By Samantha “Miss Sam” Gobeille, Director Arizona Dance Artistry
I get asked this question all the time, “How many classes a week should my dancer take?”. The answer is not the same for everyone. Children starting class at the age of 2yrs start to form their interest in music, activity, movement and class structure. If they enjoy it, there is nothing wrong with adding a 2nd class weekly. By the age of 6yrs, if a child enjoys dancing I strongly recommend two classes weekly. At this age the classes are still short in 45-minute to 1 hour increments and twice a week is easy for them to manage. For Ballet, I recommend staying with that style at least twice a week, for Jazz or Tap it would be helpful to add an additional style to keep them on their toes…literally. Taking different styles, even incorporating a stretch class, tumbling or other form of dance activity will help them progress in their other classes. Older and more involved dancers should be taking a minimum of 4 classes a week.
Think about it, when a child gets older and more involved they go to soccer practice every day, they go to cheer everyday, same is true for dance. The body has to do the actions every day to see how to correct them and what feels right.
How does taking 2 different styles help them improve?
*It gets them used to the idea of warming up, class structure and in general more confidence dancing.
*They may have a different teacher for the 2nd class and that helps them learn from someone new. Maybe a correction or explanation is delivered differently and helps things click in their other style.
*It keeps them developing different ways to move their body. Different styles such as Jazz and Hip Hop lend themselves to one another. Hip Hop may give the student the opportunity to explore more sharpness in movement or counting music in a different way while in Jazz class a student may experience a Lyrical combo that explores fluid movement. When the dancer progresses and is asked to demonstrate both sharpness and fluidity to have exciting dynamics in their dancing, they have already experienced that concept.
*Increases the speed in which they pick up choreography and retain it.
So what’s the final answer?
I always use my “math analogy” to explain practicing to students. If you did only had math class for 1 hour a week, how fast would you learn it? What would you know by the end of 45 1-hour classes (length of our average dance season)? Same goes for stretching. If they only stretch for one minute a week how can they really expect to improve with a total of 45 minutes for the YEAR?
Regardless of class time, dancers 6yrs and up should be practicing their stretches safely at home and should have fun doing it! I love this short article referencing the book Outliers by Malcom Gladwell, it says that it “takes roughly ten thousand hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field”. Sounds like a lot right? Not if you think about how long of a time span you practice something for or how long you stay committed to your goal.
For example, for the very passionate 13yr old dancers at our studio that have been taking 10 hours a week since 2008 plus Summer Ballet intensive, they log 436 class hours per season plus their Nutcracker and other performance rehearsal time. Over the course of the past 6 years that would range between 2,700-3,000 hours already!
We know that dancing every day isn’t for everyone, however, to improve at a rate a dancer and a parent can see here is my suggested class list by age.
Ages Suggested Class Frequency
2-3yrs Once a week
4-5yrs Once to twice a week
6-8yrs Twice a week or more
9-11 Three times a week or more, depending on goals
12+ Four times or more per week depending on goals