20 January 2023
There is no set age for children to start ballet. Every child develops at a different pace and you will know if your child is suited or keen to try. Some schools offer trial or drop-in lessons which are helpful in finding out if it suits your child and if they are ready.
There are ballet classes for children as young as 18 months old. Toddlers can explore rhythm and movement in group settings with parents present throughout. It's great fun for the children and can give them confidence. Although they may be doing free dance, toddlers learn to move in time to the music.
Infant School Age
When kids are turning 5 they can begin to understand instructions to learn the basics of ballet. They can remember the movements and learn and build on the basic techniques. These include standing correctly, movement, and turnout of feet. Starting at 4 can help children develop the discipline, core strength and love of ballet.
Kids can sit ballet exams from the age of 7. The Royal Academy of Dance recommends two ballet classes a week leading up to exams. They will need to have done at least 40 hours to pass.
Until a child is 8 their bones are too soft for rigorous training. It's important to ensure the teacher is fully qualified and understands the physiology of your child otherwise there can be injuries or permanent damage. From age 8 they can begin exercises for strength and flexibility which improve their posture, core and balance. They are able to build more complicated routines and explore self-expression.
By 11 a child who wishes to pursue ballet as a career might be averaging 4 lessons a week of 1.5 hours each. They can also start full-time dancer training at specialist schools like the Royal Academy of Dance.
The earliest a child should begin pointe work is 11 although 12 or 13 may be more suitable for the individual. This is when their bones are hard enough to withstand their body weight on the end of their toes. Although they may not be able to feel an injury to soft pliable bones when younger it can cause permanent injury that is revealed in later years. Teachers will advise on individual children and X-rays can even be used to determine whether a child is ready. Also, pointe work is not comfortable and children need to be very focused to avoid falls. They need to be committed to at least 2 classes a week and it can take 6 months to strengthen the feet and ankles for pointe work. You need to be doing ballet regularly to do pointe.
It is never too late to start ballet and even professional ballet dancers may not have started until 10 or 12. Mikhail Baryshnikov started when he was 11. There are so many physical and emotional benefits. Classes are immensely enjoyable whether or not your children wish to pursue it professionally.