Short Stories For Kids – Pre Ballet Class Ideas for your Baby Ballerinas

pre ballet lesson plans

One of the more difficult jobs of a dance teacher is thinking up new ideas and short stories for kids for a ballet class.  Sometimes the creative juices just don’t want to flow freely, and thinking up pre-ballet class ideas for your beginners can become a nightmare.

Here on this post, I would like to give you some ideas of short stories for kids, starting with this one.  I call this class ‘The Magic Island.’  For my littlies I like to present my classes in story format as it just makes it more interesting for them.

If parents want to have some fun and bonding time with their kids, they will enjoy acting this story out with you.

The Magic Island Short Stories For Kids Lesson Plan

This is a class I adapt according to ability, but most of it works for children from the ages of three to five years old.short stories for kids

I start the class with the children sitting with their legs bent in front of them with feet together and flat on the floor, like they are sitting in a canoe.  I tell them that they are going to row to the magic island.  We hold the oars in both hands and twist the body side to side.  When our arms get ‘tired of rowing’ I let them shake out their arms, then legs, then both together before carrying on with the rowing.  In this way, they are warming up their bodies in a gentle way before they start to dance.

Next for fun, we imagine the sharks are chasing us, so we see who can row the fastest while keeping their legs and feet glued together.  This really works the waist and inner thighs.

We row so fast that we crash into some rocks, so now we have to swim. They stand up in the boat, hold their noses and jump overboard.

While swimming on tippy toes, we can imitate various arm movements used during swimming, for instance, breast stroke, free style or doggy paddle.  We can even swim backwards with the older kids.

Once we get to the beach, the sand is really really hot, so we need to jump from foot to foot.  This is the basis for pony trots.

We then find ourselves a rock pool to dip our feet into. Here we can do either point and close, or point and lift foot sharply out of water and balance with the foot placed on the side of the knee.

From here we start our island adventure in various different ways, depending on the class you and age group that you are teaching.  Some ideas you could follow through on are as follows:

Blowing up our beach balls and bouncing them (jumps).
Swimming like star fish by lying on the floor on our backs and moving our arms and legs in and out sideways simultaneously like an angel, then kicking our legs fast in the air as we swim quickly away from the sharks.
Walking like crabs sideways with legs in a demi plie in seconde. The children love to make cheeky crab faces here.
Swimming with the fish or dolphins.
Walking like penguins with duck feet. We also eat fish and try to run like penguins. Small steps here with turned out feet as penguin have very short legs.
Flying like seagulls, which is very similar to flying like fairies.
Picking up magic sea shells with special fingers (thumb and middle finger).
Mermaids. The children love this one. We can do anything on the floor, but we have to keep our legs and feet glued together.
Mermaids riding on sea horses. Here you can introduce pony gallops.

At the end of the adventure we normally catch a ride back home on Puff the Magic Dragon’s back. We swoop through the sky and blow fire out through our noses.

At the end of our lesson we normally have a stretch before falling asleep in our bed after an exhausting day at Magic Island.

I hope you enjoyed reading another lesson plan in my short stories for kids series.

Ballet Pointe Shoes – What Type Should I Buy?

ballet pointe shoes

ballet pointe shoesGetting a pair of ballet pointe shoes for the first time is a very personal experience.  You should  have the opportunity to be able try on various makes and types before making your final decision.  The shoe needs to suit your foot type and should be able to support your foot properly.  A highly arched foot for example needs a higher vamp than a flat foot. Also make sure that you get fitted by somebody who knows what they are doing.

Once you know your size and choice you can probably shop around online and get your pointe shoes a bit cheaper. Here are a few options for you to look at.  If you need to find out more about the pointe shoe in question, click on the picture.

