In 2022, research from Sky Arts revealed that primary school children should spend just over an hour a day practising and learning about the arts. Sky Arts calculated this Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) based on insights from a child psychologist and over 500 primary school teachers throughout the UK. The recommended 65 minutes a day includes time spent participating in any type of dance.
Dance education can offer numerous benefits to children, sparking their creativity and supporting their physical, cognitive, emotional, and social development. Now, a new on-demand programme from The Royal Ballet School has made it easier for children to access creative ballet classes through their school curriculum.
Primary Steps on Demand is a complete dance programme for primary schools from the experienced Royal Ballet School team. These are six ways the programme benefits children around the world.
- Introducing children to the joy of dance.
- Helping children learn through a creative curriculum.
- Promoting independence, socialising, collaboration, and creativity.
- Ensuring inclusivity.
- Making ballet classes accessible.
- Inspiring future ballet dancers.
1. Introducing Children to the Joy of Dance
While ballet historically had a reputation for strictness and conformity, The Royal Ballet School takes a different approach to classical ballet training. The Primary Steps on Demand Programme extends the School’s collaborative and engaging ballet experience to primary school children. Through this programme, primary school teachers can encourage children to take control of their learning and express themselves creatively.
Ballet has several unique advantages as an art form to help young people learn and grow. The structured nature of ballet means educators can adapt it to suit the needs of learners. Plus, the art form offers children a broad canon of work to explore.
Additionally, ballet helps young people develop physical skills, such as strength, agility, balance, spatial awareness, and coordination. These skills can translate to other dance genres or sports as children practise different styles to find the ones they most identify with and/or want to pursue.
Primary Steps and Associate Programme Artistic Manager Victoria Collinson shares that ballet is a great way to get children dancing and reaping the rewards that dancing can bring. She says that “learning should be fun,” which is why Primary Steps on Demand classes contain plenty of opportunities for children to “experience the pure joy of dance.”
The programme divides classes into two age groups: children aged 7-9 and 9-11. A Royal Ballet School Primary Steps teacher leads the programme classes, accompanied by a musician. Meanwhile, Royal Ballet School and Associate students demonstrate to inspire young participants.
The Exploring Ballet classes develop children’s dance knowledge and skills. Additional five-minute exercise videos (including warm-ups, cool-downs, and cardio blasts) encourage further movement and physical activity.
2. Helping Children Learn Through a Creative Curriculum
Besides introducing children to ballet and dance, Primary Steps on Demand represents a creative approach to delivering curriculum content. The programme’s Exploring the Curriculum classes offer experiential learning in specific school curriculum areas.
The classes cover themes such as art, myths and legends, poetry in motion, earth and space, the universe, electricity, magnetism, rocks, the water cycle, geometry, healthy humans, evolution, around the world, and light and shadow. Classes even encourage students to explore periods of history, including Ancient Egypt, the Mayans, and World War II.
Mitchell J. Nathan, a professor of learning sciences and an advocate for embodied learning, notes that current learning practices often involve classrooms that restrict students’ physical and social interactions, even though “learning is demonstrably improved by engaging one’s body.”
Primary Steps on Demand offers an alternative way of learning — a cross-curricular approach that, according to Collinson, empowers children to “build connections across their learning.” She explains this approach allows children to combine various areas of knowledge and different skills. This way, they can generate ideas that “become more effectively embedded in both mind and body.”
3. Promoting Independence, Socialising, Collaboration, and Creativity
While dance education offers many physical benefits, the advantages of teaching ballet to primary school children extend far beyond the dance studio. Primary Steps on Demand encourages children to learn through movement and embrace their natural curiosity. This helps them develop their independence, social and collaborative skills, and creativity.
A 2022 review published in Frontiers in Physiology examines the physiological and psychological benefits of dance and its effects on children and adolescents. This review concluded that dance “develops relationships, connects people, and increases feelings of joy and togetherness.”
In line with this, teachers have reported positive feedback for the Primary Steps on Demand Programme. Mrs Sanchez, the headteacher at Marsh Green Primary School in Dagenham, says that taking part in the programme has improved the children’s confidence, resilience, school attendance, and enjoyment of school.
Collinson emphasises that the programme’s dance classes cultivate an environment where children can develop emotionally and intellectually, not just physically. “This rounded, whole-person development is one of the greatest gifts that dance can give,” she says.
4. Ensuring Inclusivity
The Royal Ballet School believes that dance can enrich the lives of all children. By extension, Primary Steps on Demand offers an approach to ballet that is inclusive of young learners’ needs, abilities, and identities.
The School has carefully designed the programme to be accessible to all children, including those with physical disabilities or special educational needs (SEN). The classes use inclusive, gender-neutral language to ensure no child feels misrepresented or left out.
5. Making Ballet Classes Accessible
In a bid to make ballet classes accessible to children everywhere, The Royal Ballet School has created an on-demand programme where primary school teachers don’t need dance teaching experience to deliver the classes.
Instead, Primary Steps on Demand comes with all the resources needed to provide exceptional ballet education to children. This way, children across the UK can learn ballet, even without a classically trained teacher.
The programme resources include lesson plans, tutorials, and advice to accompany each class. The advice supports adaptive teaching and learning, which opens up many possibilities for children who find learning in a traditional classroom environment challenging.
As educators access Primary Steps on Demand through the School’s video-on-demand platform, the programme is entirely flexible. Teachers can choose when, where, and how they use the content.
Continuing Professional Development for Teachers
Teachers can also take part in continuing professional development (CPD) sessions over Zoom. During these sessions, The Royal Ballet School guides teachers on how to maximise the programme content, such as showing them how to adapt the material to meet students’ particular needs.
The guidance provided during these CPD sessions is crucial for supporting children with physical disabilities, additional learning requirements, or sensory impairments.
In addition, primary schools receive ongoing support from The Royal Ballet School whenever needed.
6. Inspiring Future Ballet Dancers
Primary Steps on Demand has made The Royal Ballet School’s unique expertise available to primary school children globally. By widening access to the School’s prestigious teachers and training, more young people than ever before can enjoy a high-quality introduction to ballet.
In addition to providing a stimulating dance education, the School hopes the programme will inspire children everywhere to develop a lifelong appreciation and love of ballet.
By uncovering a world of possibilities through Primary Steps on Demand, the programme may lead some children to pursue further dance training and, one day, take to the stage as ballet stars.
About The Royal Ballet School
The Royal Ballet School is a distinguished centre of classical ballet education with an international reputation for excellence in the UK. The School nurtures, trains, and educates talented young dancers for futures with The Royal Ballet, Birmingham Royal Ballet, and other top dance companies worldwide.
Former students of the School include well known dancers like Margot Fonteyn, Kenneth MacMillan, Anthony Dowell, and Darcey Bussell.
Besides developing young dancers through full-time training courses in London, the School continually works to inspire the future of classical ballet training and set the global standard for dance education.
To widen access to ballet, the School offers numerous digital and in-person programmes and opportunities for students, teachers, and the public. In particular, The Royal Ballet School is committed to enhancing access routes to ballet in areas with minimal access to arts education.