Born from discussions of classroom management between acclaimed dancer Beverly Spell and psychologist Dr. Annie Spell, Leap ‘N Learn is a ballet-based curriculum designed to further brain development, classroom etiquette, and body-awareness through play. Almost a “holistic” approach to learning and growing through dance, it combines movement with imaginative story-telling, exercises, and props in order to help a young dance student become more comfortable in their body, and finding ways to express emotions through dance and music.
Leap ‘N Learn is available and appropriate for ages 3 to about 8-9, depending on the child’s development and needs. Leap ‘N Learn is grounded in traditional ballet, using much of the same movements, technique and French terminology. It can be a solid foundation for children interested in ballet, but perhaps requiring a little more emotional maturity before adhering to the structures of traditional ballet classes.
For the younger age groups, focus is given to emotional development, utilizing coloring sheets based on the movements to be learned that day, and quite of a lot of imaginative play, structured and guided by the dance teacher. Playing “pretend” with the designated dance moves helps develop a child’s physical sense of self. As a child gets older, certain motor functions can be further controlled, and the assigned steps reflect this advancement with age-appropriate play. For example, around the ages of 5-6, Leap ‘N Learn might start to incorporate the expressive miming of ballet. This helps those children who are shy or unsure to express their emotions, and those children who are rambunctious to refine their emotional expressions.
As the children grow, props are replaced for more story-telling through dance, and onto more refined technique. Exercises at the Barre are introduced. The Leap ‘N Learn class structure begins to reflect a traditional ballet class, differing only with the emotional bonding time at the beginning, and the addition of free-dance and material hand-outs for the next week’s class.
Class beginning: share time
Across the floor
Class end, positive reinforcement, hand-outs.
Finally, the student’s class transforms from a focus on games and play through dance, into a more structured dance class with combination exercises.
As an example for what can be expected in the Leap ‘N Learn class, OSMD’s own Charity Dorner described lessons before the December holiday season. The class studied the iconic “Nutcracker” ballet. Each class, students covered the story of Clara’s enchanted nutcracker soldier: Received as a Christmas present during a grand celebration, young Clara falls asleep Christmas eve, and begins dreaming of a war between the toy soldiers and the evil rats. As the Rat King attacks, Clara’s soldier comes to life, rescuing the girl, and whisking her away to the enchanted and exotic land of Sweets. This tale, made immortal onstage, has dances highlighting all manner of sweets and the corners of the globe from which they hail. Famous Russian composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky made music to match: evoking Spain, China, Arabia, and more. The students in the Leap ‘N Learn class poured over maps while studying these dances, and explored the story’s drama through their own expressive interpretations.
Consider Leap ‘N Learn for your young dancer if:
-the rules and etiquette of a ballet class might be challenging to adhere to
-the structure of traditional ballet classes isn’t “fun” for your child
-your child learns best through stories or narratives
-your child has a vivid imagination
-enjoys telling stories through dance
To learn more about Leap ‘N Learn, please visit leapnlearn.com. The instructors at the Omaha School of Music and Dance are certified in this curriculum, and would be happy to answer any questions parents might have about the course. Call or email the OSMD office today for more information about the integrative dance course, Leap ‘N Learn.