Ballet Pointe Shoes Online

Sancha Recital II Pointe Shoe

Sancha is a well known brand developed by Franck Raoul-Duval in 1982.  Franck was a Frenchman with a passion for dance, and a lot of my dancers love this shoe.  It tends to work better for the dancer with a strong foot to start off with.  Sancha is well known for their split-sole ballet shoes that give a glove-like fit.  They also manufacure other ranges of shoes with everything from ballet to jazz to hip-hop to ballroom to flamenco.

Reviews:

‘I bought these pointe shoes after four years of not being on pointe. In the past I bought capezios, but my feet have grown several sizes and Sansha is the only company that has my size. The sizing chart you can find online is not very accurate. I bought a size 14 (I have size 12 street shoe) when I really should have gotten a 15. Make sure you wear toe pads because these shoes are hard to break in and can really tear up your feet.’

‘The Pointe are beautiful and the ribbons were easy to stitch in. I suggest the gel inserts though these will kill your feet if not.’

‘I really loved how strong these are. Even as my first pair of pointe shoes, I noticed that they were extremely well made and are very hard to break into. One draw back: The strap isnt attached and you need to get some ribbons as they arent given with the shoes. I usually wear a size 9 street shoe and ordered a 12; I’m kind of wishing I got a 13 because they’re a little tight, but I’ll deal with them. Overall I think these are good pointe shoes for the beginners and am excited to start trying these out. The colour is superb and beautiful!’

Capezio Women’s 102 Glisse Pointe Shoe

  • Pink Satin
  • Leather sole
  • This shoe runs 1/2 size smaller than street shoe size
  • U-throat
  • #3 Shank
  • Wide platform

Capezio is another great brand and well known in the ballet world.  This shoe has a broad, feathered toe box. Medium vamp and No. 3 leather board shank, 3/4 skived to No. 1. Round shape throat and elastic drawstring. Hand-flattened crown. New pleating with quiet toe construction. Soft cotton lining.

This is best for a medium to wide forefoot with toes of even length. Begin with street shoe size.

Capezio’s Glisse is a great starter pointe shoe. The long vamp and wider toe box will keep you more comfortable, while the #3 shank helps you to roll up on your toes more easily.

Reveiws:

‘I didn’t actually get a chance to dance on these shoes as the sizing on Amazon.com was horribly off! As a dancer who usually dances solely in Bloch shoes, I thought I’d take advantage of the wonderful sale Amazon was having on Capezio pointe shoes to try another brand and see what I thought. Unfortunately, the recommendation to purchase shoes 1/2 size smaller than street shoe sizing was terribly off and I had to return the shoes. When I checked on the Discount Dance website (those who had actually shipped the product to me), I found that they recommend sizing the Capezio pointe shoes 1 size *larger* than your street shoe size, which is a much more accurate recommendation. I attempted to do an exchange, only to find that the shipper was unable to exchange the too-small shoes for a pair that fit correctly because the inventory had been depleted. Had I received accurate information as to sizing in the first place, I could have taken advantage of the sale pricing to try out a new shoe. I notice that this inaccuracy still hasn’t been corrected on Amazon’s website, so I would recommend the buyer beware when relying on the sizing information provided on this website if you have never tried this particular shoe before.’

‘These are great shoes, particularly to start pointe work in. I am seeing a lot of complaints about sizing, but I just don’t get why in the world anyone would order a pointe shoe online that they hadn’t physically tried on. No one is the same size across brands and styles and fit is way too important in a pointe shoe to just order and hope it fits. GO GET FITTED, and by someone who knows what they are doing! I saw one mom say she ordered these for a 9 year old and they didn’t fit. WHY is a 9 year old in pointe shoes, and WHY would you not get her fitted for the first pair? You are risking the long term health of you feet if your shoes aren’t properly fitted!’

There are various makes available for the above pair of pointe shoes, so for your first pair, rather get fitted professionally so you know exactly what you want to order.  As you can see from above, don’t rely on the size guide alone.

Some Great Complimentary Products for your Ballet Pointe Shoes:

Here are some great additions for your ballet pointe shoes, that will help ease you into your pointe work with comfort. If you need to find out more, simply click on the pick of your choice.

