live in El Sobrante-so Orinda would be ok, too. thanks gail

Check out the East Bay Center for Performing Arts on Nevin in Richmond. They have fabulous dance classes and I know they have ballet for young kids. Good Luck

Ballet classes in Orinda for 3.5 year old girl

June 2006

Hi! We are looking for ballet classes for our 3.5 year old daughter in Orinda. Any recommendation would be appreciated! Thank you! Amy

Kids 'n Dance in Lafayette has wonderful, fun oriented, non stressful classes for kids from preschool on up. They also run classes at the Orinda Community Center. Kris, the owner is very child and process centered as opposed to strict technique, although technique is taught at developmentally appropriate levels. Good luck, Sindy

Ballet for 3-year-old Pinole girl

June 2005

I was wondering if anyone out there has any knowledge good or bad about the El Cerrito Ballet Center? My daughter is 3 and I am looking for someone who will take her that young while making this fun thus hopefully building a love for the art of dance. I was thinking also of doing the ''dance'' class at the Albany YMCA on Kains. Anyone know about this class as well? My daughter LOVES to dance (like mommy!) and at the sight of a ballet dancer on TV she stops what she's doing to watch. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated also, we live in Pinole and I don't want anything further than Albany. Thanks In Advance! Helping my Princess Ballerina

East Bay Center for Performing Arts for children's ballet, private music lessons, hip-hop, mexican music and dance, west african music and dance, theater, steel drums, jazz, chamber music etc. This place has a whole lot to choose from for great creative lessons. Check out their website at happy parent

I haven't been there in ages, but I know Adriane's Dance Studio in Pinole on Tennant Avenue, (behind Antler's which is across from Pear Street Bistro), takes in children as young as 3 years old, for dance lessons. I know they offer a variety of dance styles, including classical ballet. I took lessons there from when I was younger, for about six years, and the class I was in was my age group, and was fun! When I took lessons there, they were very friendly, child oriented, and the teachers made the classes fun... I don't see why those standard would not have carried on to today. Hope that helps! rs

Ballet class for 3 1/2 year old

Dec 2004

I'm looking for a ballet class to enroll my daughter in. She will be 4 in February. I am specifically looking for a class where parents are forced to wait outside. We tried the casual ballet/tap classes at the Berkeley Y but all the parents sitting around the perimeter to watch their little darlings freaked my daughter out. (Although the course description said parents should wait outside, this wasn't enforced.) Any recommendations of more serious classes, particularly those that enforce the rules, welcomed! mom of the next Evelyn Cisneros

Danspace on Hudson Ave. does not let parents in the room, or even congregate at the door. Better yet, they hire good people, and instill a love of movement, which is the most important thing for one as young as yours. former professional dancer

I started Ballet many years ago with a Royal Academy of Dance instructor and got a good foundation that served me well as I continued Ballet through Graduate School. The R.A.D. Instructor I am aware of teaches out of the Albany Community Center on Marin Ave. and you can pick up flyers in the hall of the center. She is Scottish and only allows the parents in on the final class of each session. She also requires leotards, not tutus. Her class is still very fun for the young ones! Kl

My daughter enjoyed the pre-ballet classes at the Berkeley Ballet Theater at the Julia Morgan Center on College Avenue. Deborah Moss is a wonderful teacher. They also put together a delightful Spring Performance for the Pre-Ballet School in May where all of the children perform. If your child sticks with it when they graduate to Level 1 at age 6-7-ish then she can audition for the Nutcracker Performance that the BBT puts on every Christmas. Former ballet mom

My daughter has been taking ballet lessons from Bonnie Sita at the East Bay Dance Center starting at four-years-old and is still happily taking lessons now that she is seven. My major goal was to provide her with a way to become familiar with and comfortable using her body. So I looked for a dance studio did not have an agenda about the perfect dancer's body type. I wanted a child-friendly program that wasn't regimented. I expected my daughter to learn to appreciate and control her body while enjoying dance and the music of ballet. My expectations have been more than met.

Bonnie is a wonderful teacher with children. Through a gradual process that occurs through play, imitation and instruction, my daughter has gained confidence in moving her body, security that her body is beautiful just as it is, and actually learned to gracefully and accurately execute ballet movements. Parents usually do not hang out watching (although they are not required to leave either) but are invited to a short performance during the last 5 minutes of each class.

