Five, six, seven, eight … is called out frequently in dance studios as teachers instruct their students. What happens beyond that count is more than a string of movements and steps.
“Our faculty teaches students that a strong work ethic, dedication, determination. and a desire to excel will achieve outstanding results carrying over in every aspect of life,” Nanette Vallas, director for The Studio Ballet School in Norwalk, explains. “[They] also encourage and inspire [students] to continually challenge themselves, take risks, and go for it.”
When a child regularly attends dance classes, the benefits reaped can be far reaching.
“Dance can have a powerful impact in children’s daily lives because it is both a physical activity, and a vehicle for self-expression,” says Ginna Ortiz, director of New England Academy of Dance in New Canaan. “Dance gives children a freedom to move in a way that reflects their uniqueness, and that is everything!”
Dance education teaches kids how to take care of their bodies, respect for their fellow dancers, and important life lessons, according to Ortiz. “Students learn hard life lessons, like how to deal with disappointment, and to set and accomplish big goals,” she notes. “Often, after a year of dance training, the anxiety of bad timing and looking awkward starts to fade away as you learn new movements, gain confidence, and break through the fear. You begin to recognize your potential and greatness, honor your dreams and after multiple years, you see dancers push themselves harder, reach for higher goals and become fearless.”
Ortiz says that witnessing lifelong friendships dancers make with one another and keep after they graduate with teachers and peers is gratifying.
“[Dance classes] encourage self-expression, laughter, camaraderie, leadership, commitment, and teamwork,” Carrie Pin, director of MacDonald-Pin Dancers, LLC in Ridgefield, adds.
Pin holds Broadway dance camps, giving students the ability to choreograph their own piece and prepare for a performance in a tight timeframe.
“Working on their own piece helps them develop self-confidence, brings out their creative side, allows them to understand the collaboration between music and movement in order to make a statement through dance, and then gives them a solo, rather than a group, opportunity to perform their choreography for an audience,” Pin explains.
At the Walter Schalk School of Dance in Wilton, students perform in an annual revue, heightening their abilities and building their onstage presence.
“Performing the end of season revues gives the children not only a goal to shoot for during their season but a sense of accomplishment ending with a grand production where they rise to their ability to perform and entertain,” Walter Schalk, owner, explains.
Schalk’s studio began with a handful of ballroom dancers, and has evolved to include other types of dance, although ballroom remains popular and instills invaluable lessons.
“Learning to dance also includes learning proper etiquette such as making introductions, proper handshakes and eye contact, remembering names, escorting a partner, and asking one to dance,” Schalk comments.
Schalk has received multiple ‘thank you notes’ from past students, explaining how dance changed their lives.
One of Schalk’s students wrote on her college essay, “It’s given me the chance to express myself through performing. In the Walter Schalk School of Dance I gained self-confidence, self-esteem, and poise. For the rest of my life, I will cherish what it has done for me.”
In addition to the immeasurable values dance instills in a child, the actual skills students derive from dance are widely acknowledged by many. Vallas recalls that she once asked an Ivy League college admissions director how they make decisions when all candidates are superb.
“She relayed how difficult it could be, but if several candidates had similar qualifications but one studied dance they would take the dancer, as they already understood commitment, determination, focus, and a strong work ethic,” says Vallas, whose dancers have gone on to dance in major ballet companies and study in pre-professional programs.
“I am often told that dancers are among the best people to hire for employment in a variety of fields, from the arts to business, finance and beyond,” Ortiz concludes. “Students with classical ballet training hold strong qualities such as being teachable, flexible, fast learners, always come prepared, work hard and are great team players. All great qualities to have as you enter the working field and face life’s everyday challenges.”
477 Main St., Monroe
500 Monroe Turnpike # K, Monroe
Darien School of Dance
49 Old Kings Highway North, Darien
Flash Pointe Dance
1657 Post Rd., Fairfield
Just Dance School of Performing Arts
120 Clapboard Ridge Road, Danbury
Lee Lund Studio of Dance
13 Factory Lane, Milford
Lori’s Center Stage Dance Studio
10 Federal Rd, Danbury
195 Danbury Rd, Ridgefield
Monroe Dance Academy
838 Main St., Monroe
New England Academy of Dance
231 Main St., New Canaan
Ridgefield Conservatory of Dance
440 Main St., Ridgefield
Ridgefield School of Dance
66 Grove St., Ridgefield
Rockwell Dance Center
18 Lindeman Dr., Trumbull
Studio D, Monroe
380 Monroe Turnpike
Center One Eleven Shopping Plaza, Monroe, 203-445-8090
The Studio Ballet School
509 Westport Ave., Norwalk
Walter Schalk School of Dance
Darien, New Canaan, and Wilton
Wilton Dance Studio
941 Danbury Road, Wilton