When it comes to enrolling children in athletics, most parents are not aware of the many benefits of ballet, not realizing this is also a mentally and physically-demanding activity.
Traditionally thought of for girls, ballet offers a number of benefits for children–including boys– and those of all ages.
Ballet is an artistic dance form primarily used to tell a story or convey an emotion. This style of dance has roots back into the Italian Renaissance courts of the 15th century, and the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre indicates ballet dancing was considered an intricate part of important celebrations. During that point of history, anyone of nobility was instructed in the art of dance.
In the modern world, this dance is used more as a form of expression, and while the years have refined the steps and the movements, the health benefits of ballet have not disappeared.
Just as it was hundreds of years ago, ballet requires a strength of body and mind.
Health benefits of ballet for children
Not surprisingly, ballet provides the body with the same benefits as other forms of dance and strength training.
According to the National Dance Education Organization, ballet improves range of motion, coordination, endurance and strength — more so than most other physical activities.
Children can also take advantage of other benefits of ballet such as improved posture, flexibility, coordination, strength and grace.
But the benefits of ballet don’t stop there.
Data from the research study “Sexy Dolls, Sexy Grade-Schoolers? Media & Maternal Influences on Young Girls’ Self-Sexualization,” which looked at how young girls in the U.S. viewed their ideal image, found girls enrolled in dance such as ballet were less likely to pick sexualized dolls as how they wanted to look when they were older.
“None of the young dancers in this study chose the sexualized doll for their actual self, whereas most of the (other) girls did,” the researchers noted. “One possible explanation is that girls and women involved in physical activities are less prone to sexualization because they become aware that their bodies can be used for other purposes besides looking sexy or attractive to others.”
That self-awareness and subsequent self-confidence are a part of the mental benefits of ballet in children.
The Child Development Institute indicates kids who participate in ballet learn to follow instructions, set goals, gain pride in their accomplishments, understand what it means to work in a group, and learn how to manage stress.
“It’s physical activity combined with art and music. I don’t think we really appreciate the full benefit that music and creativity has on the lives of children,” Bebe Ballet director Bianca Kirk told SAKids.
“Confidence is a big one – we have very shy children who go on stage and perform in front of 600 people at the end of year concert. The great thing about ballet is that you don’t need to talk, which is good for shy kids. We use our bodies to express ourselves.”
For children, the benefits of ballet combine all those associated with sports as well as those linked to the arts; with dance, movement is about expression.
This is why parents should consider the benefits of ballet when looking at athletic programs for their children.
What about the negative side of ballet?
There is some concern among parents about the negative stereotypes associated with ballet: too-thin girls who have sacrificed bone and joint health for a chance to get to the top of the ballet world.
While it is true there are cases where dieting and self-sacrifice have caused injuries to young dancers, this can be said of any sport.
With ballet–just as with football, soccer, swimming, or track and field–moderation and a healthy approach is key.
The goal of enrolling a child in ballet is not to push him or her to the top. Let your child naturally develop talent in a healthy way.
Proper nutrition and regulated dance sessions will help prevent those stress-related injuries common among dancers and other athletes.