Her classes have included children whose diverse ethnic backgrounds reflect the inhabitants of the city of Oakland which is important to me because my daughter is Chinese American. While most of the ballet students are girls, my daughter's current class includes a boy. Within guidelines, the children choose their own dance clothes which my daughter very much enjoys. She looks forward to classes and performances.

East Bay Dance Center also teaches tap, jazz and hip hop to children and has classes for teens and adults as well. It changed location this year to a wonderful practice and performance space at 1318 Glenfield Avenue in Oakland, just off of Park Boulevard and easy to get to from both I-580 and Highway 13. The phone number is 510-336-3262. Most of the classes have a weekday and a Saturday option. There are Fall, Winter/Spring and Summer sessions along with Winter & Spring Break special programs and a summer dance day camp. However, Bonnie is open to children joining the classes at any point during the year. Mom to a happy, healthy dancer

The East Bay Dance Center in Glenview has really cute classes for 3 and up. Lynn

Ballet for 2-year-old

June 2002

We've just moved to Berkeley from SF where my daughter has been taking ballet since she was 20 months old. She loves it!!!and talks about being a ballerina alot! The teacher moved her into the ''big girl'' (3 and 4 yr old) class because she was more focused and serious than all of the other 2 yr olds. The class was so sweet because the teacher really made them feel like ballerinas. Anyway, I'm looking for something somewhat similar for her (a dance class that is organized and challenging) here and most places don't take children under four. She will be 3 in August. (I haven't asked them to make an exception because I don't want to appear pushy and like a stage mother or something!) I checked the archives and called about 5 or 6 places listed but none have worked out. Any recent suggestions? Thanks so much in advance! LSG

Recommendations received:

Montclair Rec Center (3)

Ballet for almost-3-year-old

Sept. 2003

I'm interested in finding a ballet class for my pre-preschooler. Do they take them this young? My child is pretty good at listening and following directions and she loves dancing. I thought it might be a fun thing to do on a weekday afternoon or Saturday morning. Brenda

Re: Ballet for almost-3-year-old (Sept. 2003)
Recommendations received:

Montclair Rec Center

Other advice:
My daughter had just turned 2 when she decided she was going to do ballet no matter what! We tried a couple of places, but found that the only teacher worth seeing is Debbie Goveia. She is totally in tune with preschoolers and is flexible with age. If your daughter is motivated and listens well, she will surely be welcome in Debbie's preschooler classes. I believe she is teaching a ''Story Dance'' class at Habitot on Thursday afternoons, and also teaches creative movement on Monday afternoons at CA Theatre Arts ( in Walnut Creek. She was trying to start a Thursday morning Mommy& Me class at CTarts also. Her classes are called Story Dance or Creative Movement, but it is all based on ballet moves - she just creates stories around the moves to make it fun for the kids, and the kids REALLY respond well to her. She is HIGHLY recommended! Jaime

Pre_Ballet for 4.5 yr old

Dec 2002

My 4.5 yr old daughter is interested in ballet after seeing the Nutcracker this December. She's decided she would like to dance in the Nutcracker someday. Can anyone recommend, compare, or contrast the Pre-Ballet classes at Berkeley City Ballet and Berkeley Ballet Theater? Any other places I should consider? Thank you! Berkeley mom

Recommendations received:


Other suggestions:
Ashkenaz on San Pablo offers pre-ballet and ballet for children 3.5 and up, with a focus, I'm told, on creativity and self- expression. Also, Luna Kids Dance is a really great program offered at a number of East Bay and SF locations that focuses on creative dance and improvisation (for older kids/teens they offer modern dance, too). As someone who spent most of her childhood and teenage years as a serious ballet student, I strongly advocate dance classes for young children that focus more on creative self-expression and ''make-believe'' than on ballet skills. Find a class that allows children to be silly and to make up their own dance moves -- for some reason, there seems to be more latitude for this when the teacher has a strong grounding in modern dance. If a child sticks with dance, there will be time aplenty for learning to plie, releve, turn out the feet from the hips, etcetera. Alexa

