posted on November 17, 2009 12:15
The staff at Melba's McAllen dance school know that for many parents, finding the appropriate environment for their young child can be quite a challenge. Assortments of questions come into play when tackling such a difficult decision. Is this the best time for my child to begin stepping away from the home? Are the teachers qualified and will they serve as suitable influences on my impressionable youth? Is this new environment safe and productive for my child?
The preschool program at Melba’s McAllen dance school is structured to accommodate all of a young student’s needs and desires. The first and foremost concern on most parents’ minds is whether or not it is time to begin enrolling their child in extra-curricular activities. For many children, their experience at Melba’s McAllen dance school will be their first structured group activity outside of the home.
We believe that the age of three is the optimal time to begin their dance training. At this age, they are conversational and primed to absorb information. Many of our students quickly grow accustomed to the class routines, and most even go home and play teacher. I have had many parents walk into my class before the session begins and tell me that their family spent the evening playing dance class with their three-year-old serving as “Miss Julie”. For most children, the studio quickly becomes a second home.
Additionally, most parents ponder whether or not the teachers will serve as appropriate role models for their child. Most of our preschool assistants are either current company members or former Melba’s McAllen dance school students. This allows Melba to select the perfect members for our preschool team. Not only is the staff educated and well spoken, but it stresses the important of appearance as well. Each teacher dresses in classical attire in order to set an example of tradition and class upon the preschooler. As the preschool director, I have found it crucial to maintain a particular image. One of my trademarks is always wearing a flower in my hair. In my opinion it epitomizes the essence of being a feminine dancer. What I enjoy most is watching my young students gradually acquiring my trends. It never fails that a majority of little girls will be wearing pink flowers in their hair by the year’s end.
Finally, the greatest concern for parents is whether or not the environment is safe and productive. The preschool program at Melba’s is a perfect introduction to the school atmosphere. They learn to follow basic classroom procedures from the moment they step into the first class. For example, the students learn the importance of standing in lines, taking turns and asking permission. If students need to use the restroom, they must raise their hands and be accompanied by a teacher.
A typical preschool class has very little down-time. The classes are designed to squeeze the most information into the allotted amount of time. A preschool combination class includes ballet, tap and gymnastics. The class is an hour and a half, and is divided into 45-minute sections of dance and gymnastics. The student will do 45 minutes of dance (both ballet and tap) and 45 minutes of gymnastics.
Most classes begin with tap dancing where students not only learn basic tap steps, but jazz movement as well. The child inadvertently learns the fundamentals of rhythm and timing. What makes the class most interesting is that at Melba’s we’ve masked our technique by using fun phrases and upbeat music. Many steps are described in such a way that the child utilizes commonplace ideas without having to understand motor function. For instance, rather than calling a step “heel, ball” we call it “heel, smash the bug”. This imagery entices the student to produce loud punctuated sounds without a direct explanation. The child simply understands the force needed to smash the bug and relays that concept into articulate tap dancing.
The preschool ballet includes a mixture of creative movement and classical technique. Ballet class includes everything from walking on their toes to develop leg and foot muscles to bending their knees to establish flexibility and control. One of the most popular exercises for the young preschooler is “princess time”. In this activity, the child transitions into a magical world where they are a princess walking in glass slippers across the castle to escape the dragon. The students enjoy becoming a beloved princess and often comment on their beautiful dress or necklace. This allows the somewhat stale ballet technique to be creative and exciting.
Overall, the preschool experience at Melba’s School of Dance is truly unique. The combination structure caters to developing a holistic approach to dancing. In essence, we strive to establish the total dancer – one who is versatile and knowledgeable in many different styles. Moreover, our program creates polite and graceful young girls equipped to handle any environment. Here at Melba’s we consider ourselves innovators in the field of preschool dance and aim to transcend our passion for dance to aspiring young dancers.