You've heard the expression “you can't run before you can walk” so what about "dance before you can talk?”

As a teacher of young preschool age toddlers, I am often met with surprise when parents find out that our dance studio Roc Dance located on Ridge Rd in Webster, NY takes students as young as 2 years old. The most common question is ‘can they even DO anything?’ well the answer to that is YES!

Most dance studios have offering for dancers age 3 and up along with ‘Mommy & Me’ style classes, or require that your child is potty trained. Our studio Roc Dance starts their ‘First Steps’ classes at age 2 and here’s why! The ability to dance develops in children long before they can talk, and the benefits it has on early childhood development are worth understanding.

1. Physical & Cognitive Development

Naturally the most obvious benefit of dance classes is the physical element. In our weekly classes young dancers are encouraged to explore range of motion, balance, rhythm, coordination and endurance. Classes at Roc Dance involve using props for dancers to leap over, crawl under and tip-toe through. The repetitive movements involved in dance class can improve muscle tone, correct poor posture and encourage the development of both basic and fine motor skills. Cognitively dancers are presented with problem solving tasks such as ‘don’t get wet’ when leaping over a pretend puddle on the floor, or to use their imagination when ’sneaking cookies’ from the counter involves walking high on their tip-toes with no sound. Dr. Matt Driscoll of Driscoll Chiropratic in Webster NY shares his thoughts on the importance of early childhood dance classes.

“In our technologically convenient society learning the importance of movement is more important than ever before. Let’s face it the iPhone is pretty sweet and not going anywhere. Children are spending more and more time in front of screens which is disrupting their normal anatomy and physiology. I have personally seen a rise in neck, shoulder and mid-back complaints with adolescents in recent years. Starting movement at a young age will further strengthen their normal neurological movement patterns and provide so much benefit to their growing nervous systems. Kids know and do what parents show/give them. I give my 2 year old daughter spinach and peas almost everyday and that’s all she knows. She loves it (and so do I .)Why is exercise and movement any different?”

2. Confidence & Self Esteem

Dance is a wonderful platform for any age to express themselves. Its amazing to see young dancers who are shy and nervous to enter class at the start of the year, take to the stage just 9 months later in front of an audience with 300 people and remember a two minute dance. By learning to become comfortable in their skin, young dancers can work to understand their bodies and using imagination are free to express themselves, giving a wider understanding of not only expression but a greater understanding of emotional intelligence. One two year old student in particular at Roc Dance had a hard time when her mom first brought her to summer camp two years ago. She began the first few months upset each time her mom left the studio to sit in the waiting area and wouldn’t even tell me her name when asked. Talking to me as the teacher or her peers in room was not an option if another teacher or student entered the room she would shut down completely. As soon as class finished she would ‘chat’ away to her mom whilst changing out of her ballet shoes- but never in the studio. Just under 2 years later and after a lot of patience and baby steps to make her feel comfortable the same student is a bubbly and confident little dancer. She recently performed her recital dance on stage with her class in front of an audience with 300+ people, mom no longer needs to stay in the waiting area and she happily bounces into the studio for dance camp without skipping a beat. I can’t help but feel a HUGE wave of pride that this tiny dancer's confidence had grown so much in a short period of time. At only 4 years old she is practicing her independence and her transition into pre-school should be a breeze!

3. Social Awareness

Dance not only improves physical development but helps to foster social skills. Through social encounters, interaction and cooperation, dance classes works to teach important life skills. Weekly classes focus on how to work as a team, taking turns, sharing props, and how to take directions from a teacher. Listening to someone outside of the dancers immediate family is a great practice for pre-school & kindergarten. These skills are easier to learn at a young age, and will carry your little dancer throughout life.

There are many scientific studies on the benefits of dance at any age. however at Roc Dance we strongly believe like anything, that practice makes perfect! The younger your dancer is introduced to dance, the more comfortable and quicker they can reap the benefits! As a teacher who works with both the older students to youngest at our studio, I can wholeheartedly say that whilst every class I teach is rewarding - the development of our little dancers is wonderful and inspiring to see! Knowing that I play a part at Roc Dance in shaping and molding not only the potential dancers of the future but more importantly the people they will become, is a fortune i will never take for granted!

Ms. Charlotte

Co-Owner Roc Dance