I HIGHLY recommend Debbie Goveia's Children's Moving Arts classes. She has Mommy & Me classes for kids 2-3 and preschool classes for kids 3-5 at Habitot on Wednesdays. She also teaches both classes and a ''Story Dance'' class for 5-7 y.o. at California Theatre Arts in Walnut Creek on Mondays and Tuesdays. My 2.5 year old does amazing ballet moves after a few months in Debbie's Mommy & Me class, and she absolutely adores Miss Debbie! Jaime

Pre_Ballet in Contra Costa County

May 2002

I am trying to find a pre-ballet or creative movement class for my 4 year old daughter. I am considering the East Bay Center for Performing Arts in Richmond. One other place I am looking at is Kidz & Dance in Lafayette. The Berkeley area is just too far from us unless there is an outstanding recommendation to make me fight for parking there! Thanks in advance for helping a little girl out. Nilou

Try Contra Costa Ballet Centre at 2040 North Broadway in Walnut Creek. I know it's good because my daughter has a friend who has studied ballet for years and is a professional dancer with some well-known ballet company. He trained there. Linnea

Civic Arts Education in Walnut Creek has really good classes. Less expensive than private schools and free parking too! Don't know if they still have it, but my daughter and I took a parent/child creative movement class together when she was 4 and it was lots of fun. Deborah

My daughter went to Kids 'n Dance in Lafayette and loved it. She was in the ''pre-ballet'' for 4-5 year-olds. I thought the teacher was very good with young children and it wasn't strict ''ballet'', but more of movement with some elements of dance taught as the class progressed. nkfleischauer

Ballet for Older Kids

Ballet for 12 year old with no experience

May 2014

My 12 year old daughter would like to learn ballet. She had limited lessons years ago. Are there classes or camps where a 12 year old can learn the basics? Ballet Enthusiast

I don't know if you're only looking for summer camps, but Alameda Ballet has a Teen
Intro to Ballet class that's for kids 9+ who are just starting ballet. Check out

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 Nikita Jew Both used to teach here: HTH! Former ballet mom

Best ballet school for 8 year old boy?

March 2012

My son has been taking ballet for three years at Pacific Northwest Ballet in Seattle. He has been lucky enough to participate in a boys-only class, but I realize not all ballet schools have these. We are moving to Berkeley and hoping to find a good ballet school for him in the East Bay. We'd prefer one with boys- only classes, but if there is a school with co-ed classes and a decent number of boys enrolled, that would be great as well. Any recommendations? Thanks! Dancer mom

Berkeley Ballet Theater ( The boys there attend coed classes most of the week, but they do have an additional weekly class just for them. There are several boys there now around your son's age, so I think he'd enjoy it. Edna

Dance class for 10 yr old that offers peer group?

Aug 2011

I am on the lookout for a GREAT dance class for our 10 year old girl but am really interested to find a class where the student makeup is pretty consistent and the teachers really pay attention that the group dynamic is supportive, etc. Goal would be to have a more communal experience rather than the typical drop in experience. Anyone have any thoughts or recommendations?

Berkeley City Ballet offers excellent ballet classes for elementary through high school students. They have a pre-professional program and community classes. Here is a direct link for the community classes: Deena

Ballet class for 10 yo girl, beginner

Feb 2011

I am looking for a ballet class for my 10 year old daughter. She has not taken ballet since she was 4 or 5 years old. I am hoping to find a class in the Berkeley area that is fun, and where she will learn the basics. ap

Our family has had a great experience with ballet classes at Danspace in Rockridge. Our older daugter is 7 and has been attending classes for 4 years and our younger daughter is 4 and has been attending for 1 year. We find the studio to be supportive, nurturing, and a lot of fun for our daughters. All the teachers we've worked with have been excellent and most have been working there for many years. While we don't have experience with ballet classes at the 10 year old level, I encourage you to visit Danspace to see what they have to offer. dt

Ballet instruction for 9 year old girl

Oct 2009

We live in Albany and are interested in ballet instruction for our 9 year old daughter. We are interested in East Bay ballet programs, particularly Berkeley City Ballet on Dwight. Does anyone have any experience with this school? Albany Parent

My daughter has been going to Berkeley City Ballet since she was six-years-old and loves it. She is a senior at BHS, and has already been accepted to Butler University's ballet program, one of the very few college-level classical ballet programs in the country.

