our dance program

A unique approach to dance

Kids 'N Dance 'N Theater Arts launched in Lafayette in 1996 as a Dance Center and quickly rose to become a favorite of Contra Costa families. The enthusiasm expanded when our large Oakland facility opened. What was and still remainAriels Musical Ballet Mar 2014-1585s the attraction of our dance program after over 15 years? Our program is designed to enhance children’s trust in their own creative expression while gently introducing skills. It stands alone as a unified program with a full curriculum that grows with the developmental needs of children.

So many children have a romantic impression of dance - they want to be a ballerina - but this impression along with their enthusiasm for dance frequently gets lost after a single ‘traditional’ ballet class. They are confronted with a rigid class structure, demanding strain on their bodies, and a strict belief in uniformity and exactness. Although many schools offer creative movement to remedy the need for instruction for younger dancers, few manage to do this with productive results.

Our youngest creativAriels Tap and Ballet Performance Mar 2014-1098e movement dancers wait all week for their Kids N Dance class because it is not just a class, it is an experience. They are transported into magical worlds through weekly stories with accompanying music, costumes and props to encourage imaginative participation. Little do they know that age appropriate dance skills are integrated everyday readying them for more formal instruction.

Formal dance instruction usually begins around age 6.  Our definition of formal is participating in a class that is less based on imagery. Gradually dance terms are used, steps are broken down and analyzed, and technique and form is refined in warm ups, across the floor routines, and choreography. Whether learning ballet, tap, hip-hop or contemporary dance, though, the ultimate goal is to have fun while challenging ourselves to improve. Competitiveness naturally falls by the wayside and dancers thrive. They move comfortably in their own bodies, risk exploring new movements and ultimately master new skills with pride.

our early childhood dance philosophy

It is more than just fun

IMG_0111_2Many families who find their way our Creative Movement and Pre-Ballet Classes have actively sought out an alternative to rigid classes that demand exactness of form and position. What three year old wants to stand at a bar, suck in their tummy, hold their arms “just so” and point their toe for the perfect tandu repeatedly? Very, very few. Right? On the other hand, when you pay for a class the expectation is that your child will learn and progress in a skill – after all, your kid can dance in the living room with scarves.

Our creative movement curriculum is designed to guide the growth of each child, to go beyond the living room dance experience, however we are very careful about how much individual critiquing and we provide and how much rote repetition is used to master a skill. This is not because we are inattentive to the “mistakes” children make while dancing, but because we have found that excessive feedback and drilling doesn’t support the growth of a skill and often backfires.

If a child is asked to leap from two feet to one foot and they end up simply hopping, we will tell them once to try it the other way, but if they can’t change it, they usually are just not yet able to accomplish it. Often it is a developmental issue and growth will come in time and practice, but not repeated practice in that one moment. Imagine the frustration of being asked to master something that is impossible to achieve. It is damaging to self-esteem and hinders the willingness to Lizs Ballet and Musical Theatre Mar 2014-1251experiment to help build the gross motor skill that will allow for landing on one foot. If however, your child is just on the cusp of being able to land on one foot, and repetition would help, they get the opportunity to practice that skill throughout the class – starting with leaping over the animals, progressing into a warm up, and then somewhere in the dance story adventure. The opportunities are presented, hints are provided, and the skill is demonstrated by peers and the teacher. Then, all of a sudden while leaping from an imaginary log over a stream while being chased by a dragon, you see your child jump from two feet to one! The mastery happens!

The untrained eye might just focus on what is not being taught while leaping over animals, but miss what is happening throughout the rest of the class and over time. We ask that you take your own leap of faith and trust that learning is happening in the midst of the fun of our classes.

Our mission also includes the belief that children should be encouraged to dance, but never forced. If they are embarrassed or uncomfortable in any way they are permitted to sit out until they feel comfortable. This allows children to experience the joy movement instead of being uncomfortable with thier experience. This, however, does not mean Kids 'N Dance has overly permissive classes - children are expected to be functioning members of a group. If it becomes clear that a child is not able to engage on a regular basis, instructors and parents strategize together to encourage participation.  Kids 'N Dance instructors make conscious efforts to blend gentleness with appropriate expectations.