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What To Expect From Your Child’s First Lyrical Dance Class

By Lesley Mealor / Edited by Samantha Bellerose, B.Ed, Dip.Dance (Performing Arts)

Do you have an emotional child who loves to turn on Moana and dramatically dance around the house to “How Far I’ll Go”? Or maybe they already take ballet, but are looking for something more expressive. If any of this sounds familiar,  you might want to consider lyrical dance classes for your child! 

Lyrical dance combines elements of ballet and jazz, and the focus is on storytelling through movement and emotional connection to the lyrics of a song. Lyrical classes for children range from 45 minutes to an hour in length, and start around age 8.

Originating in the late 1970s, lyrical dance has long been a favorite style for those wishing to dive into expressive and emotional movement and themes. Because lyrical is always evolving, it is never too late to add a lyrical class to your child’s schedule and explore the benefits it has to offer!

Why Choose Lyrical Dance?

Lyrical dance is unique because it was created as a fusion of styles – ballet and jazz. You might choose lyrical for your child because they’re already familiar with some of the concepts that are taught in their ballet and jazz classes, like leaping, jumping, and turning.

Another reason you may choose a lyrical dance class is due to your child’s personality. Ballet can feel a bit slow and stuffy to an energetic child, while jazz might feel too sharp and precise for a more mellow child. Lyrical appeals to many dancers because of the combination of both ballet and jazz steps.

Finally, lyrical dance allows for a wide range of emotional expression. Most of the time, lyrical dances are performed to ballads, and involve storylines of love, joy, hope, or loss. If your child loves to express their feelings, lyrical might be the best style of dance to allow for this expression! 

Alternatively, if you have a more reserved child, lyrical could help them come out of their shell and feel comfortable expressing themselves through movement. 

How Old Does My Child Have To Be To Start Taking Lyrical Dance?

Most dance studios will allow dancers to begin taking lyrical dance classes at age 8, but usually in conjunction with other styles, specifically ballet and jazz. Because lyrical is a fusion style, it’s important for dancers to have a basic level of understanding of the two styles it comes from. 

How is Lyrical Class Different From Ballet Class?

The main difference between a lyrical class and a ballet class is that lyrical classes do not utilize the barre like in ballet class. Lyrical classes will often begin in the center with a warm up including some ballet concepts, like pliés and tendus, as well as stretching.

Lyrical borrows concepts like turn out, port de bras, and many of the classical ballet steps and allows for a more expressive way of performing the steps. Lyrical takes a classical ballet step and modifies it with a jazz line, or performs it to a piece of pop music. 

In lyrical class, you will find much more emphasis on individual creative expression than in ballet class. Often in lyrical classes, dancers will be asked to improvise during a section of class and come up with their own movements. 

How is A Lyrical Class Structured?

A beginner lyrical class will last from 45 minutes to an hour, and will be broken up into several sections – warm up, across the floor progressions, and center combination. If the lyrical class comes after a different class, the warm up might be cut short since the dancers will have already warmed up.

A lyrical warm up will include ballet concepts as well as jazz concepts, with a focus on breath and fluidity. Additionally, there may be some elements of strengthening along with stretching on the floor, again depending on whether some of these concepts have been covered in an earlier class.

Across the floor progressions in a lyrical class may include turn sequences, floor work, different kinds of traveling footwork patterns, and leaps and jumps. Most teachers require dancers to practice going across the floor on both sides so they can perfect the skills evenly on the right and the left.

Finally, a center combination will be taught each week that includes some of the concepts that were worked on across the floor. Sometimes a combination will be used for several classes in a row to facilitate retention. At many studios, this time is used to teach and rehearse a recital dance. 

What Steps Should My Child Be Learning in a Beginner Lyrical Class?

Beginner lyrical dancers should be learning a wide variety of steps, but it’s a catch-22 – since there is no codified lyrical syllabus, most teachers have their own idea of what steps should be taught in a lyrical class. Here is a list of some of the most common steps that lyrical dance uses; keep in mind this is not an exhaustive list!

Chaîné Turn

Chaîné turns are usually done in a series, and involves stepping out on one foot, and in on the other foot to allow the dancer to continuously turn in one direction.

Pas de Bourrée

Pas de bourrées can be done in both ballet and jazz, and both kinds are utilized in lyrical as traveling steps. Seen here is a jazz pas de bourrée.

Triplet

A triplet step is a traveling step that can be done in any direction, and begins by stepping up on the ball of the first foot and the second foot, and stepping down into plie on the third step, in a triplet rhythm.

Compass Turn

A compass turn is executed by standing on one leg and rotating on that leg, while the other leg points out to the side, keeping the toes on the floor.

Fan Kick

A fan kick uses one leg to cross diagonally across the body and lift up and over in front of the body, creating a fan-like effect. Fan kicks often come out of chaîné turns.

Rolls to the Floor

Lyrical dance often includes floor work, and rolling to the floor out of a skill is a good start. 

What Shoes Should My Child Wear to Lyrical Class?

When taking lyrical class, dancers have several shoe options to choose from. They may dance barefoot if the studio allows. Lyrical shoes called half-soles are currently the most popular kind of shoe, and are made of leather or stretch canvas and cover the front half of the foot, with an elastic strap around the heel. 

Dance paws, or foot paws are also another option for lyrical dance. These types of shoes cover only the ball of the foot and have holes cut out for each toe. 

Finally, you may be allowed to wear either ballet or jazz shoes to lyrical class. Check with your studio for their requirements, and be sure to check out our article detailing the best shoes for lyrical dance!

What Clothing Should My Child Wear to Lyrical Class?

Lyrical class attire can range from leotards and tights, to leggings and crop tops depending on your studio’s requirements. Just like in ballet and jazz, lyrical dance requires the teacher to be able to see the lines of a dancer’s body, and form fitting dance attire is the best choice.

If your child is looking for another dance class to add to their schedule, consider lyrical dance! Lyrical quickly becomes a favorite among young dancers, and there is always more to learn as dancers progress. If you’re still not sold on lyrical, check out our other in depth articles on other styles of dance here!