The biggest event for the studio is their annual Nutcracker performance, which is usually at the Zellarbach Play House. This year they are performing on 12/19 and 12/20 at Ohlone College due to scheduling mix up by Zellarbach. Students begin performing in the ballet as mice and move on to perform in the Act Two parts once they are introduced to pointe.

I've heard of other school hurrying to get girls into pointe shoes, but the director is adamant about making sure that students' feet are fully ready for the shoes to minimize the chance of injury to their feet. (Feet are very important!) Kids are are given instructions to do their own hair, sew their own shoes (elastic, ribbons, etc.), and do their own stage make-up. In short, the school teaches their ballerinas to be self-sufficient and responsible for themselves.

Like any organization BCB has had its share of internal issues, but the studio has provided a real learning place as well as a second ''home'' for my daughter. I would recommend Berkeley City Ballet highly to anyone considering taking up ballet. Yuko F.

My 12 year old daughter is in the intermediate ballet class at Berkeley City Ballet and loves it! They have a pre-professional track (which my daughter is not in), but added classes last year for kids who just enjoy dancing and want to take classes. Because these classes are relatively new, they aren't very full yet. It's a good program - you should check it out! Sara

I am writing as a parent and an ex-ballet dancer to tell you about how terrific Berkeley City Ballet is and how much this company means to my daughter and our family. I was one of the original dancers in BCB when is was formed more than 30 years ago and I danced in the first productions of their Nutcracker. When my 7 year-old daughter expressed interest in ballet, I took her there to take class. What immediately impressed me was the way Elizabeth Godfrey, the Artistic Director, both supported the kids but also let them know she had high expectations for them. I felt this was still a serious and healthy place for a child to develop the technique that could either lead to a professional career or a strong foundation in dance.

Now at 13 years old, my daughter has fallen in love with BCB and ballet. She is rehearsing now to perform in her 6th Nutcracker this December and is as committed as ever. She had the opportunity to perform as Clara a few years ago and the role transformed her. Not only did I see technical improvement, but emotional growth as well. And, this is true of all the girls who have the opportunity to perform each year in the Nutcracker. This is a unique opportunity to perform side by side with professionals in a high quality production. The sets and costumes are lovely and the dancers are well rehearsed. Dancing in a ballet of this caliber is life changing for all these young girls and teenagers. And much of this is due to the personal attention that Ms. Godfrey gives to their dancing and all the production details. After seeing the San Francisco Ballet Nutcracker this year, I can actually say that BCB''s Act I was as good if not better.

What is particularly impressive about BCB is how the value of teamwork is instilled in these dancers. Ballet is a highly individualistic and competitive art form and yet productions are not successful unless the company members work together. The corps de ballet must look like one body, moving together, for the right effect. My daughter's fast costume change from Act 1 to Act 2 will only work if an experienced girl helps her get from one dress into another. Older girls are encouraged to help younger girls--allowing the group to reach its maximum potential.

For us, Berkeley City Ballet is now a family affair: my husband also performs each year in the Nutcracker as a party guest. I will also perform this year as Clara's mom. It is lovely that this company that played such an important role in my childhood is now so central in my family life.

BCB also offers classes for dancers who just want to do it recreationally. Watch any of the big dance shows--''So You Think You Can Dance'' or ''Dancing With the Stars'' and the Judges are always saying that ballet training is at the foundation of any good technique.

American culture is not always attentive to what it takes to support and nurture the arts. Companies like BCB keeps training these young dancers and produces high quality productions like the Nutcracker. But, unlike a large ballet school like San Francisco Ballet, this company accomplishes its goals in a much more supportive and healthy environment. Despite the hard work, the girls really enjoy their time there. BCB is an asset not only to the girls and families that participate in their program, but to the entire community. Amy

Berkeley area ballet school?

