Parks & Rec. offering youth dance classes

The department offers two classes for young, aspiring dancers.

Moorestown Parks and Recreation currently offers dance classes for the very youngest set. The two classes are “Mommy and Me” for 24 to 36 months (parent required) and “Creative Dance” for three to four year olds (just for kids). All classes are on the third floor of the Church Street Recreation Center with plenty of space for jumping and arm circles.

The cute factor is through the roof. Fledgling dancers wear leotards and tiny, tiny ballet slippers — tutu optional. All classes are for boys and girls and focus on introducing youngsters to learning balance, rhythm and coordination.

Sommer Bayard is the instructor for both classes. She began dancing at 18 months under the wing of her mother — a dance instructor, who taught for 45 years. Bayard has danced her entire life and has competed and danced professionally. She is well-versed in all types of dance, from jazz to ballet to tap. She says, “I was trained when I was a baby. She [her mother] brought me up dancing. It was a lot of hard work and a lot of practice but we did a lot of fun things.”

Her love of dance and children has brought her full circle. She now has a three-year old daughte, and when her daughter was 18 months, she wanted to bond with her as her mother had with her.

“I wanted to bring her up the way I had been with dance, and I started a program here,” Bayard said.

She’s been teaching dance for Moorestown Parks and Rec ever since.

The “Mommy and Me” class gives parents and children an opportunity to bond through dance, song and movement. Children will receive an introduction to dance with stretching exercises and creative play. Sensory props like crowns, wands, parachutes, bean-bags and ribbons are used to improve gross motor skills.

“Some will participate and some won’t but it’s amazing to see how much they learn, just by watching,” Bayard said. “The next class they might actually do a lot more than what they did in the first class. We also learn the parts of the body, like the parts of the foot — the heel, the arch, the ball, the toe.”

“Creative Dance” for three and four year olds teaches the basics of dance in a fun and creative way.

“They’re learning to point and flex to music,” Bayard said.

It’s important to keep the kids engaged so each activity lasts only three to five minutes, keeping it action packed. Children also learn social skills, like forming a line, waiting their turn and listening. The structure and discipline increases confidence and stimulates creativity.

Learning dance at such a young age teaches rhythm, coordination and flexibility, all gateway skills for the future for anything from gymnastics to lacrosse.

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