As someone who started out in calisthenics, became involved in other dance forms and came full circle to bring calisthenics back into my life again, I can see significant benefits for Calisthenics as a dance form of choice for young dancers and beginners. I also teach dance outside of calisthenics and can easily spot a ‘calisthenics girl’ by her commitment to perfection and technical exactness.
For those unfamiliar with ‘cali’, it is a multi-discipline dance sport involving dance, apparatus (clubs and rods), exercises, marching, some ballet, and sometimes singing and acting. For a greater understanding, check out this post, and the awesome YouTube videos I’ve linked to (they are not my videos).
The following are my Top 8 reasons why calisthenics is an all-round performer in dance:
Structure, discipline and focus
Within their first year of calisthenics, parents will often comment on how their child’s focus and self-discipline has improved. This is because pupils learn complicated apparatus manipulation (clubs and rods) and floor patterning in their routines, and are also challenged to learn and remember five 2.5 minute routines. That’s some serious brain training! It’s confidence-building to say the least.
Children learn a variety of different types of dance and movement as part of one weekly lesson. There is no time to get bored! And if they don’t like a particular dance, they can be more willing to tolerate it for love of the other routines, as each provides something different to appreciate.
Caters for all personality types – the bouncy kids and the fairies
Many kids do not suit the softness of ballet, so calisthenics is a great alternative if they are not enjoying ballet class. We do trick them by sneaking in some ballet and they learn the foundations of ballet technique, so they can pick it up again later if they wish. The same goes for the softer, more ballet-inclined dancers – they come into their own in a Graceful Girl, rhythmic or aesthetic routine.
Focus on rhythm
I have observed that calisthenics participants have fantastic rhythm and we owe it mainly to marching. March generally uses a clear 2/4 rhythm, which is the easiest to learn. Learning this from a young age has benefits, for when they learn the 3/4 or 6/8 rhythm in later years, they have a strong understanding of the differences between all time signatures. Calisthenics also focuses a lot on precision of timing with the music and each other, which necessitates particular attention to counting to the music. Movements are learned to counts, not lyrics or beats. Therefore, musical appreciation develops early while young ones still have their in-born sense of rhythm and pitch.
Strength & flexibility in concert
As mentioned in my previous blog post, there is a concerning trend towards encouraging hypermobility at a cost to safety, technique and longevity. Calisthenics has blazed a trail in dance over many years to ensure pupils are encouraged to develop the strength needed to balance out the flexibility, and that coaches are adequately trained to ensure this happens. As part of level 1 compulsory training, every coach completes a 6-hour standardised Strength & Conditioning module developed and delivered by a physiotherapist and/or exercise scientist.
Opportunities to perform in a theatre
From the age of 3, calisthenics participants perform in a proper, proscenium arch theatre with technical capabilities, at least 3 times in one year. These are team performances and do not include solo or duo performance opportunities. From an early age, a true performer is born!
A governing body – one each for coaches and members
As pointed out by True Potential Physio, calisthenics has monitored safety through Banned Movements, to ensure that pupils do not perform movements that are unsuitable to their level of training or the performance environment (a non-sprung stage).
Value for Time and Money
Up to seven dance disciplines in one weekly class across the year – it speaks for itself. As a parent of a young dancer, I’m happy for her to do calisthenics for as long as possible, before the prospect of driving her to a variety of different ballet, jazz, hip hop, acro, singing, cheer and contemporary classes across the week kicks in (trust me, she’ll want to do them all!). Right now, I know she is getting the foundations of dance training, which will enable her to spread her wings further into the dance world at a later time. Like, when she can drive! Ha!
Calisthenics gave me a great foundation for dance, and while I would’ve liked to have made a foray into other styles earlier than I did (my teens), time and money was a sobering reality. I still went onto successfully participate in sport aerobics, jazz, hip hop and contemporary – some 20 years later I still partake in some of these – and I have calisthenics to thank for giving me my grounding. It taught me how to pick up movements and the technique quickly and gave me the confidence to walk in to a new style and studio. What makes me most happy is that I continue to learn, and your child will too.
Calisthenics is something you can continue until you are well over the hill, especially now with the Masters section. So whilst my post has been about the benefits of Cali for young ones, it’s home to many for almost eternity!
So whether you start in Cali or stay with Cali, you can be guaranteed to not only create many fond memories, but carry through life with you a number of great skills like self-discipline, quick learning and performance under pressure.
Check out the Calisthenics SA website to find a club in your local area.
I love all genres of dance and love to see the growth in all styles of dance; calisthenics just happens to hold a special place in my heart. May we all work together to keep ensuring the Dance World is the best place to be on Earth!
As always, you are welcome to comment our question!
*Thanks again to Steph Devlin Photography for use of her stunning images.
*This is not a sponsored post for CASA, Calsac or the club with which I am affiliated).
12 thoughts on “The benefits of Calisthenics for young dancers”
That’s my daughter in the graceful photo lol love that photo and really enjoy your blog, well done
Thank you, it’s a beautiful photo!
These are great but calisthenics and dance are two completely different disciplines. Some technique remains the same. I have taught and done both for almost 50 years. It is very important that we realise that they’re not the same. Most people involved with dance will find that it’s a little insulting when calisthenics girls who don’t dance call themselves dancers. Great article Hayley keep up the good work.
I agree that they are different, and each should be celebrates as such, but calisthenics does involve a lot of dance. It also involves a lot of movement that is not dance, as you know. I am not a particular fan of the term ‘cali girl’ as it excludes at least one sex, however small the participation level. Perhaps ‘cali dancer’ is the way to go??!
The meaning of dance..
A series of steps and movements that match the speed and rhythm of a piece of music.
I’m sorry but I disagree with you..
What makes you think calisthenics doesn’t do this? Maybe you are not familiar with the current current level of calisthenics and the standard it has reached….. particularly the higher grades.
Congratulations on such an amazing post, it describes calisthenics and the ability of a Cali girl to its full potential. This is my 60th year in calisthenics starting at the age of three, I have coached but my main love has been competing and I have competed for 57 years of my 60 years involved in our sport. Thanks again for your post, it truely is is an art that gets into blood and helps you in all stages of your life.
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Oh wow Sandra! What an inspiration you are! Thank you for your words of support too!
Fantastic post. I’m a long term Cali girl. 53 years this year and counting. I started at age 7. I was one of 6 girls and my mum taught tap, ballet and highland dancing but I started Cali in the church hall opposite our house and I was hooked from that moment on.
I started my own college which will celebrate 40 years this year. I coach Masters these days and still compete in another Masters team with friends I’ve known since I started Cali as well as my best friend who I met through Cali 40 years ago.
I love that you can always find something that your good at with Cali. However I think the thing I love the most is when parents would recognise the life skills that their children learn from being part of our awesome sport!!
Keep up the brilliant work.
Calisthenics is a wonderful sport/dance for building confidence, discipline, dedication and life long friendships.
Aside from the physical skills I learned which I loved, the life skills I have today all come from my years at calisthenics, both as a pupil and as a coach.
It taught me to never give up, be the best you can be, about sportsmanship and how to be part of a team.
I started calisthenics 40 years ago and still share friendships from that very first year.
What an interesting article! I am mother and grandmother of calisthenics girls, and everything said here about the advantages of participation in this ‘sport’.
Our six year old granddaughter is just starting her fourth year in tinies and the confidence and appreciation of other people and the friendships she’s already made is just wonderful!