You cannot put all beginners together in one class because of the age. If you want to encourage a girl at sixteen to start ballet, you cannot put her in one class with your five-year-old beginners. When half of the school year is over, I begin wondering what courses I will offer the following year – mainly based on what age ranges I will use.
I do take a look at what age ranges were together the previous year, because I do not like to split up groups. There are time though when students wish to move up a group or not yet seem to be ready for what the older ones are capable of. Altogether, I have experienced four different age ranges. Please note that this does not have to apply to every kid but is something I have experienced frequently.
Four to eight years olds: The kids are not yet interested in learning technique and are unable to concentrate on technique. They want to move around and cannot stay in a circle, in a line etc. for a long time. They are super creative and you never know how they will react to the assignments you give them.
Six to eleven years olds: The kids begin to get really into technique. They enjoy jazz and ballet a lot as they want to come home and tell their parents about ,,the new leap” and the ,,pirouette they nailed”. Still they are really creative though and also enjoy modern techniques such as Martha Graham and working with lots of imagination.
Ten to fourteen years old: beginners in the first place like to get into hip hop as it is ,,cool”. This is an age range when the kids turn into teens and the tweens begin labeling whatever they do. Teaching dance as a whole becomes difficult and starting with basics like jazz walks etc. is also difficult, because the kids want to reach ,,success” soon. While many lose interest in technique, they are now capable of learning longer combos.
Twelve and older: They become more open to new things and beginners more often understand that they have to start with the basics. They tend to laugh etc. if something goes wrong but also do not think as confidently of themselves as younger ones mostly do. At first, choreography assigments and other creative work becomes difficult, but they get used to it fast.
As you can see, the age ranges I use overlap, because each kid developes differently. Also, it seems like I am not exactly fond of my dancers ages ten to fourteen years old. This is not exactly true. The thing is that it is generally a different age where many try to ,,find themselves” and this reflects on their dancing and shows when they are embarassed easily. Still, I love the work effort these kids have, because they like to be challenged and they usually work hard to achieve a high goal.
I have seen dance schools with all kinds of age ranges. I know a hip hop school where there are classes for ages fourteen/under and fifteen/older and I know a dance school where in most classes the youngest dancer is only two years younger than the oldest one. In my beginner classes, I am using eight/under, twelve/under and thirteen/older this year.
I made the experiences though that the twelve/under-class is difficult, because the kids are really different at this age: While some are highly interested in creative movement, others are unwilling to use imagination but therefore want to do more hip hop and longer combos. That is why I am considering using ten/under, fourteen/under and fifteen/older next year. I think this might work well, because between the ages ten and eleven the kids also leave elementary schools and are introduced to a new environment which sometimes leads to kids becoming tweens quite fast.
What do you think about different age ranges?
Which one do you use in your beginner classes?