By Becky Dimock / Edited by Samantha Bellerose, B.Ed, Dip.Dance(Performing Arts)
Everyone – even professional ballet dancers – need a break to rest and rejuvenate. But now it’s time to get back to work. Use these tips to make sure you and your ballerina (or ballerino!) have a smooth, safe return to class.
This article has been created keeping in mind both the dancer and parent will have things they need to organize and do before getting back into dance and so as you read you will see that we have outlined things that the ‘Ballet Student’ should consider, the ‘Parent’ might want to do, as well as things you can do ‘together’.
Before you register for ballet
Consider your whole schedule for the upcoming season. Is your dancer ready to take on more ballet classes? If they’re available, maybe try a variation class or sign up for privates. Does she or he needs to dial it back to make room for schoolwork, other activities, mental health, etc? Be sure to consider the time needed at home for working on strength, flexibility, reviewing choreography, etc. Nothing will ensure a stressful season like taking on too much!
Two weeks before ballet starts
Review class uniform requirements. Ensure that your child has all the necessary shoes, clothing, and other equipment for ballet class. If you’re reusing items from last season, make sure they fit. Replace anything with noticeable wear and get backups for anything that’s usable but getting too small.
Consider getting an extra pair of ballet slippers and pointe shoes so they have a chance to fully dry out before they’re used again. Also, get plenty of tights. Your ballerina should not be dancing with runs in her tights!
If you have a male ballet dancer, hopefully your instructor has talked to you about getting him a dance belt. If not, do the research on your own and make sure he has one that fits and understands that it’s important to wear it.
Important: Do this step earlier if you’re buying items – especially ballet slippers – online, to allow time for shipping and possibly ordering again if the first ones don’t fit. Once, I accidentally ordered a child’s size 1 ballet slipper instead of an adult. The little slipper was darling, but pretty useless!
It’s time to get to work. Start rebuilding strength, stamina, and flexibility so you’re ready for class! There are a lot of free, ballet-appropriate workouts on YouTube, and we’ve got some great tips here. It’s important to do workouts that are geared toward ballet because you want to lengthen and strengthen muscles, rather than building bulk. Make sure you’re working your whole body and be careful – never stretch without warming up first! If you’re not sure what to work on, contact your teacher for suggestions.
If you have a ballet journal, consider your goals for the upcoming season and start tracking your progress. What do you want to accomplish mentally and physically? Make sure that your goals are something YOU can control. For example, your goals should not include being given a specific role or being awarded a certain place in a competition. Instead, think of personal goals, such as practicing the splits every day, perfecting a triple pirouette, always being in class on time, or being the first one to get your pointe shoes on – whatever you personally need to work on.
If you need help developing goals we have plenty of resources on Dance Parent 101. To get you started check out our articles about SMARTe Goals for dancers. If you still can’t think of anything, contact your teachers. They’ll appreciate knowing that you want to improve and are planning on working hard. Don’t feel bad if you don’t reach your goals right away – any progress is great. Keep trying!
Review your ballet dancer’s full schedule and plan rides. Ensure that you can get your student to ballet with plenty of time to prepare (get dressed, put her hair in a bun, fill up water, and warm up). Contact the other ballet parents and arrange carpools if possible. If you don’t know any other parents, talk to the teachers or studio owner. They’re there to help you as well as your dancer! Make sure your child knows the plan.
If your dancer is new to doing her own ballet bun, have her start practicing at home. And if she’s not old enough to do it herself yet, make sure someone will be able to do it before class. Don’t expect her teacher or another student to do her hair. For tips and a tutorial check out the Dance Parent 101 Youtube channel here.
If your child does not have a ballet journal, consider getting (or making) one. It’s a great way to track goals, workouts, thoughts, dream variations to learn, favorite recipes, and more. It will also be a fun memento as your ballet dancer grows up, and when she or he is feeling discouraged, you can look back and show that they’ve made real progress.
Check in with your dancer and if necessary, help them come up with some goals for the ballet season ahead. Make sure they’re attainable and appropriate. And if they involve at-home practice, set up a safe place to work. If you are not sure where to start with goal setting you might like to investigate SMARTe goals for dancers here on Dance Parent 101.
