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Geeky Ballerina curriculum FAQ 1

Updated: Mar 21

the Geeky Ballerina curriculum Beginning Division title page

Q: Why are there no "expectations to advance to the next level" included in the Beginning Division curriculum?

A: In the Beginning Division of the Geeky Ballerina curriculum (and in Level 1 of the Elementary Division), all children advance to the next level unless there is a significant developmental delay. This is by design and for several reasons:

  1. The key principle for the beginning division is developing joy in movement. Ballet class is a place where children come to experience happiness and success as they explore moving their body in new ways. To introduce the idea of "pass/fail" or "not good enough" at this young age undermines our foundation of joy, confidence, and creative exploration.

  2. The vocabulary, gross motor skills, and spatial concepts in the beginning division are based on age-appropriate expectations. All typically-developing (and many diverse-ability) students will progress in these skills naturally. Formal evaluations are not necessary.

  3. By progressing children in general age groups, we work to avoid reinforcing the Relative Age Effect (aka birthday bias). Because children are learning so much, so quickly, the amount of time they have had on the planet can have a huge impact. If you have a dancer in your four-year-old class who turned four just weeks after last year's cut off date and had to wait 11 months to join, and another in class who turned four only a couple of weeks before this year's cut off date they will be in the same class but they will be in very different phases of development. The older four-year-old will have more control over their attention, better muscular coordination, and more overall body strength. If you aren't keeping track of birth dates, it would be easy to assume that the older child is more talented or shows more potential. In reality, they have just had more practice being a person. This advantage persists for years, which is why Level 1 also advances all children unless there is a significant developmental delay.

What do we mean by "significant developmental delay"? That is a determination to be made on an individual basis. This decision should include a conversation with the child's parent. Some key questions to guide you are:

  1. Does the child feel successful and confident in this level? This consideration should include physical sucess (skill development) as well as social success (positive interactions with peers). Both are important and will look different for each dancer.

  2. If the child needs additional support to successfully participate in the next level, is that something the teacher/studio is able to provide? We can accommodate and support many learning and ability differences in the beginning divsion but we need to be honest about what that support will entail and whether we can actually provide that. It is unfair to the individual student to place them in a situation where they do not have the skills or support (physical, mental, emotional, or social) to succeed. It is equally unfair to the other students in the class if a largely disproportionate amount of the teacher's attention goes to one dancer.

Again, we can accommodate many different learning and ability differences in the beginning division. It is very rare for students to repeat levels at this age, which is why we do not include "expectations to advance to the next level" as part of the beginning curriculum.

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