In the private studio dance instructor field, I’ve noticed that the biggest market out there right now is for very young children, ages 3-5 years old. Everyone wants to get their children into dance as young as possible, some even at age 2. And there is no denying the coordination, attention, and bodily awareness benefits that a child will be able to gain at that age from learning dance! However, it makes me wonder. What about all of the older children who have yet to experience instruction in dance?
At every private studio I have worked at, as the ages increase, the class size decreases. It makes sense that not all of those children who started dance at a young age will want to continue with dance for one reason or another, and many will have family circumstances change preventing them from continuing formal training in dance. But where are the children starting dance in their late childhood, early teens, or even late teens who would replace those children who’ve fallen out?
I think that the mistaken modern day perspective is that if a child does not have the flexibility, coordination, and stamina of the stretchy toddlers on “Dance Moms” it is not worth giving them an education in dance – they will simply not be good. I think this perspective is an absolute tragedy for children and teens who would benefit physically, socially, mentally, and spiritually from dance ESPECIALLY if they have not been formally trained from toddlerhood. Some of the most inventive and spectacular movers did not start dance until their late teens or early adulthood, my own dance mentor, Mark Magruder (one half of the dance duo Menagerie) did not start dancing until college. Martha Graham herself had no “formal” training until her late teens.
There is meaningful movement in all of us and until we explore it either on our own or through the help of a mentor it is a neglected part of who we are. Dance will not be, and should not be reduced to a measure of how early one can achieve the splits.