Your ballet dancer should start getting back into shape. This should include ballet-appropriate strengthening, cardio, and stretching exercises. If your dancer is en pointe, she should dig out those old pre-pointe exercises too. Help her or him come up with a plan. If necessary, give GENTLE reminders to keep your dancer on track. This is for their safety! You can review my post here if you need help convincing your ballerina (or yourself).
If your ballet dancer is resistant, consider making a reward chart. For example, after exercising for 7 days, she or he gets to pick a fun treat, for younger dancers it may be picking a special ballet movie to watch (Have you seen Barbie in the Nutcracker? So fun – and it has a great message!), a ballet memento, or a new sticker for his or her water bottle. For older dancers it may be a new leotard or even the promise of a private lesson throughout the season. It also might help to talk to other parents and get kids from their ballet class working together over zoom or in person. Get creative – this is important!
One week before ballet starts
Start stocking up on healthy snacks to send to the studio and healthy food for meals. Ballet dancers need the right nutrients to keep going! Put your whole schedule on a calendar that everyone can access. Don’t forget to schedule homework time and time to work on ballet at home.
Continue to work on increasing your strength, stamina, and flexibility so you’re ready for class! Go through your journal and update any goals you are working towards.
Two days before ballet starts
Pack your ballet bag. Gather all the shoes & clothes you need and then all those extras: hair stuff, extra leotard, tights, and socks, sewing kit, muscle rub, water bottle, healthy snack (in something that won’t crush), any toiletries you need – for example, sticky bandages, tape or wrap, medicine, deodorant, sanitary items, ballet journal, and something to do if you have downtime.
Check your dancer’s ballet bag. If necessary, make a checklist and hang it on his or her bedroom wall. Print out the full schedule so everyone knows what’s going on! Make sure everyone has all necessary contact information in their phone, including contacts at the studio and anyone involved in giving rides.
If you don’t already have one, consider getting a well-ventilated box or basket where ballet slippers and pointe shoes can be stored overnight so they can air out but won’t get lost. Nothing is worse than a bag full of sweaty slippers, and it’s better for the shoes as well. You can check out a variety of dance and ballet bags here on our resource page.
After ballet starts
Be sure you’re getting to class with plenty of time to get dressed, do your hair, warm up, and stretch. During class, be sure to drink plenty of water and speak up if you have questions. Your teachers want to know that you’re paying attention! Listen to other students’ corrections and apply them to your own technique. After class, take time to stretch, cool down, and roll out anything that’s sore.
If any physical or mental issues arise, don’t be shy about talking to your parents or teacher. Problems never get better by ignoring them!
Ask about ballet and listen. Be on the lookout for any behavior/attitude changes. Especially early in the year. Is the class too easy or too hard? Are there personality clashes with teachers or other students? Be prepared to speak with the teacher if necessary. I know a family who ended up leaving a studio after discovering that the teacher was bullying students. Make sure your dancer doesn’t think it’s normal to be yelled at and belittled during class. Corrections are good. Bullying is absolutely not OK.
Help your ballet dancer get into good habits. In the evenings, remind her or him to do any necessary conditioning and get ready for the next day. For example, she or he should get their ballet bag ready by airing out shoes, replacing anything in their bag that’s been used (such as snacks or backup tights), taking out the used leotard and tights and replacing them with fresh ones. In the morning, remind him or her to put their ballet shoes back in the bag. Most of all, remember to encourage and support with gentleness and understanding. You want ballet to be an activity your child loves, not resents.
Further Questions and Reading
I hope these tips help you have a fun, safe ballet season. If you have any questions, the best place to ask is in the Dance Parent 101 Facebook group which you can join here!
But in the meantime some other articles you might be interested in could be:
How many years of dance or ballet does it take to be a professional?
Parents Guide to choosing the Best Shoes For Ballet Class
Tips on choosing the best dance classes for your dance Child!
Choose the Best Dance School For Your Child: Ultimate Parents Guide
Is it OK to take Dance or Ballet Lessons at Different Studios?
Everything You Need to Know About Buying Pointe Shoes for Ballet!