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How to Prepare Your Dancer for a Smooth Return to Ballet & Dance Class

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After taking some time off from dance or ballet class, your dancer is ready to return to the studio. Whether they’ve taken a break to recover from an injury, spend a carefree summer break, or take virtual classes, the transition back to in-studio instruction will be a change for them. They might feel a little rusty after time away from dance class or experience first-day-back jitters.

Whatever the case is, you want to be a good dance parent and help your student through this transition. But the truth is, you’ve taken some time away too! You might also need a few pointers and tips as you get back in the swing of the dance season.

That’s where we come in! We’ve got plenty of tips and tricks to prepare your dancer for their return to classes to set them up for success. To ensure both you and your dancer are ready for what lies ahead, be sure to: 

With the right mindset and proper preparation, you can help your dancer dive right back in as if they never spent any time away. Ready to learn more? Let’s get started. 

1. Establish contact with the dance studio/teacher.

The dance studio director or instructors will be the ones delivering updates, class schedules, tuition reminders, and more throughout the season. It’s important to establish lines of communication with them and submit all necessary information before the season begins. 

The studio owners and dance teachers will need you to confirm which classes your dancer is going to be taking and likewise, you need to find out if and when those classes are being held. Certain aspects might have changed since you were last there such as class offerings, class sizes, class times, levels, and more. Missing information or miscommunications could lead to your student potentially not being able to participate, so be sure to make contact ahead of time. 

In addition, make sure you’ve sent in all the student information the ballet or dance studio needs such as medical history, allergy information, and costume size. Also, double-check that you’ve signed all required waivers and forms. This ensures that your student is fully ready to participate in classes. 

2. Sign up for all social & communication services

This is also a good time to sign up for the communication channels your ballet or dance studio has to offer. For example, many dance studios offer comprehensive dance studio mobile apps with class listings, teacher notes, mobile payments, and push notifications. You can use the app to stay up-to-date on any schedule changes and submit tuition payments right from your phone, making the process much easier and more convenient. 

Your dance school will most likely also have an email and/or call list—make sure they’ve got your most updated information so they can reach you with important information. 

We know you don’t want to be that helicopter parent who’s constantly badgering the studio for updates or specific information about your student’s progress, but you do want to stay informed so by following the action steps in this tip you won’t miss out on anything essential!

3. Review your dance studio’s policies.

Whether your dancer is joining a brand-new studio or returning to a studio that’s become like a second home, it’s a good idea to review the studio policies ahead of your dancer’s first day back. That way, you’ll be able to prepare your student with any new rules or regulations they need to know while familiarizing yourself with the guidelines for the upcoming season. Be sure to look into policies like:

Dress code

What will your dancer need to wear to dance class? Review your dance studio’s dress code ahead of time to ensure you have enough time to purchase gear such as:

  • Leotards 
  • Tights
  • Leggings
  • Proper shoes 
  • Hair ties
  • studio tracksuit

By preparing your student with your studio’s preferred dance attire, you can avoid having to scramble right before classes start or sending your child to class without the right clothes. 

Dance studio rules and policies

Studios generally have rules regarding student conduct, participation, discipline, attendance, competitions, and the recital. Make sure your dancer is familiar with the studio rules and expectations so there are no surprises when you return to classes.

The attendance policy for many schools especially if your child is preparing for exams or is in a dance or competition team is a guideline often overlooked but is very important. Regular attendance is crucial for the growth and development of a dancer. It also ensures that they know the choreography for their competition and recital dances. Having frequently absent students is challenging for a dance teacher, as it can put the whole class behind. 

Make sure you check the costs of everything as well. Lessons may have gone up, or the studio now has a different way of charging for their lessons. They may have a new policy about makeup classes and illness or require you to pay enrollment fees or other fees you did not have to pay in the past.

Reviewing this information before the first day of class ensures that you and your dancer are on the same page and that they’re prepared to jump right back into the studio environment.

Covid dance studio safety practices

If your dancer is going back to in-studio classes after lockdowns and studio closures due to COVID-19, your dance or ballet school is probably going to have a few new procedures for you and your dancer to follow. It is quite common for studios to limit the number of parents within their buildings and therefore opt for front door drop-off and pick-ups.

Your dancer may be required to use hand sanitizer upon entering the building, may be asked to wear a face mask, and follow social distancing rules. Your studio might also insist on keeping dancers at home when they are ill, even with the mildest of symptoms to ensure everyone stays safe and healthy. I know of some schools that discourage parents from hanging around the front of the building and chatting and ask them to stay in their cars until the dancers are ready to exit to ensure social distancing practices are followed as much as possible!

TIP: For younger dancers, you can practice things like wearing a mask while dancing at home to get them comfortable with the new regulations.

4. Discuss going back to dance with your dancer

Once you have spoken with your dance studio, are signed in to all the communication apps, and have reviewed the ballet or dance studio rules and guidelines it is time to sit down and have a chat with your dancer. (You might like to choose to do this first, but it is good to be armed with the information first)

As grown-ups, we seem to forget that we have all the information about their lessons – what time they are, what days, who the teacher will be, what time we have to leave, how much we might be sacrificing to pay for the lessons and more. Sometimes we can offhandedly tell our dancers some of these details, thinking that they are going to memorize them all just like we have only to find come they have totally forgotten everything come ballet class day. So it is important to get their attention and eye contact when you want to confirm with them that – Yes they absolutely want to go back and understand that they are committing to their lessons for the period you are paying for.

After a break or period away from dance class, your child might feel differently about going back and if you don’t give them the chance to express how they are feeling well before going back you may come up with some trepidation or word resistance when classes do actually start back.

