The Immeasurable Benefits of Dance
A conversation with Monique’s student, Jen, and her mother Sandra.
Jen came to Monique as a teenager for further ballet coaching and mentoring, having been accepted into the Interstate Australian Ballet Junior School. Today, Jen and her mother Sandra talk about how training with Monique gave Jen confidence, resilience, grace and strength, as well as many other life skills that have helped Jen become the person she is today.
Dancing for strength
Jen started ballet at a young age. She can’t remember why she started. What she remembers is why she stuck with it for so many years.
‘I remember being the runt of the class in school,’ says Jen. ‘I was sick, and skinny. But then at eight, a light bulb went off. I realised that dance was making me stronger. It became my identity, going through school.’
Sandra, Jen’s mum, becomes emotional remembering how much ballet helped her daughter. Jen had an unexplained chronic illness for years. Exhaustion. Getting sick easily. In Year Eight, she had what seemed like almost a term off school.
But around the time Jen started dancing with Monique, and taking dance more seriously, she started getting stronger. Soon after, illness became a thing of the past. Both Sandra and Jen feel that dance was a major factor contributing to her improved wellbeing.
Dancing for confidence, resilience discipline
The benefits of dance weren’t just physical. Dance gave Jen a focus in her teenage years. While other girls her age were struggling with friendships, and relationships, Jen invested her energy in dance.
‘I feel like it protected me from the whole high school drama,’ says Jen. ‘Dance gave me a separate world and something else to focus on.’
Having focus and ambition through school was invaluable for Jen. It helped shape her identity.
The confidence and discipline dance gave Jen also helped prepare her for the HSC, and for future employment. Even now, working in occupational therapy, Jen notices the confidence she has to walk up and engage with a stranger. ‘That confidence came from dance,’ says Jen.
Dancing for life skills
Sandra believes dance gives children a weekly opportunity to reset. Once a week, young dancers focus on breath and rhythm, as well as engage cognitively with learning new dance steps.
‘Jen became very good at what she did,’ says Sandra. ‘But it was really about seeing her progress as an individual. The breaking steps down, polishing them, and putting them together requires discipline, which I think helps later.
‘The focus and concentration, the breath – it’s actually an invaluable life skill.’
The life skills Jen acquired during years of ballet coaching are immeasurable.
‘It’s come out in my work,’ says Jen. ‘People often say the exact same thing: You handle everything with grace. You handle things without a fuss or a fluster. I think ultimately that came from ballet.
‘I developed the ability to push through barriers, and not have someone spoon feed me,’ adds Jen. ‘And dance put me out of my comfort zone every single lesson.’
Supporting young dancers
So how can parents support children who are passionate and committed to dance?
‘Be involved,’ says Sandra. ‘Talk to the teacher. Understand expectations. Understanding expectations helps minimise drama.’
But that doesn’t mean you have to be too involved.
‘Dance gives kids responsibility,’ says Sandra. ‘For example, I never learnt to tie a ballet ribbon. I never had to. The kids did that for themselves. I did learn to become a costume designer though, which was an outlet for my creativity!
‘Also, give it time. You need patience. The outcomes happen gradually, over time.’