Rhee Responds to a Parent Question

Dear Rhee,

Recently I saw that you answer readers’ questions. I’m hoping that you’ll have an answer for me. I have a 7-year-old daughter who has developed tap-dancing skills way beyond what her classmates can do. The other kids in her class have to keep repeating what they learned in previous classes, and my daughter is always ready to move on.

When I approached the teacher about my concerns, she told me that my daughter was in the right class and suggested that if she really wants to be a dancer she should start taking ballet and jazz classes. I’m getting the feeling that the teacher doesn’t recognize my daughter’s talent and is just trying to sell me more classes that my daughter doesn’t need. Why would she need ballet to be a tap dancer? Do you think this teacher is trying to get me to spend more money? —Concerned Mom

Dear Concerned Mom,

My advise is not usually a forum for parents to ask questions; however, I think that many of our readers will appreciate my advice to you.

Your tone indicates that you do not trust your daughter’s teacher, yet you offer no examples of your expertise in the field of dance education. You suggest that your child is being held back because her classmates are not up to par with her abilities, and you base that on the repetition of material from week to week. But that repetition provides the foundation that is needed to build a strong dancer. For as long as your daughter takes tap classes, she will be repeating the same basic steps and applying them in more complex movements as she develops stronger technical skills.

Although your child may excel in tap, it is very hard to determine what she might be best at when she is only 7. You may discover that she is as talented in ballet or jazz dance as you think she is in tap. Also, it is important for you to know that many professional tap dancers consider ballet classes a necessary part of their training. Simple things like body alignment, upper-body grace and strength, and a strong technical base are some of the reasons why ballet is so important to the tap dancer.

I work with a few thousand dance teachers every year, and I can tell you that very few of them are trying to get parents to spend money on unnecessary lessons. In my opinion, your child’s dance teacher is on target with her advice. If your daughter truly has talent, then I would suggest that you leave the decision-making process to the professionals and respect their knowledge and understanding of what is best for your child in terms of her dance training.

Also, it is important to avoid judging your child’s classmates, either in dance or academics. I have been teaching for 30 years, and I can tell you that many (if not all) parents believe that their child is one of the best dancers. But most of them keep it to themselves. To avoid being one of those stage moms or alienating the parents of your daughter’s classmates, you might try to do the same. Good luck. —Rhee