If you’ve got a young dancer who eats, sleeps, and breathes ballet, they are probably looking for more opportunities to incorporate it into their lives! On the other hand, if you’ve got a dancer who might need some encouragement in ballet, you may be seeking some advice to help them improve.
To help your dancer improve in ballet, you can encourage practicing at home, provide entertainment that focuses on ballet, create a dedicated space to practice ballet, and use vocabulary flashcards or games to facilitate learning!
Dancers who only think about dance at the studio may have fun while they’re there, but dancers who incorporate it into other parts of their lives have a better chance of improving their skills and their understanding of the art.
You can play a part in helping your dancer improve by following some of these steps!
1. Encourage Practicing At Home
Dancers are always told they need to stretch and practice ballet at home, but some might need more encouragement from a parent to actually follow through! While there is no substitute for in-class training, at-home practice will only help dancers improve!
Generally, young dancers will benefit the most from focusing on a few key elements of ballet when practicing at home on their own.
You can help by suggesting and overseeing the following types of exercises: exercises for turn out, exercises for strong feet and ankles, and exercises for good posture.
Ballet Exercises at Home for Turn Out
Dancers are always fretting over their turn out (that is, the rotation of their hips in the sockets). While we never want to force turn out, there are ways to improve it even if your dancer has tight hips.
Most dancers never achieve that 180-degree turn out that we desire, but with the right exercises, all dancers can find their safe, maximum turn out. For the best exercises for turnout, click here!
Ballet Exercises at Home for Strong Feet and Ankles
Strong feet and ankles quite literally support dancers in turns, balances, and jumps. Many young dancers don’t take nearly enough hours of class to strengthen their feet to their fullest potential and must make it a priority to practice at home to really see a difference in class.
The best part about some of the exercises for strong feet and ankles is that you can do them anywhere, no ballet barre or mirror required. Find out more about how to strengthen ankles and feet here!
Ballet Exercises at Home for Good Posture
Nothing says, “I’m a ballet dancer,” quite like perfect posture! But, many dancers (myself included) have to be reminded about our posture often!
If all you do is nag your dancer about their posture, you are unlikely to see any difference, but with concentrated effort to strengthen the core and back muscles that are needed for good posture, everyone will notice that beautiful ballet “look”!
Check out our favorite exercises for good posture here!
2. Provide Entertainment That Focuses on Ballet
If you are struggling with the idea of more screen time for your dancer, I would encourage you to re-frame these options as “continuing education”.
Especially if you have a dancer who would love to be taking more classes, but perhaps can’t due to finances or schedule, allowing whatever screen time you offer to include ballet-focused content may satiate that desire to be surrounded by ballet in a cost-effective way!
Most kids can navigate streaming platforms better than some adults, but when it comes to finding ballet-focused entertainment that’s appropriate for children, it can take a little digging. Luckily, we’ve got you covered with some suggestions, including tv shows, movies, and books for all ages!
Ballet TV Shows
The selection of ballet-focused tv shows that are appropriate for kids is slim, so be sure to check the ratings before allowing kids to watch just anything that has a ballerina in the advertisement (I’m looking at you, Flesh and Bone).
But, there are a few quality programs that are available, and that can help keep the conversation going about ballet even after class.
For the little ones, the tried and true Angelina Ballerina, which you can find on Amazon, Peacock and Netflix in the US, still stands the test of time even though the shows were first released in 2002.
Angelina Ballerina: The Next Steps
Angelina Ballerina: The Next Steps, a four-season continuation of the original, can also be found on Peacock and Netflix. Angelina is a delightful young mouse who loves ballet, and with six seasons total between the two shows, your little dancer will have plenty to watch!
Tween and teen dancers will appreciate On Pointe, a documentary series on Disney+ that follows young dancers at the School of American Ballet in New York City as they audition and rehearse for the New York City Ballet’s production of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker.
Luckily, there is a larger selection of ballet movies out there to choose from, although many do require a small rental fee. Watching content that reflects the world they love will only inspire dancers to want to improve, work harder, and dream bigger.
Barbie in the Pink Shoes
Tiny dancers will enjoy Barbie in the Pink Shoes, which used motion capture of real dancers to help animate the ballet sequences, as well as storylines from actual ballets.