Oct 2009

I'm interested in signing up my child for ballet classes. Does anyone have recomendaitons for a ballet school in the Berkeley area? There are at least a couple - Berkeley City Ballet and Berkeley Ballet Theater - and I'm looking for the pros and cons of each. Thanks

I don't have any experience with Berkeley Ballet Theater, but I just posted a reply to another question about Berkeley City Ballet.

Berkeley City Ballet has been wonderful for my daughter who will be studying ballet in college. Not all students of the studio go on to study ballet in college, but all of them do great in school. I think it's partly a reflection of the high standards that the director sets for their students. The kids develop a wonderful sense of camaraderie and working together.

I highly recommend Berkeley City Ballet to anyone thinking of studying ballet, but a good way to get an idea about the school and even talk to some of the students is to attend the performance of the Nutcracker.

This year BCB will be performing The Nutcracker on 12/19 and 12/20 (both days at 1pm and 5pm) at Ohlone College. Yuko F.

My daughter is starting her third year at Berkeley Ballet Theater (she previously studied in San Diego). We have been very pleased with the quality of the instruction, and also with how each class is taught at an age-appropriate level. (The youngest children learn about how much fun dance can be, while the older students work very hard.) At the end of the year, a parent-teacher conference is scheduled to evaluate each student's progress.

The only drawback I can see to their program is a lack of flexibility for the casual dancer. While adults can take as many or as few classes as they like, the kids are locked into an increasingly time-consuming program. My ten-year-old takes three classes per week (5.5 hours total), and the time (and $$) committment will only increase as she advances. Edna

You didn't mention how old your child is, but either way would suggest observing same-age class at the schools you're interested in. My now teenager started at Danspace at age 7. Is now 14 and just finished a year at Berkeley Ballet Theater . Danspace is very developmentally appropriate and has a variety of movement classes. My child is not interested in pursuing ballet professionally but really liked the technique training she received at BBT. They are very different in approach and disciplines so I'd recommend you observe and age-appropriate class at each school you're interested in. Anon.

My fourth-grade daughter is at Berkeley City Ballet . I recommend their program very highly. The students, teachers, and parents are a very close-knit and supportive group. It's been wonderful for my daughter to have this group of friends outside of school. Ballet was my daughter's idea and I'm not very knowledgeable about it (although I'm learning), but it appears to me that the quality of instruction at BCB is very high. The older students go to prestigious summer and college programs, and I've certainly seen my daughter learn and improve over the three years she's been there. The performances, particularly the Nutcracker, are very professional and tremendously fun for the students, who get to perform multiple roles alongside professional dancers. I'm impressed with how the artistic director shapes the performances to ensure the students have challenging roles. You might consider checking the Nutcracker out to get a feel for the school. This year many of the lead roles, like the Sugar Plum Fairy, are being performed by students. It's at Ohlone College in Fremont,

One last thing -- the summer workshop at BCB is, for my kid, one of the best things that's ever happened. She went for the first time this year and had a total blast. In addition to dancing four or five hours a day with a variety of teachers in different styles, they studied some anatomy and learned to spell ballet terms.

I'm relatively new to BCB and I'm sure there are many parents who would be willing to speak with you, but feel free to contact me at trenakerathome [at] Teresa

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.

Best ballet company school

July 2008

My daughter has been with Contra Costa ballet for the past two years. We are thinking of switching to a closer school. We live in Oakland. I am not interested in small show type neighborhood schools. She really enjoys performing and is one of the front two in her class. Her dream is to play Clara in the Nutcracker. Another reason we are considering leaving is tunnel traffic this year her class is at 5:45. Her classes will also be increasing in frequency as she gets older. We really enjoy it there and I am wondering if Berkeley Ballet theater or Berkeley City ballet will measure up to the quality of instruction and performances we have had. Can anyone recommend either school or another school nearby? worth the drive?

Berkeley City Ballet has been a great place for my daughter for the past 7 years. She has developed discipline and grace and had fun along the way. She will be getting her first toe shoes this fall. The teachers have been top notch professionals. Those students who choose to work toward making dance their profession seem to have no trouble moving in that direction. The nutcracker each year is very well done. The kids learn great skill and discipline. I can't say enough great things about BCB (and I will admit I am a bit of a ballet snob when it comes to quality) Love Ballet

To the families looking for top notch Ballet programs - look no further than Berkeley Ballet Theater ! There are programs for 2 year olds through adults, from beginning to professional level. There are special workshops given in addition to regular classes given in Spring and Summer.