Firebird Ballet Story – Do you need a Firebird Ballet Synopsis?

firebird ballet story

The Firebird was first performed in 1910 by the Diaghilev Company.  The Firebird Ballet Story was taken from an old Russian Folktale called The Magic Glowing Bird.  Tamara Karsavina, who is a very famous Russian Ballerina, was cast as the first ever Firebird.Firebird Ballet Story

Firebird Ballet Story

Firebird ballet story is one full of love and magic. It tells the story of Prince Ivan’s journey to win the heart of his princess but first, he has to get past the evil magician, Kostcheï.

Prince Ivan finds himself lost in a deep forest.  He comes upon an enchanted garden.  He doesn’t realise that this enchanted garden belongs to the evil magician, Kostcheï.

Prince Ivan spots a beautiful firebird, on an enchanted tree full of magic apples.  He grabs her and she frantically struggles to be set free.

The Firebird is desperate to released, so she offers the Prince one of her feathers and tells him it will help him if he is ever in trouble. Prince Ivan accepts her offer, and the Firebird flies away.

When nightfall comes, the prince finds himself at the gates of an old castle.  Twelve maidens emerge, led by the beautiful Princess Tsarevna.  She tells the prince that this is the castle of the Immortal Kostchei, an evil magician who casts spells on passing travelers.  The prince, princess and her companions dance until dawn, and then exchange a tender kiss.  Dawn arrives and the maidens must return to the castle.  Despite Tsarevna’s warning, the prince decides to follow them.

As soon as he enters the castle, a crowd of weird figures rush from the castle followed by Kostchei.  Kostchei tries to turn the prince to stone, but Ivan remembers the Firebird and summons her to help him.  She appears and forces the crowds to dance until they fall exhausted to the ground.

The Firebird then tells Ivan that the magician’s soul is kept in a large egg in his cave.  Ivan brings it out and breaks the egg by smashing it on the ground.  Kotschei is defeated and his spells are broken.

With the Firebirds help, Prince Ivan is able to rescue a beautiful princess from the clutches of the evil magician Kotschei.

Prince Ivan crowns her in a ceremony of great splendor.  Nobles and churchmen file into the great hall in beautiful robes to celebrate.  Tsarevna and the Prince are married and all join in a thanksgiving for their deliverance.

Firebird Ballet History – Some Interesting Tidbits

The Firebird is a ballet  done by the by the Russian Igor Stravinsky.  It was choreographed by Michel Fokine and it was written for the 1910 Paris season of Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes.  At its premiere on the 25 of June 1910, it was an instant success with both the critics and the audience.

This was the beginning of a collaboration between Stravinsky and Diaghilev that would also produce other famous ballets like Petrushka, Pulcinella, The Rite of Spring and many more.

 

The DVD on the right gives a fascinating performance from the Ballets Russes who did the first Firebird.  Click on the picture to find out more.

The ballet was again revived in 1934 by Colonel Wassily de Basil’s Ballet Company.  They used all the original sets and costumes.  They also performed the ballet in Australia during the 1936 to 1937 tour.

The Firebird Ballet has since been redone by many ballet companies and choreographers, including famous George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins.

George Balanchine staged the work in 1949 with Maria Tallchief as the firebird.  This version was kept in the repertory until 1965.  It was then restaged with Jerome Robbins in 1970 for the New York City Ballet with new scenery and costumes.

The Mariinsky Ballet redid the original choreography at Covent Garden in August 2011.

The National Ballet of Canada took the Firebird up a notch when they created a version for television.  Here special effects were used to make it look like the bird was flying.

Misty Copeland danced the ballet in March 2012 with the American Ballet Theatre.

 

 

Ballet Steps for Kids – Beginners Especially!

ballet steps for kids

There are many wonderful ballet steps for kids that they can do during class and at home for practice.

