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KIDS / Apr ‘2014

My little Performer

my-little-performer
KIDS / APR ‘2014

My little Performer

If your child loves music, dancing or performing, chances are they will delight in taking part in a singing, dancing or drama class.

 

Words BROOKE EVANS-BUTLER

Not only is it fun, but getting your child involved in performing arts can be beneficial in so many ways.

Performing arts can encourage:

Self-esteem and confidence

The pride that comes from learning and enjoying something new is wonderful for a child’s self-esteem – and the confidence associated with performing (whether in front of a small group of family and friends or a large audience) is a wonderful attribute.

Self-discipline

whether they are attending hip hop dance classes or learning the violin, taking part in any form of performing arts will require practise and dedication.

Resilience

performances will not always be perfect – but by learning to improvise in drama or continuing a song even if you have played an incorrect note, ‘the show must go on’ is a valuable lesson, which can be applied to other situations in life.

Social interaction

Taking part in an activity out of school is valuable by increasing your child’s social circle. For children who might have trouble easily making friends or feeling comfortable in a new social situation, meeting children with a common interest is a great way to make new friends.

 

“A vast array of performing arts options are available to children that extend well beyond ballet, jazz and piano lessons,” says Rick Heath, executive director of the Australian Performing Arts Centres Association (APACA). “Think circus, theatre sports and contemporary dance for starters. Steps Youth Dance Company is a brilliant example nationally, of what performing arts activity can offer young people – it has a structure that is not competitive and allows kids of a broad age range to work together and support each other. It also doesn’t define performers by gender. All of these characteristics are great for developing confidence, social interaction, communication, coordination and creativity.

“Simply put, any opportunity that allows children to express themselves freely and safely is great,” he says. “To have that expression acknowledged as a positive thing regardless of the level of expertise, that is, just to acknowledge the value of learning how to express oneself is also important. I think this is particularly so for boys and young men.”

Yes, there are many advantages of the arts…but another great drawcard is that it is so much fun!

Think your child would benefit from performing arts but not sure where to start? Here is a guide to help you choose the best option for your child.

my-little-performer-1
“Teachers notice a big difference – with children starting to put their hand up and wanting to engage in conversation.”

DRAMA

Helen Davey, from Helen O’Grady Drama Academy, says drama is a wonderful choice, suitable for children from three years old, right through high school.

“It is all about life skills,” Helen says. “Drama in general helps with confidence, self-esteem and language skills. There is a misconception that drama makes children become precocious, but it is not about making stars – but helping children create their own potential.”

Helen says drama classes cover many things – from creative movement and dance drama, to improve work and role playing to demonstrate thoughts, feelings and emotions.

“We cover speech training and articulation and how to project your voice – if you need to say something, it is important that you are heard,” she says.

Helen says the feedback they receive from parents and teachers shows the impact that drama can have on a child’s communication, self-esteem and confidence. “Teachers notice a big difference – with children starting to put their hand up and wanting to engage in conversation.”

And importantly, fun is a key element, says Helen. “A child said to me, ‘I wish drama could be every day and on the weekend’. Drama creates special memories in childhood.”

TIP

Bring the benefits of drama into your own home. Helen suggests the following activities:

Set up a dress up box.

Remember to include some play props as tangible things help children create. It doesn’t have to be expensive – look for some pretend fruit and veg or things the child can make.

Play with puppets.

Puppets are fantastic, especially for a child who is shy because the puppets can speak for them.

Role play with Mum and Dad.

Encouraging role playing can start with a simple sentence, ‘Let’s dress up and pretend…’

my-little-performer-2
“When someone dances they learn about their body – how to move it, how to look after it and the joy of music,” says Christine Grey, deputy general manager, National Institute of Youth Performing Arts Australia.

DANCE

As well as the discipline involved when learning how to dance (or learning an instrument), Christine says there are many other benefits. “Each individual contributes to a performance and I think this gives a sense of belonging and how to develop resilience if things go wrong. “It also gives incredible enjoyment and an outlet from the daily slog of school. They develop a whole other friendship set outside of school. We spend a lot of time alone on the computer and this is another way to increase connectivity with others.”

If your child loves dancing to their favourite songs, chances are they will love a structured form of dance – and there are so many options, including:

  • Ballet
  • Hip hop
  • Tap
  • Jazz
  • Breakdance
  • Contemporary

 

Each dancing style is different, so talk to your child about the different styles and see what appeals to them. Ask around for recommendations of a good dance studio, and ask about their class options. Reputable performance companies, such as The Dance Collective in Perth, offer a range of dance styles, from hip hop to burlesque, while the WA Conservatoire of Classical Ballet strives to provide students with the education and training to support their career in professional dance. Additionally, the wonderful thing about dance is its suitability for a wide range of ages. Companies such as Michelle Babicci School of Dance and Jodie Marshall Dance Company offers classes for toddlers through to adult beginners.

If you are the parent of a young toddler, some dance studios and recreation centres also hold dance/movement classes especially for toddlers, which is a great way for them to burn off some energy and get a taste for the joys of dance.

For these young children, technique is not so important, but the programs expose children to the joy of music and dance – and are great fun for girls and boys. And learning to dance does not necessarily mean expensive costumes and end of year performances. Check out dance programs such as Kindy Dance Time; this is a wonderful way to introduce your child to dance in a fun way, without the stress of concerts or strict routines.