My daughter has been attending BBT for 10 years (since she was 4) and loves it, her program is now 5 days a week with an optional 6th day; one day of Modern and 4-5 of Ballet. BBT's Children's division graduates have been getting into some of the best dance college programs in the country including Julliard, SUNY Purchase, and Alvin Ailey/Fordham. The assistant director, Susan Weber, is a college counselor specializing in Dance and Theater majors. In the upper levels, the children's division students get to work with the founder, Sally Streets, who choreographs for Diablo Ballet, ODC and danced professionally with Oakland and NYCB. Her daughter, Kyra Nichols, just retired from NYCB.

The Children's division does two shows/year. Nutcracker has eight full performances, which generally sell out, also school shows and the Spring Show has four performances and school shows.

We Dance is a program for toddlers and a parent, Pre-Ballet is once a week for 4-7 year olds and has a show at the end of the year. Adult classes are given in Ballet Fundamentals, Beginning ballet, Beg-int ballet, Pointe, Pilates, and advanced ballet, which is attended by professionals, college students and advanced children's division alike. There is also a newly formed Men's ballet class.

The Adults also have their own show in the spring, optional of course, but well attended and inspiring. Clara

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,, 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.

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 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:


  • Berkeley Ballet Theater
  • Katie's Dance Studio
  • Shawl-Anderson Dance Studio

    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

    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

    Ballet Performances

    Jan 2009

    I'd like to take my Angelina Ballerina-obsessed daughter to see ballet. I figure this doesn't exactly need to be the San Francisco Ballet, as she's only three. I was wondering if anyone knew of local performances that would be appropriate? Maybe even recitals at ballet schools? Thanks! Sarah

    Too bad you missed the Nutcracker! Berkeley City Ballet will have their Spring Concert sometime in May at their studio. Tickets are limited, but if you call them, they can probably make arrangements for you. They also offer Ballerina Birthday Parties, if your 3-year old is expecting a birthday soon. My 16-year old daughter has been dancing with BCB since she was 6 and she plans to study ballet in college. BCB has been absolutely wonderful for her. You can find Berkeley City Ballet at 1800 Dwight Way, Berkeley, CA 94703 (510) 841-8913 email: berkeleycityballet [at] Good luck! Yuko
    East Bay Dance Center's recitals are fun. The next one is on May 23 at Holy Names College. Contact EBDC for details, 336-3262. Debbie
    Hi, Check out the Berkeley Ballet Theater on college - Leslie
    April 1996

    I have a couple of comments about the dance inquiry from my own experience as a dancer (since age 3 and still taking class). Four years old is a little too young to be thinking about formal ballet instruction--any dance class at this age should emphasize connecting rhythm and movement and music, rather than standing at the barre and doing exercises. I recommend observing a class to see how the teacher connects with and inspires the kids. Be suspicious of any neigborhood dance studio (I'm not saying that Katie's is one of them!) that emphasizes getting girls up on pointe shoes: although every little female ballet student dreams of dancing on pointe, it's something that shouldn't be done unless the student has had several years of rigorous technique and has strong bones and muscles. Getting up on pointe before you are ready can really strain and distort the body (not that ballet doesn't already sort of do that). One really good studio, which is owned by one of the campus dance instructors, is Luna. It's located in the Glenview Terrace district of Oakland, on Park Blvd. between Highways 13 and 580 (east of 580/west of 13). I realize that's kind of a trek from Berkeley/El Cerrito, but it's easy to get to. I don't know whether Luna has its summer schedule out yet, but I know they would welcome observers.

    Hope this helps.

    I also have a four year old daughter, and although she's not currently in a dance class, I regularly take classes in modern and ballet. I feel strongly that four-year-old's don't belong in a ballet class; they belong in an introduction to movement class, which could incorporate some aspects of ballet and modern, but with the goals of learning to move to music and to think creatively about movement. At this age, you don't want to be telling kids they're doing something wrong when they move; rather, you want to have them think about where their body is and what they're doing, so they can copy movements and make up their own. Classes that are strongly technique-based are likely to be telling kids that they're doing something wrong.


