If you have a tiny dancer on your hands, it might be time to transform those wiggles and jiggles into demi-pliés and arabesques. Channel his or her energy into beginner ballet classes. Local studios offer great forays into the dance style with lessons in form, musical interpretation, history and terminology. Here’s where you should leap into things.
The Green Bean Day School & Nursery
The Set: Known for its nurturing and eco-friendly environment, this childcare center is based on the internationally acclaimed Reggio Emilia philosophy and is currently expanding its dance classes into the former ARCC ballet space next door. With four bright and airy classrooms, ballet and movement teachers provide limitless chances to grow skills and confidence in active ways.
The Scene: Spry tots (ages 2- 4) or mobile infants (classes begin at 14 months for the mom-and-tot program) learn basics like barre work, floor combinations and beginning adagios through imaginative play and theater games. Incorporating the work of Rudolf Laban and Irmgard Bartenieff (famous dance and modern movement artists) the school’s unique curriculum encourages the integration of dance dynamics and full-body connectivity, as well as cooperation skills.
Classes run through December 14. The new set of classes begin January 11.
Register via email to email@example.com
2221 N. Elston Ave.
The Set: Founded in 1992 by artistic director Melissa Thodos, the company’s mission is to inspire expression through dance education, creation and performance. In residence at the Menomonee Club for Boys and Girls, its daily classes and Youth Ensemble (a pre-professional dance company) are taught by B.A. and M.F.A. degree educators who are also members of the acclaimed dance company.
The Scene: Thodos’ methods include inspiration, growth, challenge and interpretation and are available starting at age three, twice a year. For the young ballerinas (grades 1-3) poise and musicality are a central focus. For the older kids, (grades 3-6), across-the-floor fluidity, steps at the barre, and musical interpretation lead to the next level, where dance routines are taught.
Fall classes run through December 22 (pro-rated sessions are available.) Winter classes run January 6 through May 17.
Register online at menomoneeclub.org.
1535 N. Dayton St.
The Set: This intimate, modern studio provides children ages 18 months to preteen a chance to learn in nine- or 19-week sessions. Structured classes broken down by age group. Little ones learn classical movements while wearing costumes (animal ears are a favorite) and acting/playing along to various themes.
The Scene: With traditional ballet classes like Itty Bitty Ballerinas (a mom-and-me class for 18 months-2 ½ years) and Tippy Toes (2 ½-3 years), the school engages kids socially and mentally, as they explore movement. Focusing on the core basic foundations of ballet “steps” and the subsequent combinations of these steps as they advance, your child’s fancy feet will flounce across the floor in preparation for the school’s pre-ballet classes (ages 5-7) which gets them at the barre.
The winter session runs through December 15. The following session starts in January.
Register online at babytakeabowchicago.com
2223 W. Roscoe St.
805 Elm St.
The Set: Known for its superb kids’ clubs, classes and camps, LPAC offers a popular children’s ballet tutorial on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Part of the 21,000-square-foot athletic club, the kids’ area draws you in with enrichment programs that help with development, transitions and relationships, while encouraging activity and creativity through play. Enroll them in class and head to the gym — you’ll get in your workout while they have theirs.
The Scene: With three levels — Pre Ballet, Ballet 1, and Ballet 2 — your youngest (age 18 months-2 years) will begin to explore social play, gross motor skills and coordination. Older students try their first plies and jetes. Ballet 1 (ages 2-3) introduces them to creative exploration, development and socialization, while Ballet 2 takes it further (ages 3-5) with a strong focus on technique.
Classes are once or twice a week, and enrollment is continuous.
Register online at chicagoathleticclubs.com
1019 W. Diversey Pkwy.
The Set: Dedicated to promoting optimal physical and emotional growth with a classical slant, DCE offers a carefully designed program that trains your tot from age 3 and on. A full-service center with four studios, its Evanston Plaza locale is run by the talented Béa Rashid, who launched the studio in 1994 and teaches under the umbrella of the Cecchetti Method of Ballet (a method specifically targeting the anatomy within the confines of classical ballet technique).
The Scene: The Primary Division (ages 3-7) introduces your kids to the world of dance, the main goal to keep it fun, interesting and inviting. Starting with Tippy Toes (ages 3-4) and Tippy Toes 2 (ages 4-5), your children learn dance movement through storytelling, rhythm games and colorful music. Look for beanbags, scarves, hula hoops and fans as a way to enhance learning and encourage exploration. Ballet 1 and 2 builds upon this intro with further exploration into style, dance position and performance style.
Session 1 runs through December 20; Session 2 runs January 6 through June 1.
Register online at dancecenterevanston.com
1934 Dempster St.
The Set: With four locations, this studio offers small classes, easy parking and a bright, cheerful studio brimming with murals and art. It celebrates the beauty of ballet with imagination and a strong staff of teachers who are versed in toddler-speak (read: patience).
The Scene: With a concentration on traditional techniques and terminology, barre, strength and poise, students study memorable ballet stories (Beauty and the Beast is a favorite), including characters and composers, over a 3-6 week period. Baby ballerinas have their own parent-child class (ages 12-24 months), while Twinkle Toes (ages 2-3 years), Blooming Ballerinas (ages 2 ½-3 ½ years) and Blooming Ballerinas 2 (ages 31/2-5) tackle the finer art of pirouettes and pliés. Preteen classes are available, as is a special Fairytale Ballet, which covers the fundamentals of dance via children’s literature, costumes and props.
Fall classes run through November 25 (with ongoing registration depending on availability) and Winter classes run December 2 through March 2.
Register by calling the studio.
Central location located at:
3234 N. Southport Ave.
For a list of other locations, go to afairytaleballet.com.
The Set: Welcoming families of all ages and dance styles, the Academy of Movement and Music is an Oak Park is staple for budding dancers. Founded in 1971 and housed in the former Bishop Quarter Building, it helps children and adults explore music and movement through developmentally focused classes. While the ballet classes are popular with kids, there are also classes in jazz, modern dance and creative movement.
The Scene: Starting at age 3, those happy feet enjoy one of three age-graded intro to ballet classes (3-6 years) that cover posture, coordination, flexibility, musicality and social skills. Technique and classical ballet styles are explored via the Cecchetti and Vaganova techniques, which honor classical variations with a strong foundation. Continuing classes go as far as pre-professional for students that are looking for longevity and serious commitment.
Fall session runs through November 9. The next session runs November 11 through December 21.
Register online at academyofmovementandmusic.com.
605 Lake St.
Do you know a great kids’ ballet studio that didn’t make our list? Let us know in the Comments section below.
— Taryn Bickley
Photos: Courtesy of Green Bean Day School & Nursery, Baby Take A Bow, Dance Center Evanston/Matt Glavin