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Dance age
- Veena Basavarajaiah, Bangalore

July 7, 2011

“Young dancers are training at a very vulnerable time in their lives...So train the whole person, not just the dancer."
- Deborah Bull

Formal training in movement requires a very high level of discipline, longer attention span and the maturity to understand its nuances. Forcing the aesthetics of a form on to a child before its mind and body is prepared might result in a situation where the child develops a distaste towards the art form. Children below the age of 8 have limited attention span while their bones are too soft and muscles fragile. Therefore pre-training process is required where the child learns to move freely to music and rhythm and also develops self awareness. One has to let the child explore its creativity through creative tasks and games. Parents have to be aware that it requires a different approach to teaching at this age and must choose teachers with care.

It is a common sight that most children born to dancers are familiarized to dance and music in their pre-natal stage. Children born and raised in families that are inclined towards the arts, naturally develop a higher degree of interest and appreciation towards it. Speaking in the broader sense, we all start training in dance much before our birth itself. However, every codified form of movement prescribes an ideal age to start formal training that is based on the level of physical and mental maturity required for its practice. Most Bharatanatyam teachers teach children aged six and above while Kalaripayattu gurus prefer to start training at the age of seven. The state of body and mind at the age of 8 is considered ideal to start training in most movement forms.

Photos: Veena Basavarajaiah

Yana Lewis, a Ballet teacher, says that it is good for a child to start training in ballet at the age of four and teaching children below that age is equivalent to baby-sitting. The child’s body at this age is more malleable and ideal to train, to mould it into a classical form. She maintains that teachers teaching this age group have to be highly skilled as it involves shaping the skeletal structure of a dancer. Lack of anatomical knowledge and proper technique could result in injuries and long-term damage to the child’s body.

Every child is equipped with multiple intelligence like visual, spatial, verbal, logical, kinesthetic, musical, rhythmical, interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligence. Most dancers are spatial and kinesthetic learners with a good rhythmical sense. It takes special training to teach movement to children with logical or verbal intelligence. Sowmya Puttaraju a psychologist, counselor and dancer who works with children, strongly feels that a  teacher has to be equipped with  different tools of teaching to unleash the individual creativity in every child without prescribing just one way of learning.

While the minimum age is prescribed by many movement forms, there seems to be no maximum age limit for one to start or stop dancing. The maturity of the mind, awareness of body and will power have inspired many individuals to take up dancing as their profession in their late twenties and thirties. The body takes longer to accommodate changes as the bones and muscle are fully developed and it takes determination and patience to build on flexibility and strength. It is important for adults to be more aware of alignment, correct technique and injury prevention from day one of training to go a long way in their careers.

It is never too late to start dancing and you are never too old to stop either. As an anonymous person said, "You don't stop dancing because you grow old, you grow old because you stop dancing."

Veena Basavarajaiah is a Bangalore based solo dancer and choreographer who is trained in Bharatanatyam, Kalaripayattu, Ballet and Contemporary dance. She has worked with Shobana Jeyasingh Dance Company, Angika Dance Company, Attakkalari, Kalari Academy, Gati Forum, Nritarutya, Natyantharanga & Yana Lewis Dance Co. She has performed on various platforms across India, UK and Europe. She is the recipient of Special Mention Young Achievers Award in 2007 and also a paneled artist of the Indian council for Cultural relations.


Wow, what a great post! I like it.
Thanks for more sharing...
- Laith Salma (Feb 18, 2012)

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