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“Popular culture and music can and do define generations and thus are important building blocks to build confidence, identity and sense of self and belonging for children living within any community, culture and age demographic,” says Lisa O’Rourke, Director Rock ‘n’ Toddle.

MUSIC

There are so many ways to get your child interested in music, including:

Organised musical activities for children

There are numerous music and movement classes aimed at toddlers and young children around the country, which will expose your child to music, movement and song.

One such activity, Rock ‘n’ Toddle, enables children to move, sing and dance as a professional performer uses music and props to present an interactive performance to engage, entertain and educate.

There are also musical activities suitable for babies, such as Jo Jingles and free ‘rhyme time’ sessions are also held at many community libraries around the country, which introduce babies to rhymes, songs and stories.

Learning an instrument

Do you have a little Mozart on your hands? Like other forms of performing arts, learning an instrument can teach perseverance, build self-esteem and is very rewarding.

If your child wants to learn an instrument there are many options – from the classical piano or violin to the popular guitar or the drums for kids who want to rock it out! Remember, if your child is excited about the instrument they are learning it will mean they will happier to practise. Talk to your child about their options. They might want to follow in the footsteps of a favourite uncle who plays the guitar, for example.

Look into the various possibilities. Go to a reputable music store and ask for advice (this also gives an opportunity to see the instruments ‘in the flesh’.

Your child’s school might teach certain instruments (ask about their music program). Otherwise, ask for recommendations of a good music teacher or look into music schools, such as Yamaha Music Education, which has numerous schools throughout Australia.

Yamaha Music’s Senior Education Instructor, John Corlett, says, “Learning music in a group from an early age not only develops excellent musical skills, but also nurtures positive social interactions in a fun and motivating environment. Music stimulates their senses, enhances and encourages their creativity and provides them with lifelong skills – whether they end up as a casual music listener or a professional performer.”

Singing

“It is fantastic to be able to sing because you carry that instrument with you wherever you go and everyone’s voice is different,” says Christine Grey, deputy general manager, National Institute of Youth Performing Arts Australia.

If your child wants to sing, you have two options:

  • Choirs – an organised group of singers. Joining a choir will enable your child to sing and also have the opportunity to make new friends.
  • Solo – Learning to sing. Like learning an instrument, requires patience, practise and dedication, which are wonderful skills. If your child wants singing lessons, ask around for recommendations of a good singing coach.

Remember to bring music into the house, points out Lisa from Rock n Toddle. “Music is something that can be enjoyed at any time of day to enhance an experience,” Lisa says. “From an opportunity to expend energy with an intensive dance session, to a quiet period of rest in the mid-afternoon while reading books, music can embellish any childhood activity.”

Lisa suggests the following:

  • Have a music box filled with instruments to bring out when friends come over and have band time/music time.
  • Have the radio on while conducting menial tasks like cleaning your room.
  • Making musical instruments is a nice craft activity.

 

MUSIC TIP

“A great way to boost enthusiasm is to have a particular song that you do your chores to. I sing everything around the house including asking my kids what they want for breakfast to whistling while we work. I also encourage my kids to compose songs with me…I start with a tune/melody and lyrics and they now compose impromptu with me! It may be something we are doing in that moment or something I want to draw their attention to and bring front of mind. For example, my son has recently started Kindy and is reluctant and shy, so on the way to Kindy we will sing our feelings and emotions about the day and often this releases some anxieties.” (Lisa, Rock n Toddle).

Still confused about what to try? Remember to talk to your child about their interests (just because you love dance does not mean your child will). Ask a performing arts centre if it is possible to do a trial or taster class to see if it is what you and your child are looking for.

Also remember that your child doesn’t have to be ‘on-stage’ themselves to be exposed to the wonders of performing arts! Take your child to:

A concert – Do you remember your first concert? Remember, children are never too young to be exposed to the joys of music – from the Wiggles for the littlest member of your family to the latest boy band for your teenager.

A puppet show – A puppet show is a wonderful way for your child to experience the fun and colour of performing arts in an interactive and creative way. Or why not make your own puppets and put on your own puppet show?

A dance performance – Whether a special trip to the theatre to see the ballet, or a friend’s dance concert, going to see a dance performance live is a wonderful, colourful experience.

There will always be opportunities to see performing arts in your local community – whether a local choir is singing at the shops, the local school is preparing for their drama production or a large show is coming to town.

These are all great options to introduce your child into the wonderful world of performing arts. However, it is important to remember that it should always be fun. “Performing isn’t for everybody,” Rick adds. “Some gentle encouragement might be required but if they don’t enjoy it, don’t do it.”

 

CONTACTS

Australian Performing Arts Centres Association (APACA) www.apaca.com.au

Helen O’Grady Drama Academy www.helenogrady.net.au

National Institute of Youth Performing Arts Australia www.niypaa.com.au

Jodie Marshall Dance Company www.jmdc.com.au

Jo Jingles www.jojinglesperth.com.au

Kindy Dance Time www.kindydancetime.com.au

Michelle Babicci School of Dance www.michellebabiccischoolofdance.com.au

Rock ‘n’ Toddle www.rockntoddle.com.au

The Dance Collective www.thedancecollective.com.au

WA Conservatoire of Classical Ballet www.waccb.com.au

WA Conservatoire of Classical Ballet www.waccb.com.au

Yamaha www.yamaha.com.au

 

 

BROOKE EVANS-BUTLER

Brooke has written for home improvement, bridal and women’s lifestyle publications, but says Offspring enables her to combine writing with her new favourite hobby, being a mum to her boys Caleb and Jonah.