When dealing with ballet positions for kids, one has to be careful to choose exercises that are appropriate for the age and strength of the child.  Doing exercises before the child is ready for it could cause more damage than good.

Here are a few tips and rules to keep in mind when working with little bodies and planning the ballet positions for kids.

Ballet Steps For Kids

1st Position:

ballet steps for kids
1st Position

When teaching 1st Position, make sure the child is not forcing her turnout.  Lots of kids love to try and be real ballerina’s and stand with their feet turned out at 180 degrees.  Well most of the general population just don’t have and never will have that amount of turnout in the hips.  We have to train children to work with what they have without damaging their bodies.  Make sure that the child’s knees are lined up over her toes in 1st position.

For more about basic positions of the feet click here.

 

Demi Plies:

Demi plie is a good ballet step to give a child, provided it is done correctly.  Ensure that when the child bends, the knees are going over the toes and that the bend doesn’t go so low that the heels lift off the floor.  The child must feel the insides of her thighs parting as she goes down.

Princess Toes and Frog Toes:

Kids enjoy this exercise and it teaches them how to use their feet.  If they do it properly with a tall back, they will also feel a nice stretch up the backs of their legs.  Let them sit on the floor with straight backs and their legs straight out in front of them.  When they point their toes they make ‘princess toes’ and then they can make ‘frog toes’ by flexing their feet.  It may help to let them sit with their backs against a wall.

Check that when the child points her feet that they are straight, or you could be encouraging a sickled foot.  If possible the heels and toes should be touching.  However if the child can’t manage to get her legs together, then let her glue her knees together and make sure her feet are parallel to each other.

Skipping:

Skipping is a great ballet step to teach children.  Normally children under the age of three will battle with skips, but by the age of 5 most children would have grasped it.  Try to encourage the children to lift their knees high so that the side of the big toe touches the side of the supporting leg on each skip.  Skips should have a light quality and be well lifted and jumped in ballet.

Marching:

Marching should perhaps be taught just before skipping, as the feet are in the same place on the side of the knee.  This will also teach the children to lift their legs nice and high in preparation for skips.  Now would be a great time to add in some musical instruments like drums or tambourines.  Children can maybe have turns to play for each other, matching the beating of the drum with her friends feet hitting the floor.  Marches in half time is also a great exercise to teach the children to balance.

Walking:

Walks are great ballet steps for kids.  You can have lots of fun with walks.  They could be fast, slow, high or low.  A simple way to teach children transference of weight, as it is something that they can all do naturally.

Running on “Tippy Toes”

Teaching a child to run on the balls of her feet is one of the first things she should learn in ballet class.  Running on the toes strengthens the feet and teaches the dancer to run gracefully.  The children should be encouraged to lift up their bodies as they run and grow tall, so they are light on their toes.

Jumps:

Jumps should be taught parallel, in 1st position and in 2nd for little ones and beginners.  A great way to teach the children to push off the floor with their feet, is to sit them with their feet flat against a wall.  Let them bend their knees and get them to push off the wall while simultaneously stretching their legs and feet as they leave the wall and slide away from it along the floor, using their hands for support so they don’t fall over.

Jumps are a very important part of dance training, as they strengthen the legs, feet and bones.  Make sure the children bend well when coming out of a jump, and aim to land with their toes touching the floor first then the heels.  Try to enforce the landing with the heels touching all the way down at a young age, otherwise they will battle to do it later on.

Most important, when doing ballet steps for kids, keep the class moving and fun, especially with the little ones, as they loose concentration very easily.

 

Ballet Bar Exercises – Why On Earth Do We Need To Do Bar Exercises?

ballet bar exercises

Ballet bar exercises make up sometimes up to 50% of the ballet class, and bar work has been going on as long as ballet has been around.  Some people think that bar exercises are outdated, and they are not needed anymore in the training of ballet.

ballet bar exercises
Modified Bars of Yesteryear

As a ballet student you will either love or hate bar work.  It can be pretty boring to perform the same exercises year in and year out with little modification to the basic steps, so why you ask do we need to do this to ourselves?  Is all that pain worth it?

