Ballet And Emotional Development

April 23, 2022
Sadhia Ahmed

From the moment a child is born, they start to develop physically, emotionally and mentally. For parents/caregivers, a lot of emphasis is placed on a child’s physical development and ensuring that this is nurtured well. Many parents will remember trips to health professionals where their baby is weighed and their weight plotted against a line in their red baby book as the mother eagerly prays that they have gone up on the graph. As they grow, they are taught about nutrition and exercise and how to incorporate this into their lifestyles to maintain good health. Emotional development is focused upon too, but is it focused upon and measured with the same rigour? In an era where children may face a lot of mental stress, where the impact of negative social media, growing materialism, fractured societies and generational trauma exist, do we truly measure the weight of our child in the same way as we do the responsibility to provide our children with safe and open spaces for them to positively develop and manage their emotional health.  

What Is Emotional Development?

Emotional development determines whether an individual can foster friendships/relationships, empathise with others, and understand their own value and self-worth, as well as those around them. Emotional development starts in childhood but carries on throughout adulthood. This is why it is paramount to provide opportunities for positive emotional development in childhood so that the ripple effects can be transferred into adulthood.

How Does Ballet Assist With Emotional Development?

Ballet & Poetry Supports Self Expression:

Movement has long been known to provide freedom of expression and an emotional release. In ballet, the body and mind work together to express emotions and narratives. Pent up anger or sadness, joy and elation, anxiety and depression can all be explored and communicated through movements used in ballet.

Poetry alongside ballet has many additional benefits. This approach opens a window for self-expression, self-exploration and imagination, whilst being a means of releasing emotions. Being able to hear or think of words that can relate to specific emotions allows a child’s feeling to be validated and explored further. When listening to poetry children infer meaning, pace and tone of voice and gain a deeper ability to interpret and reflect, which can help them in understanding themselves and therefore knowing how to express themselves, 

Ballet Aids Emotional Regulation:

“Emotional regulation” is a term generally used to describe a person's ability to effectively manage and respond to an emotional experience.

Our emotions travel through our physical bodies and we communicate a high level of feelings and emotions through non verbal communication. For example, when we are excited we may appear fidgety, when we are sad our posture may be more closed and when we are confident we may stand taller.  Emotions are portrayed through our words, actions, and our body language and a child has to be taught how to effectively manage their emotions so they can use them to empower them rather than overpower them. For example, it is ok to feel the emotion of anger but it is not ok to be overpowered by that emotion and act out in anger towards others in order to release that emotion. We believe that a child should be able to develop a level of self-awareness where they are able to acknowledge their emotions but at the same time not be overpowered by them. In order to achieve this, self-awareness is required to witness the emotion and self-control is needed to manage the emotion. Ballet is a movement art form where self-exploration and discipline is developed. Ballet requires the individual to explore and express emotionally, to communicate meaning through movement and at the same time requires the individual to carry themselves with control. This balance of expression and control in turn are reflected not just physically but in the state of the mind and emotional wellbeing of the child. Ballet helps teach a child that in the same way that we navigate and control our bodies, we also explore and manage our thoughts and emotions. The body and mind are intertwined and managing movements goes hand in hand with learning how to manage emotions. 

Ballet Encourages Empathy Towards Others 

Often, we can tell how a person is feeling by how they are carrying themselves. Ballet allows a child to see how their peers/teachers are feeling. Are the movements stiff due to heightened anxiety or are they flowing due to the oozing of self-confidence? Discovering how others are feeling provides opportunities for a child to feel the other person and, in turn, learn to empathise. This is a very important aspect of emotional development as it allows us to care and be aware of other’s feelings.

Ballet Reduces Anxiety Stress & Depression 

Physical exercise often increases the production of your brains ‘feel good’ neurotransmitters called endorphins. These are considered ‘happy hormones’ which help to reduce stress and anxiety. The implementation of regular exercise has been shown to better improve mental wellbeing and reduce depression.

Ballet Increases Confidence & Self Worth

The physical benefits of ballet contribute to a healthy body thus increasing confidence in one’s physical appearance. 

Ballet also requires creativity and imagination, requiring the child to increase their sense of ‘individuality’ and sense of ‘self’. Exploring creatively works and strengthens the mind which can lead to great satisfaction and can contribute to positive self-esteem and building a sense of ‘identity’. 

We believe that our work holistically supports children to develop and maintain mental wellbeing and we feel a responsibility in front of Allah (swt) to share this with our community, to help every child to grow and flourish with Grace & Poise.

In ballet, the body and mind work together to express emotions and narratives. The body and mind are intertwined and managing movements goes hand in hand with learning how to manage emotions.