A Dance Parent's Survival Guide

Being a parent of a young dancer, especially when you've never danced before, can be an intimidating and challenging experience.

Your child heads off to dance class ready to learn technique and burn some energy. When hops back in the car an hour later, she's either talks excitedly, rattling off a million class notes a minute or bursts into tears. And every time, you're left a little puzzled, and sometimes, worried.

Dance season can be a long, bewildering year. If you're prepared and have a little knowledge of what your child will experience, you can engage in the conversation and help solve emotional breakdowns within minutes.

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From plies and tendus to the top of the count and marked movement, dancers speak a different language in the studio. No matter the dance style, it boils down to technique first (ballet). When your child steps into his or her first class, the instructor will teach these common positions to help shape their dance technique.

  • Arabesque [a-ra-BESK]: A pose with one leg stretched straight out to the back.
  • Assemble [a-sahn-BLAY]: A jump from one foot landing on two feet.
  • Barre [bar]: 1. The wooden railing fastened to the walls of the dance studio.
  • Chasse [sha-SAY]: The working leg slides out from the supporting leg and pushes off the ground, the supporting leg comes to the working leg in the air and lands in its place.
  • Count: Many styles will count the beat of the music by threes, fours or eights. This is how the dancer puts movement to the beat of the music and helps keep dancers uniformed and on the same pace. Example: One-two-three, one-two-three, one-two three. Or: One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, and eight (repeat).
  • Demi-plie [duh-MEE-plee-AY]: Half-bend of the knees without the heels leaving the floor.
  • Jete [zhuh-TAY]: A jump from one foot to the other in which the working leg appears to have been thrown. Think leap.
  • Mark: A walk through of choreography, movement is not done to its fullest potential.
  • Pirouette [peer-WET]: A turn. A turn of the body standing on the supporting leg while the working leg is usually in retire (leg is bent upwards, with toes typically connected to the other leg—turned out).
  • Plie [plee-AY]: To bend the knee(s).
  • Releve [ruhl-VAY]: A raising of the heels.
  • Rond de jambe [rawn duh zhahnb]: A circular movement of the leg.
  • Tendu [tahn-DEW]: The working foot slides from the supporting leg without lifting the toe from the ground until the toe has reached a full pointe.
  • The Five Positions: First, second, third, fourth and fifth position are common barre exercises in ballet class.

Walking Barefoot

As dancers get older, they want to get calluses on the balls of their feet to help them turn with less friction (also known as dancer's feet). Some dancers dance barefoot, which is painful when they're not used to it. But once the feet are roughed up, turns, jumps and chasses become easy.

Invest in Hair Spray and Bobby Pins

During class or recital season, your little one will need her hair to stay in place. Purchase a big box of bobby pins and hairspray so you have enough back up just in case your little one loses anything. Plus, if another mom forgets—or runs out—you look like the dance-parent hero.

More: 8 Easy Ponytail Hairstyles

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About the Author

Fara Rosenzweig

Fara Rosenzweig is the Lifestyle Editor for Active.com. She is a fitness fanatic, yogi and runner who loves to try new activities. Follow Fara on Google+ or twitter @FJRose.
Fara Rosenzweig is the Lifestyle Editor for Active.com. She is a fitness fanatic, yogi and runner who loves to try new activities. Follow Fara on Google+ or twitter @FJRose.

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