Well bar work is a staple for most dance forms, and believe it or not, it is not going away anytime soon.  In ballet, bar work exercises are both fast and slow, but it all serves to strengthen the muscles.

The design of a barre includes both the handrail and its support mechanism depending on whether the barre is to be portable or permanently located.  A permanent barre typically consists of a handrail that is mounted to and supported by a wall, whereas a portable barre consists of a handrail mounted onto a rigid or adjustable, free-standing supporting structure. Some barres have two parallel handrails at different heights to accommodate people of differing heights. Barre handrails and supports are typically made of metal, wood, plastic, or a combination of these materials.

When ballet dancers come to class, even at professional level, they normally start with plies.  This is a great warm up for the legs and to get all those turnout muscles activated.

Slow exercises like plies, are normally performed at the beginning of the class, to stretch and warm up muscles, and to focus on proper body form.  The faster exercises at the barre  condition dancers to perfect their ballet technique while moving in the center.

Ballet Bar Exercises

Each exercise at the barre has a specific purpose, such as to strengthen feet and legs, increase extension, improve flexibility, and develop ballon (jumps). Proper and perfect form (posture, weigh placement and placement of body parts) is striven for by the dancer in all the exercises.

A barre helps dancers by providing a means of stability and balance for them while performing the various exercises required.   It is an essential tool when first learning foot placement technique, and also for beginning pointe work for dancers, who have not yet developed the strength and technique needed for pointe work. The barre continues to be an important tool in all levels of ballet.

When used for promoting general fitness, barre exercises may incorporate a wide variety of activities to increase stamina, flexibility and strength.  the barre is also used when training steps such a pirouettes or fouettes.

Plies

Plies are usually taken from 1st, 2nd, 4th and 5th at professional level, but little ones and beginners will normally start with 1st and 2nd.

Plies are an essential training tool, as the dancer must learn to place her knees over her feet when bending, and also learn how to land after jumping in the center.  She needs to learn how to use her turnout muscles, without worrying about falling over, as she has the bar their for support.

Tendus

Tendus are usually the next exercise.  The constant pointing and closing that you see dancers do with their feet never leaving the floor is a great exercise to teach dancers how to use the floor and their feet, as well and again strengthen their turnout and placing.  This exercise is usually done a lot to create muscle memory over time.  The muscles need to be constantly reminded how to work in ballet so that when the more complex steps in the center are executed, they can be done flawlessly.

Ronde Jambe

Ronde Jambe is another bar exercise that is done often.  This is the movement of the leg in circles, on the ground and then sometimes in the air as the dancer becomes more advanced, is another critical element for strengthening and improving that all important turnout.

Ballet bar exercises also incorporate quick movements like battement glisses, petit battement and battement jete, which are all used to train speed and precision work over time.

There are also bar exercises that strengthen and limber the muscles, like adage work.  These are slow moving exercises where the dancer extends one leg off of the floor at a height manageable to the dancer and moves the leg according to the choreography without distorting the hip line.  Grande battement is another one where the dancer works to get the legs higher maintaining her turnout  every time she does the exercise.

Ballet bar exercises are also a great way to train for pointe work.  The legs and ankles need to be worked at the bar using rises and releves, so that the dancer is able to stand on her toes when she is strong enough.

ballet bar exercises
Bar Exercises Have Always Been Used

If you are one of those dancers who hates bar work, then you need to change your mindset, as the bar is your best friend when it comes to developing into a beautiful dancer.  Think of the bar as your partner, whom you are holding hands with and give each other support throughout your work.  Barre work helps dancers prepare for partnering with the barre simulating the support of a real partner.

Try not to unbalance your partner by pulling on the bar to hard.  Just rest your hand lightly on the top and feel what muscles you need to work to balance yourself better.

 

 

Love it or hate it, ballet bar exercises are here to stay.