Author: Chris Lynam
No one ever says, “I’m so glad I waited until I was older to start taking dance lessons!”. The common refrain includes some type of wish for a parent who was a bigger supporter of the arts, or a time machine, or some combination of the two. So here are some of the top benefits and reasons why kids should take ballroom dance lessons … no time machine necessary.
Physical Skills: Better Than Jazzercise… like, way better
Ballroom dancing can not only build coordination, grace, poise, and posture – but it can also develop great core strength and flexibility. Regardless of age, ballroom dancing is one of the most effective forms of cardiovascular exercise because… it doesn’t feel like cardio. So if your son or daughter needs to take their physical activity up a notch, without feeling like it is exercise, ballroom dance lessons will do the trick. (They may even learn some cool salsa in the process.)
Dance Skills: Going Beyond the Recital
This is the obvious result of taking any dance class, but with ballroom dancing, this translates to a practical activity that can be used for the rest of their lives on any given night. While jazz, tap, ballet, and other forms of dance provide great discipline, fundamentals, and overall physical training; they don’t necessarily translate well to a non-recital environment. Then again, they’re young, they can handle it – why not just have them try it all!?
Social Skills: Old School is the New School
“Would you like to dance a Waltz?”
If your son, daughter, niece, nephew, or favorite barista could say something like that… would it blow you away? Ballroom dancing not only teaches the skill of dancing, but the incredibly important skills of actually asking people to dance. Out loud. Without texting.
This, even by itself, builds confidence and self esteem exponentially. When kids struggle interacting with each other, they tend to avoid all the social events that can, eventually, improve their social skills. So, until something changes, the “social rich” get richer. Ballroom dancing instantly levels the social playing field. All it takes a few dance lessons and one invitation to dance.
A Unique Identity: Group Access Pass
Let’s face it, not every kid out there is going to be the captain of the football team, cheerleading team, or debate team. Some kids are like a ship without a harbor in the social group pool. Being a ballroom dancer offers a unique identity that isn’t directly attached to a school clique. This eases the pressure and can build confidence for them as an individual, rather than by copying or trying to impress their peers. When they are ready, they can utilize that confidence to join the group at school that best suits them.
Quick Story: I once taught a girl who really wanted, desperately, to be apart of the theatre department in her high school. She was lacking the courage, especially since she wasn’t already an established member of the theatre community (i.e. “Theatre Geek”). Her parents signed her up for lessons and she loved it. She developed confidence, and utilized her interest in theatre, through routines and local events. One day she arrived for her lesson elated and on the verge of happy tears. “I auditioned!” she blurted out. Before I could congratulate her she then told me the best part, “Before I even said or did anything they asked me ‘how long have you been a dancer?’”. She may not have started out as a theatre geek, but she finished high school as one.
Forward Thinking… on your Part
Think of all the vacations you’ve taken your kids on where they may not have been very supportive (putting it mildly) at first. You understand how incredible the Grand Canyon is and what an experience it might be, but they’ve never been there and could care less… until they see it. Sometimes, they don’t appreciate it until years later when they ask to go back there, or they are looking at the pictures. Sure, ballroom dancing may not be their first choice, but down the road they will appreciate it.
– They may never have to dance the Tango in public, but… they’ll have the confidence of a Tango dancer.
– They may never think of the Waltz as their favorite dance, but… they’ll have the grace, poise, and posture of a Waltz dancer.
– They may not be able to go out to a Salsa club right now, but… they’ll have the rhythm, body awareness, and plenty of moves when they get there.
I had the pleasure of teaching a wonderful woman and her son. Initially, the dance lessons were not his favorite activity. In fact, it was a form of punishment for some typical 9th grade behavior. Eventually, by 11th grade, the mother/son pair were accomplished social dancers. He loved it and they were a pleasure to teach. The boy was becoming a young man, and, remarkably, his dance lessons became a reward for good grades.
A wonderful boy and a terrific Mom – equally transformed.