As a ballet teacher both my wife and I have not noticed a sharp drop off in the basic level of physical ability among our students and in particular among the 10 year old and younger segment. What we have come to realize is that in the rush of daily life a great many parents are both trying to limit the use of babysitters or daycare if they can (no doubt a good thing) but in order to keep their children occupied the use of today's electronic devices from iPads to PS3 to Wii and so on have become extensively used. The emergence of this is a lot of sedentary behavior by children right at the age when they need to be spending a lot of time developing their general physical coordination and abilities. Ballet lessons are an excellent way to counteract this because children are four-dimensional animals whereas video games and electronic devices are all at best two-dimensional things.
What I mean by that is children exist in three dimensional space and have a complex body designed to deal with a three dimensional universe. There is no owner's manual or quick start guide or Google-available cheat sheet of any kind to tell them how their body works. Add in to this the fourth dimension of time passing by and it quickly becomes apparent that it takes a bit of focus time to really learn how to deal with both the universe we live in and how the body moves through that universe. In the absence of being able to spend hours outside roaming around the farm or even playing outside in the neighborhood due to safety concerns, many children have absolutely lost a lot of ground over their predecessors due to a lack of just general physical play time and activity . The average farm boy or farm girl "back in the day" spent much more time doing all types of physically complicated things whether doing work or occupying their time in a world without electronic immersion.
Video games and electronic immersion in general is at best a two-dimensional thing – all electronic images are completely flat and are really only a combination of pixels on a screen being lit, there is no real object there. Video games do take place with time so that adds a second dimension to them but even then many games have slow down or speed up features altering the speed of time within the game which in my mind renders video game play completely useless to the development of a child outside of thumb / finger coordination. But there is far more to the body than the hands, far far more. The number of 6-10 year olds who are seriously challenged at skipping or skip traveling backwards, for example, is at least twice as high today as it was in the 1990's. To say nothing of the lack of imagination of children nowdays due to a high level of electronic immersion stunting the need to have a vivid imagination for the sake of creative play.
Ballet is a supremely four-dimensional activity. The Ballet student is on a quest to master three dimensional space with their body but added to this is the extra challenge of doing that on a tempo set to the time scale of the music the ballet is being done to, and over which you can not have any control like you can on a video game. You simply must be able to control your body well enough in three dimensional space that you can accomplish the movements based on a time dimension. This is far, far more challenging and therefore far, far more beneficial than any video game or electronic device will ever be for childhood development. And, this is exactly what makes Ballet an absolute necessity in the 21st century world of iPads, PlayStation, smartphones and nearly 100% electronic immersion of children. The human body will not condition itself, it will not acquire stamina or flexibility or power nor will it maintain any of those once gotten without regular use in the real world under real conditions. With the heavy emphasis of creativity and imagination that also goes into it, Ballet is a perfect antidote for the highly interconnected sedation most children now live in.
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