You’re at daycare drop-off or a play date or chatting with a mom friend when someone mentions taking their kid to dance this weekend. Dance? They’re toddlers. Shoot, are you supposed to be enrolling your child in extracurriculars already? If you think your kid would like learning dance (or they’re old enough to have requested lessons themselves), then you’ve probably wondered, what is the best age to start ballet? Fortunately, there’s really no single perfect age — and it’s actually never too late to get started.
What is the best age to start ballet?
The short answer is: whenever your child is interested in starting. Some ballet academies offer classes as early as age 2, so if you think your toddler would enjoy getting to move around to some music, sign them up. They’re literally called “movement classes” at most dance studios, says Suzanne Lopez, Abbott Academy director at the Joffrey Academy of Dance.
But you don’t have to enroll your tot by age 2 in order for them to take ballet later. “Our proper pre-ballet training really starts at age 5, which is when I started dancing. I think that’s a pretty typical age for people to start. Our real, you’re-actually-learning-ballet-and-that’s-all-you’re-doing-in-class training really starts at age 8,” she says. “We want people moving early on, but I don’t think ballet is one of those things that if you don’t start it at age 4, you've missed out and you’re never going to catch up. There’s no totally right age.”
What age is too late to start ballet?
The age your child can enroll in classes depends on the academy. At hers, Lopez has a class for beginners where kids can learn the fundamentals regardless of their age, so try and look for something similar if you’re signing up your child when they’re older.
“It’s never too late. Misty Copeland, arguably the most famous ballerina, started as a teenager,” says Lopez. “I think people get to a certain age — I know this definitely happens with sports nowadays — and think if you’re 12 and wanting to start something that you can only ever play for fun. You can’t ever really compete or be on a travel team or whatever. But that’s not the case in ballet. You just have to find a place that welcomes your students at any age and as long as you have that passion for it, there’s a place for you to dance.”
What makes a good ballet class?
If you’ve never danced a day in your life but your child wants to sign up, Lopez recommends you figure out your priorities first to narrow your search. If you just want movement classes near your house, cool. If you want a highly-rated school, or one attached to a professional ballet company, you may have to drive a little further to lessons. Be sure to get word-of-mouth recommendations and read reviews too.
“Do some research. There are a lot of schools out there. Word-of-mouth is also good. Reach out to any families that also have kids in ballet and see where they go,” Lopez says.
So, whenever you decide to enroll your child in ballet is perfectly fine. You don’t have to hustle to get them in right at age 2, or else; even if they suddenly show an interest in ballet at 13, they can still enjoy it and learn everything they need to know.
Suzanne Lopez, Abbott Academy director at the Joffrey Academy of Dance