    You might try Luna , a studio in Oakland, for classes, or you can shop around for a class that looks like fun.

    19 Apr 1996

    Dear Sarah and other parents who might be considering dance training for their young children,

    I have studied dance (mostly ballet) since I was five, and have had many, many different teachers, and kinds of teachers, in those 30+ years. Some of my teachers have been remarkable, not only as dancers and instructors, but as bearers of a certain philosophy about the education of children. I would love to share an idea or two with anyone interested.

    My experience as a parent tells me that young children learn best in a play-based, child-centered setting, and I think this applies to dance, too. The very best dance teachers I have had have stressed the importance of working from wherever the individual is, and doing so with utmost care and joy in the learning, rather than making every dancer look and perform alike.

    Enough philosophy. Let me cut to the recommendation. Mary Lyons is a first-rate teacher of pre-ballet and ballet for young children. She also teaches tap. She teaches all afternoon on Fridays at the beautiful, relatively new Albany Community Center, on Marin at Masonic Ave. The classes are small and personal and, above all, fun and _appropriate_ for children from 3.5 to 5 and from 7 up. Mary also teaches elsewhere, and undoubtedly teaches every level.

    Mary is sincere, careful, and attentive to her students. Her students receive a good, solid foundation in the essence of good ballet, without the pain of premature drills and barre exercises. The first thing she taught my daughter was how to present herself, with the port de bras (arm movements) of ballet, and say I am a beautiful dancer. Yes, I am. She asks parents to suspend every ounce of criticism of their children's dance (appropriately!) and to applaud their every effort. My 5.5-year-old daughter has blossomed in this class.

    The children are allowed to wear any color leotard/tights/ballet slippers at the Albany Community Center classes (unusual -- many schools prescribe a given color/style leotard for each level of instruction), and the classes are extremely reasonable in price ($34 Albany residents/$37 others for six weeks). A new session begins 4/26, and runs through 6/7. There are no ridiculous add-ons in terms of fees, so you know what you're paying for. I give this teacher and this setting my highest recommendation. The phone number at the Albany Community Center is 524-9283.

    If you want to know more about this, or about dance instruction for kids in general, I'd be happy to field individual inquiries.

    Best of luck to you and your kids


    I loved the suggestions about good teachers. I, too took modern dance from 5- 11 years and the most rigorous russian classical ballet from 11-15, and then modern dance from 15-18 (and martial arts ever since).

    I agree that ballet both builds character but also can build insecurity and reinforce bad gender stereotypes (anorexic behavior was rampant). I also think it's very important to closely watch male teachers around little girls until you're pretty sure you can trust them, and I don't know how you can establish that trust beyond the shadow of a doubt. Looking back: When I was five, my modern dance teacher, who my mother worshipped, picked me up fromhome to drive me to class one time and locked the car doors when we arrived and wouldn't unlock them unless he got a kiss. It may seem innocuous but I felt trapped in the car, and even then, to me the whole behavior was inappropriate. When I was 7 and had swimming lessons in the FLorida hotel pool where we were vacationing, the 16 year old instructor took me into the deep end and said he would let me go unless he got a kiss. When I was thirteen and pretty busty Vitale Fokine (Michel Fokine's grandson) would routinely feel up the girls when we leaned back in porte-de-bras. Believe me, he wasn't just adjusting our posture. Now, my other male teachers were just fine and the females, too. And I've never felt particularly harmed by these experiences. I mention them because they happened and my parents weren't aware of it at time time. When I told my mother about the car experience she kind of belittled me and came to Mr. Rivera's aid. So make sure you really listen to your daughters.

    When all is said and done I think that some of my most educational and inspirational aspects of self came from after school enrichment. I definitely learned posture, comportment and self discipline from ballet, and the value of hard work. When my son is old enough. I'm gong to let him see if he likes tap dancing, gymnastics, swimming, martial arts, etc.

    Ballet for Adults

    Ballet classes for adults?

    Sept 2010

    I am looking for recent reviews or recommendations for a place for me to take ballet classes. I danced ballet as a child/teenager and through college. But the last time I took a class was over 10+++ years ago! Add on two kids and 20+ pounds, and I am a little nervous to take a class again.