This movie might even be a jumping-off point for exploring the ballets that are covered, including Giselle and Swan Lake.
Leap! also titled Ballerina, is a great animated choice for older children. It follows a young French orphan, Felicie, who faces challenge after challenge, but dreams of being a ballerina.
A Ballerina’s Tale
Dancers of all ages should watch A Ballerina’s Tale, the documentary film about Misty Copeland, American Ballet Theatre’s first African-American principal dancer.
Not only does this film detail Copeland’s struggles and triumphs, it gives a good overview of the history of ballet (something many studios don’t have time to include in class, but is incredibly important to learn).
Tales of Beatrix Potter
Tales of Beatrix Potter by The Royal Ballet may have been filmed in 1971, but it hasn’t aged at all. Performed by what was then the most prestigious ballet company in Great Britain, Tales of Beatrix Potter tells the stories of Peter Rabbit and friends through stunning ballet and impeccable costumes.
Books about ballet are much easier to find than tv shows, and are a great way to keep your child’s love of ballet growing! This list includes picture books for the youngest ballerinas, as well as chapter books for older dancers, and many can be found at your local library. Here are just a few of my favorites.
Love Is a Tutu
I’m partial to Love is a Tutu by Amy Novesky for the toddler set, because it uses real ballet terms to go along with the cute illustrations.
Pro tip – if you’re not familiar with the French pronunciation of ballet terms, Google is your friend!
Taking Flight – From War Orphan to Star Ballerina
For an excellent read for older dancers, check out Taking Flight – From War Orphan To Star Ballerina, Michaela Prince’s autobiography.
Michaela went on to be the youngest dancer ever to perform with Dance Theatre of Harlem, and has an inspirational story that will surely encourage all dancers to look at their training through a different eye.
For more articles about books about dance check ou
The Ultimate List of Dance and Ballet Picture Books for Children by Age
Great Dance and Ballet Books for boys!
The Best Dance & Ballet Fiction Book List for Kids by Age with Links!
Best Books about Jazz Dance & Music for Kids!
The Best Books About Tap Dance for Every Age
3. Create a Home Studio
Along with encouragement and entertainment, one of the best ways to help your dancer improve in ballet at home is to create a space for them that is dedicated to dance! Just like kids have a specific place to do their homework, a specific place for dance will keep your house orderly and will give your child a sense of ownership of their art.
Create a Dance Space in a Small Space
A dedicated dance space doesn’t have to be elaborate if you don’t have the room to spare.
From simple, portable dance floors that you can store under beds or behind couches, to DIY barres that can be whipped up in an afternoon, there are lots of ways to create a special spot for your ballerina’s practicing. Here are a few of our favorite tips for how to put a home dance studio in a small space.
Create a Dance Space in a Whole Room
If you do have the ability to go all out, make sure you read our in-depth article How To Build a Home Dance Studio. There, you will find tips including the best flooring to consider, how to soundproof the space, and what kind of mirrors to install.
A home dance studio will serve your dancer for years to come and is a great way to help ensure they will always have a safe place to dance.
4. Ballet Vocabulary Flashcards and Games
Ballet, like many subjects, requires a certain level of memorization of terms. If your child attends a reputable dance studio, their ballet class will include the proper French terminology for the steps.
Most studios won’t ever get around to teaching the spelling of the ballet terms, but for young dancers who may be interested in furthering their study of ballet past the studio setting, knowing how to recognize and spell ballet terminology will come in handy!
These ballet flashcards are very thorough, with 40 cards that include a picture as well as the definition of the term. They are designed for ages 8 and up.
This ballet memory game plays just like a normal game of memory, but with ballet pictures and terms! It includes 30 cards, for 15 pairs of terms. This game would be great for any dancer who is learning the basics of ballet.
For young dancers, this ballerina activity book includes coloring pages, word searches, I Spy puzzles and more!
Of course, you can always ask your child’s ballet teacher for more ideas, or make up your own ballet games! The more engaging you can be with your child about ballet, the more enjoyment you will both get out of it as they continue to improve!
Helping your dancer improve in ballet takes just a little extra attention, and hopefully, these tips provide you with some guidance in the right direction. Happy dancing!