How The Royal Ballet School’s Primary Steps Programme Promotes Well-Being for Children Everywhere

How The Royal Ballet School’s Primary Steps Programme Promotes Well-Being for Children Everywhere

The Royal Ballet School is on a mission to enhance learning opportunities in classical ballet and creative dance. The School considers dance essential to a child’s education and has introduced thousands of children across England and Wales to classical ballet through its Primary Steps Programme.

In a bid to widen access to this dance training, in 2022, The Royal Ballet School launched a digital edition of the programme: Primary Steps on Demand. This is how Primary Steps and its on-demand counterpart promote children’s well-being through creative dance education.

An Overview of Primary Steps

Primary Steps is a junior school programme that introduces classes in Years 3 to 6 (children aged 7 to 11) to ballet. The programme offers basic creative ballet training to children who may not otherwise have this opportunity.

Through Primary Steps, The Royal Ballet School provides creative ballet education to children throughout England and Wales, particularly those from diverse social, economic, and cultural backgrounds.

The Department for Education and other generous donors support Primary Steps. This financial support allows The Royal Ballet School to collaborate with national partners to promote wider participation in Primary Steps and encourage involvement in the art form.

In each Primary Steps location, the School works with a national dance agency, a host secondary school, and a collection of five to seven primary and junior schools.

Each year, in the autumn term, Primary Steps invites Year 3 teachers from 34 participating schools to attend a continuing professional development (CPD) day at The Royal Ballet School. The teachers’ students also receive five creative ballet workshops.

Each school then receives:

  • Five creative ballet workshops for all Year 3 students.
  • CPD and resource materials to support dance classes.
  • An interactive demonstration of ballet training with Royal Ballet School students (performed locally).

The programme also involves weekly after-school classes for selected Year 3 students. During these sessions, two classical ballet and creative dance specialists work together to cultivate the children’s creative abilities and knowledge through fundamental ballet techniques. A professional musician accompanies all workshops and classes.

Besides supporting schools in teaching dance with The Royal Ballet School’s expertise and unique resources, Primary Steps helps children and their families connect to performance and training opportunities in their local dance infrastructure.

The Digital Edition: Primary Steps on Demand

Available through The Royal Ballet School’s video-on-demand platform, Primary Steps on Demand expands Primary Steps’ reach from primary schools in England and Wales to primary schools worldwide. The flexible, online programme is suitable for children aged 7 to 11 and includes:

  • A library of video classes exploring cross-curricular themes.
  • Classes introducing core concepts of ballet movement.
  • Movement guides, such as warm-ups and cool-downs.
  • Lesson plans, tutorials, and advice for teachers.
  • Resources to accompany classes for students.

Additionally, the programme provides inspiring footage of Royal Ballet School dancers and Primary Steps students, CPD webinars for teachers, and live virtual workshops.

Led by the experienced Royal Ballet School team, Primary Steps on Demand is accessible to all students, including those who have special educational needs or physical disabilities. The content uses inclusive language and is adaptable to meet children’s diverse learning requirements.

Promoting Children’s Health and Well-Being Through Dance

Over the last two decades, scientific research has highlighted creative dance’s “potential to cultivate children holistically.” Now, a 2023 review has concluded that effective creative dance teaching correlates with improved cognitive skills and positive emotional states in children. The Research in Dance Education journal has published this review.

Similarly, The Royal Ballet School believes that creative dance can facilitate children’s learning through movement, leading to improved health, well-being, social skills, and academic performance.

Primary Steps advocates for creative dance as a crucial educational tool that can enrich the school curriculum. By participating in the programme, children gain experiences in dance creation and performance that can impact their mood and holistic development.

By creating a digital version of the programme, children all over the world can now benefit from the Primary Steps experience.

Impact On Mood

The 2023 review from Research in Dance Education collated various studies’ findings. These findings suggest that creative dance can benefit children’s psychosocial development in several ways.

One study recorded positive emotional states such as enjoyment, inspiration, commitment, and intrinsic motivation as a result of creative dance experiences.

Another study showed that participation in a creative dance programme considerably decreased children’s “negative, depressive moods and stressful feelings” like loneliness, anxiety, and sadness.

Meanwhile, a UCLA health study found that 98% of 1,000 dancers with depression, anxiety, or a history of trauma cited an improvement in their mood following the practice of free-flowing dance.

Primary Steps and Associate Programme Artistic Manager Victoria Collinson emphasises that “learning should be fun.” As a result, the programme prioritises ballet training as an enjoyable and social experience. One Primary Steps graduate from Blackpool describes the programme as a place where children can “make new friends, have fun, and be happy.”

Impact On Child Development

The positive effects of dance on child development are widely understood. Dance in childhood “supports cognitive, physical, emotional, and social development.” In addition, the sensory aspect of dance helps children understand the correlation between their bodies, surroundings, peers, and music.

Primary Steps and Primary Steps on Demand move away from a stern, restrictive approach to teaching ballet. Instead, the programme encourages children’s creativity and independent thinking. This style of ballet education offers many benefits to children, including improved:

  • Fitness and physical skills, such as flexibility, agility, strength, motor control, spatial awareness, and coordination.
  • Cognitive skills, such as increased focus and determination.
  • Social skills, such as collaboration, communication, and problem-solving.
  • Listening skills and musicality.

On top of this, Primary Steps graduates have cited improved confidence.

As primary schools around the world continue to join Primary Steps and Primary Steps on Demand, more children can benefit from The Royal Ballet School’s creative approach toclassical ballet training, reaping the copious rewards of dance education.

Learn more about Primary Steps on Demand.

About The Royal Ballet School

Internationally renowned for its excellence in classical ballet education, The Royal Ballet School nurtures, trains, and educates gifted young dancers. Through its full-time training course in London, the School prepares students for careers with leading dance companies around the world, including The Royal Ballet and Birmingham Royal Ballet.

Some of the School’s notable alumni include celebrated dancers like Margot Fonteyn, Kenneth MacMillan, David Wall, Anthony Dowell, and Darcey Bussell.

Since 1926, the School has helped shape classical ballet training and set the global standard for dance education. The School continually works to expand access to ballet through a range of digital and in-person programmes and opportunities for students, dance teachers, and the general public.