5. Try on dance gear for sizing

In the last tip we reminded you to review your dance or ballet studio’s dress or uniform code before going back to classes, but what is really important is making sure the gear you do have still fits your dancer. If your little ballerina or tapper is little, they grow quite quickly and so the tights that fit them last season may not do so now. Too small leotards will cut into shoulders and skirts, shorts and warm wraps can be too short.

Most important, is to try on any dance shoes you have, as you will most likely find that these no longer fit your dancer! Getting new shoes can be expensive and so you may need the extra time that preparing in advance affords you to find second-hand ones before classes start back.

6. Prepare for unexpected circumstances. 

All dance parents know that no dance season goes completely perfectly. The trick is to take the challenges in stride and have a game plan for unexpected obstacles.

For instance, although you’re preparing your student to return to fully in-person dance classes, there may be unexpected future circumstances that require your dancer to stay home for the day. From a snow day to car problems to a virus surge, we’ve all faced unforeseen issues from time to time. 

Many teachers now have the technology to switch to virtual dance classes in these circumstances, but the question is do you have the set up to be able to accommodate online virtual dance classes? However some teachers and studios are unable to provide this kind of tuition but with the growth of virtual dance classes and on-demand content, it’s never been easier to keep your dancer engaged at home. You can investigate online dance lessons, YouTube videos, or any pre-recorded content your studio offers. 

Be sure to maintain a home practice space for these dance-from-home days, such as a clear area in your basement or spare room. These measures ensure that when your student does eventually return to in-person classes, they will not have missed a beat. 

There are also plenty of unexpected issues that arise in the day-to-day course of being a dance parent. From your dancer ripping a hole in their tights to not being able to find a single hairpin, all dance parents find themselves in a crisis from time to time. 

To help prepare for these issues before they happen, be sure to keep a few accessories on hand such as bobby pins, hairspray, a sewing kit, or extra tights. Creating a small kit or tote bag with extra accessories can help you prepare for roadblocks before they happen this season.

7. Emphasize conditioning to prevent injury. 

Conditioning basically means staying in shape because, in the world of dance, the possibility of injuries can never be fully eliminated. Dancers conduct complicated movements and demanding jumps, turns, and sometimes even cartwheels and other inversions. Awkward landings, tripping, rolled ankles, and missteps all have the potential to cause injury. 

Nevertheless, there are plenty of ways to help your student mitigate the chance of injury as they return to in-person classes. For instance, you can encourage your dancer to check out free online fitness classes to help strengthen their muscles and build endurance. Here are examples of home workouts your dancer can do to boost their resiliency:

  • Yoga to build core strength and improve balance.
  • Pilates to tone and lengthen muscles.
  • Stretching routines to boost flexibility and reduce soreness.
  • HIIT training or other cardio workouts to boost energy and build endurance. 

Encourage your dancer to focus on staying in shape at home by providing them with the equipment they need such as a foam roller, yoga mat, and stretch band. Establish a routine now that your dancer can follow outside of class to help them avoid injuries in the upcoming season. 

8. Get involved in dance studio activities.

Even before you step back into the studio, the dance school community itself can provide a great resource for support and friendship. By getting involved with studio activities and events even before you go back can show your support for your dancer’s interests. You could engage in activities such as:

  • Helping out with studio fundraisers. Plenty of dance studios turn to fundraisers to help raise money for competitions, costumes, or student tuition fees for students from low-income families. You can show support by contributing a few unique fundraising ideas like those in this guide. You can even help implement a few ideas that get the dancers themselves involved, like the ideas in 99Pledges’ guide to fundraising ideas for kids. These include a color run, dance-a-thon, or bake sale. 
  • Organize or attend social gatherings with other dance parents. Your fellow dance caregivers provide not only a source of friendship but also offer critical support throughout the season. For example, wherever you inevitably forget your extra tights or can’t figure out the complicated hairstyle needed for recital day, your fellow dance parents can step in and help out. By forming these relationships, you might even meet a lifelong friend or two!
  • Assisting with studio marketing. According to DanceStudio-Pro’s dance studio marketing overview, proper marketing is critical to help grow dance communities and keep studios in business. You can support these efforts by referring the studio to any friends, family members, or neighbors with kids who are looking to join a dance studio. If you feel so inclined, you can also give your studio a positive review on Google or Facebook to help boost their brand image. 

All of these activities show your dancer that you’re engaged and supportive of their passions. And, when you help with activities that enhance the studio such as fundraising and marketing, you can help contribute to a more thriving studio community. This ultimately benefits your dancer and their fellow students. 

9. Be positive and encouraging. 

Our last piece of advice is to stay positive and supportive, not only as your dancer first gets started with classes, but also throughout the season. 

If you have a younger dancer, there may be times where they express anxiety around returning to classes or even say they want to quit. Or, if you have an older student, they may face tough feedback from their instructor after a break or struggle to nail down a piece of choreography because their motor skills and muscle memory are not what they were previously. These are all common problems and feelings that arise whether a dancer is brand-new to dance classes or is a returning student coming back from a break. 

When these issues occur, be sure to stay calm and maintain an upbeat tone. Sit down with your dancer to get to the root of the concerns. For example, if a child expresses that they want to quit their dance classes, there’s usually an underlying issue going on such as stage fright, anxiety, fear of failure, or not getting along with their fellow dancers. 

Listen to your dancer to help them work through these problems and rediscover their love of dance. Remind them that you’re proud of them no matter what and that messing up a move or a part of the routine is not the end of the world. You can also get in touch with their instructor if you think there’s anything they can do to help such as giving advice for stage fright or providing extra encouragement. 

By showing your dancer that you’re on their side and you’re there to help, they can enter the upcoming season with greater confidence. 

As the saying goes, failing to prepare is preparing to fail. By establishing regular routines, supporting your dancer, and encouraging positivity, you can help them prepare for the return of classes and hit the ground running. Good luck and have fun!