    So where are some places I could take a class? I live in the Oakland Hills, so not too far! I am only interested in ballet, not other kinds of dancing. I really don't want to feel out of place (and OLD!) in an adult class full of 18 year olds. I am not a beginner, but I am not sure my body can do anywhere close to what I could back in the day. What level should I look at? Is ballet like riding a bike? Thanks for any recommendations! Out of shape, but ready to dance again!

    There are at least two places for adults to take ballet classes in SF that offer very very high quality teaching for non-professional and novice dancers.

    Alonzo King Lines Ballet: -- through their dance center: they are a professional company with professional training, but also offer novice non-professional classes at all levels. My coworker is taking ballet and loves it. I will be checking it out for it's very high quality children's classes for my daughter when she is old enought for more serious pre-professional training (something she is currently interested in). They are near Civic Center Bart

    ODC is the other place to check out: you will need to dig into their web page, but do so. They are excellent (again, by hearsay, and also seeing their profesional performaces). They are in the Mission.

    Berkeley Ballet Theater ( offers adult classes. I have not taken any of them, but I often see the adult students when I pick up my daughter, and I can assure you that they are not skinny little 18 year olds. Classes are at the Julia Morgan Theatre (College & Derby). EH
    Berkeley Ballet Theater at the Julia Morgan center on College Ave has a whole schedule of adult ballet classes ranging from Beginner to Advanced. 9 years and 3 kids since my regular ballet class
    YWCA in Berkeley. I took classes ages ago, and with this class at the YWCA is easy to get back re-learning positions, names, etc.. As easy or as hard as you want, and really really enjoyable. Not to mention a good deal ($50 for 6 classes).
    Shawl Anderson in Rockridge. They are on Alcatraz, just a few doors east of College Ave. A word of caution: This is a serious dance school (professional dancers take classes there), so the class levels are 'real'. I am in the same boat as you; did ballet for years growing up, and am still in relatively decent shape... or so I thought. The Intermediate class absolutely kicked my butt! maia
    Shawl-Anderson Dance Center , 2704 Alcatraz @ College in Oakland ( is a wonderful place for ballet and other types of dance for all ages. In my late thirties, I took ballet at a school at Church/Market in SF where the instructors wanted to work with the ballet *body-type.* It was very discouraging, so I signed up with Shawl-Anderson and never felt out of place as an older student with a non-stereotypical ballerina body. Nice dance studio, school and folks. Marie
    There are several wonderful outlets for adult ballet classes in the East Bay.
    - Danspace (Miles and Hudson in Oakland)
    - Shawl-Anderson (Alcatraz and College in Oakland)
    - Berkeley Ballet Theater (in the Julia Morgan Center, College in Berkeley)

    If you are really nervous about starting back to class, begin with an 'elementary' class even if you are--or were--a more advanced dancer. I recommend Mary Armentrout's Sunday morning class at Danspace. She's been teaching it forever; and she's very gentle, positive, and welcoming, and she does give corrections.

    If you have enough of a dance history that you don't need to start at the elementary level and want to jump back in a bit faster, try some of the many Beg. to Intermed. classes on the schedule at BBT. These classes tend to be a bit more anonymous, and you'll have to operate more on your own in terms of what you get from the class; but there are several strong teachers on the schedule offering classes at that level.

    S-A also has a huge range of classes and teachers, all worth checking out. You just kinda have to get out there and test the waters to find the teacher and class that is that best fit for you, where you are now.

    But believe me, there are LOTS of adult dancers taking class. You will NOT be alone in a sea of teens! Darcy

    Getting back into ballet classes

    October 2002

    I am getting back into ballet classes for the first time in over 4 years. Does anybody have a good recommendation for a particular class or instructor? More specifically, has anybody had good or bad experiences with the adult ballet classes at Berkeley Ballet Theater on College Ave and Derby? Which instructor did you have? I am looking for a class with a diverse range of body shapes, as I am not the size I used to be when I previously took ballet classes. Any suggestions on the topic are appreciated. Thanks. Leslie

    Recommendations received:

  • Berkeley Ballet Theater (2)
  • Danspace