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Is Your Dance Teacher Qualified?

By | Ballet, Boys, Health | No Comments

Not unlike many parents, when my child was young, I wanted to enroll her in ballet.  My initial concerns included things like: commute, online reviews, schedule of classes, tuition….. But safety??  Without open water, baseballs, or heights to contend with I wasn’t really concerned.  Turns out, I just got lucky.

Unqualified instructors are not only a waste of time and money, but life-long consequences can arise from not stretching correctly, improper posture, or going en pointe too early.  Younger students are particularly at risk as their bodies are still developing and may not be ready to command the physical control necessary to execute the movements being asked without risking injury.  It is important that the instructors are knowledgeable of the physiological and psychological demands required at each stage.

Starting out with a good foundation is important as bad habits are hard to break.  Ensuring that one starts with a good routine, which includes a warm up, setting realistic goals, and being part of a supportive team are all skills that are will serve them well throughout life.  Muscle memory, the body’s tendency to revert to a learned position, develops naturally yet may require a great deal of conscious effort to “correct”.  I’ve heard from a number of current and former dancers that strangers will remark that their ballet background is evident simply from the way they carry themselves as they move about in everyday life.

I have come to really appreciate the true integrity and dedication to the art of ballet that Capitol Ballet instills in their students.  Dancers are placed and promoted based on ability—not age or parent preference.  The emphasis is on precision and technique—not performances or profit.  Check out some of the alumni; a testament to the quality and caliber of their instruction.

For more, read this BBC article: Unqualified Ballet Teachers Can “Damage” Children

Header Photo Credit: Thinstock; BBC

Ballet & BMX Bikes

By | Ballet, Boys | No Comments

By chance, one family in the UK found themselves in a whole new world.  The parents said that they hadn’t previously considered ballet for their oldest son, Oscar, when he was invited to audition for the Birmingham Royal Ballet (BRB) at the age of 6.  They now have three sons who are active dancers, and Oscar continued being awarded scholarships to further his ballet education. 

A letter accompanied the boy home from school after being selected by a scout for the BRB.  As part of an outreach program, the ballet company actively recruits students who may have not have otherwise exposure or opportunity to dance classes.  Equal numbers of boys and girls are selected to audition and 80 are offered free weekly lessons taught by their staff.

In addition to ballet, the boys are competitive BMX racers.  Their father told the Independent that dancing helps them to be better athletes overall “…you can see that their ballet helps them in terms of their balance, strength and stamina”

Photo credit and Original Story From the Independent: Our band of Billy Elliots: Why our boys do ballet


Practice Makes Perfect

By | Ballet | No Comments
Story from Science Daily and York University….

Practice makes perfect, study confirms

Researchers were looking at fMRI brain scans of professional ballet dancers to measure the long-term effects of learning

‘Practice makes perfect’ may be a cliché but a new brain study out of York U affirms this age old theory.

In this study, Faculty of Health researchers were looking at fMRI brain scans of professional ballet dancers to measure the long-term effects of learning.

“We wanted to study how the brain gets activated with long-term rehearsal of complex dance motor sequences,” says Professor Joseph DeSouza, who studies and supports people with Parkinson’s disease. “The study outcome will help with understanding motor learning and developing effective treatments to rehabilitate the damaged or diseased brain.”

For the study, 11 dancers (19-50 years of age) from the National Ballet of Canada were asked to visualize dance movements to music, while undergoing fMRI scanning. The scans measured Blood-Oxygen-Level-Dependent (BOLD) contrasts at four time points over 34 weeks, when they were learning a new dance.

“Our aim was to find out the long-term impact of the cortical changes that occur as one goes from learning a motor sequence to becoming an expert at it,” says coauthor Rachel Bar, who was a ballet dancer herself. “Our results also suggest that understanding the neural underpinnings of complex motor tasks such as learning a new dance can be an effective model to study motor learning in the real world.”

The results showed that initial learning and performance at seven weeks led to increase in activation in cortical regions during visualization of the dance being learned when compared to the first week. However, at 34 weeks, it showed reduced activation in comparison to week seven.

“We found that in the learning process, our brain function makes an inverted ‘U’ learning pattern from a slow pace at the start, accelerating to a peak at the midpoint, before returning to the original pace, once we have mastered the task,” says DeSouza. “An everyday example would be learning to drive a manual car, where you constantly have to think about shifting the gears until you master it and then do it instinctively.”

January 29, 2016 Original Story from Science Daily