With the proliferation of dance on tv through shows such as World of Dance, Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance many people are interested in knowing just what age is best to start dancing especially if they feel they have missed the boat or want their child to have the best chance of succeeding.
There is no best age to start dancing. From our research, the most conducive age to begin serious training is around ages 7-9. Prior to this children should be acquiring movement and co-ordination skills in age-appropriate activities that might include dance. So if you or your child wants to start dance lessons, there is no better time to start then today!
In a perfect non competitive world the best age to start dance lessons would be around the ages of 7 to 9. This is because at this age most children are able to internalise their learning and apply it to their dancing. They are also more likely able to distinguish what they are internally motivated and passionate to do because they have made the decision to pursue this hobby instead of arbitraily being enrolled in dance lessons at the age of three because their body was extra flexible or they loved dancing around the living room to music.

This is not to say children who start before the age of 7 will not benefit from dance lessons. Dance classes are a great activity for toddlers and preschoolers as it provides an opportunity for children to work on their coordination, fitness, and musicality in a fun and creative way!
When can you Start Dance Lessons?
Your child can start dance lessons from as early as the dance school or program you choose offers them. Some schools offer mummy and me dance classes for children from the age of 18 months to three. Most schools offer dance classes for children from the age of 3 where the parent is asked to sit outside the classroom. From this age most dance teachers agree children have better attention spans, are generally toilet trained and are able to spend time away from their primary carers all signs they are capable of joining in a dance class. A good class for a toddler or preschooler should foster their love of dance rather than be a technically challenging class which many young children would struggle with, lose interest in and quit.

What is The Minimum Age for Learning Dance?
Again there is no minimum age for learning dance, in fact, a Harvard working document ‘The Timing and Quality of Early Experiences Combine to Shape Brain Architecture’ explains that ‘ Early environments and experiences have an exceptionally strong influence on brain architecture.’ Therefore one might agree that the earlier a child was exposed to dance the better.

But being exposed and having fun in dance or movement classes is not exactly the same as seriously studying and taking technically challenging lessons.

What is The Ideal Age to Start Ballet?
The age most conducive to seriously begin learning and studying dance especially ballet is from around the ages of 7-9 depending on the maturity of the child.

Many schools offer formal ballet training for children from around the age of 6, for example, the associate’s program at Canada’s National Ballet School is open for children ages 6-17. David Kind on the blog ‘A Ballet Education’ rants that children should ‘start ballet at age 7 or 8 when they can actually sit and focus on turn out, and begin to comprehend how you have to use your facility (for) ballet.’ Education.com state that ‘ It’s not until the age of 8 or 9 that young dancers reach the maturity to undertake the disciplined rituals of regular ballet practice.’ And finally The Kansas City Ballet writes that ballet ‘training ideally begins when a student is between the ages of 7 and 10.’
The following two prestigious ballet schools like most others of this level will generally accept students with little ballet experience older than 9. The main reason being they are looking for the creme of the crop and one of the truths of ballet is that some people are built and have more natural facility and talent for the art which can be drawn out by intense training and good teachers. To become a professional dancer there seems to be a certain window for examples between the ages of 11-15 that the amount and type of training can determine whether a dancer has real potential to make it as a professional.

The American Ballet Theatre school of which provides the New York City Ballet with 90% of its dancers do not require students between the ages for 6-10 to have any previous ballet experience when auditioning for them. They do require students between the ages of 11-18 who are auditioning to have previous ballet experience. They write that on their Audition Faq page that ‘ Eleven to twelve year olds should have completed a minimum of 2 years of training (including beginning pointe for girls.)’ which means at a minimum they want children to have started ballet lessons by the age age of 9.
Englands Royal Ballet School begin serious training of those whom they believe to have potential at the age of 11. Previous to this students will have been taking 1-2 ballet lessons per week. Out of thousands of applicants they only accept around 25 and a big part of the their decision is not skill, Kristin Lewis is a dancer and writer in NYC wrote for Dance Magazine in 2010 that the Royal Ballet School “look mainly for musicality, coordination, flexibility, hyper-mobility, an aesthetic to their lines—and that spark that you can’t teach them,” says assistant director Jay Jolley. “But a child at that age can still change drastically in 12 months.”

Is it too late for my child to start dancing?

It is true that many children have been dancing since the age of 2 or 3 and therefore will have skills that a child starting at the ages of 7-9 will not. We see dance groups on tv like the crazy 8’s or the kids on Dance Mom and we get worried our children are going to miss the bus if they don’t start early. In fact, Conscious Parenting expert Dr Shefali Tsabary spoke to Oprah during a Super Soul Session about her experience of enrolling her 8-year old into dance lessons and how she was initially upset that her daughter would have to dance with children several years younger as a beginner and felt at first as if she had let her child down, before realising this was just succumbing to societal competitiveness and comparisions.

The question should be asked how many kids begin dance from the age of 2 or 3 and are at burnout by the age of 15? How many of those children go onto develop fruitfull careers in dance or hit their peak early, lose motivation and interest and follow a different career path. Just because a child is ultra flexible and trains like mad and is extremely enthusiastic about dancing at the age of 7 does not mean that they will want to continue with dance at the age of 15.

Is It Better To Start Dance or Ballet Earlier Or Later For A Professional Career?
Although the ages of 7-9 foster good results for beginning dance many people in professional careers began before and after this number and the following are just a few examples of both.

What are the benefits of beginning dance training early?

If we literally used the 10,000 hour mastery rule, and divided it evenly up into 9 years (the average amount of time it takes dancers to turn professional) a dancer at the age of 9 would have to be dancing around 21 hours a week to turn pro nine years later at the age of 18 which would take an insane amount of commitment, possibly leading to early burn out or serious injuries, halting any hope of forming a career out of what once might have just been a fun hobby.
Fortunately what generally occurs is that a dancers hours of training increase gradually as they mature, which is why dance companies take on dancers as apprentices first around the age of 18 and why all dancers in all industries practice and train daily to continually master their art.

By the age of 20 the dancer who began at 4 would have surpassed the 10,000 hour mastery rule. What is interesting to see is that the dancer who started age 9 (although still 420hours behind in total training) is only 88 hours off of this target.

What Age Is Too Late To Start Ballet?
There is no age that is too late to start ballet. Sooner is better than later, today better than tomorrow! It must be said though that learning anything at an older age whether it be to play an instrument, learn a language or any new skill is always more difficult because our brains have already developed and set many neural pathways and our muscle memory needs to be reprogrammed and therefore one’s motivation and discipline needs to be extremely high to reach the levels needed to master any new skill

By Samantha Bellerose

Samantha is a wife and mother of four kids aged 1-9. She danced and acted from the age of 5 and performed in film clips, on television, and in musical theatre professionally. She also taught dance, but after leaving the profession to backpack through Europe, Canada and the USA with her husband for three years, she then completed an Education Degree and taught within primary schools in Australia. Today she is a business owner with her husband and the creator and writer for Dance Parent 101 where she hopes her previous experience as a dancer, current experience as a dance parent and the research and writing skills she gained completing her education degree will help enlighten parents on their journey with their child through the world of dance.

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