Performing Arts: Easing into the limelight

Performing arts camps can help develop confidence in kids

Seussical at the Rocky Mountain Theatre for Kids
Photo courtesy of the Rocky Mountain Theatre for Kids

Bowing to thunderous applause from proud, camera-wielding parents may just seem like practice for young actors with dreams of Broadway, but for every child, healthy self-esteem is essential to future success. By creating a safe environment, performing arts camps work to cultivate this sense of confidence.

Between the ages of 12 and 18, kids solidify a sense of self. Angela Bryan, a University of Colorado professor in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, says succeeding in an activity is a great way to build a kid up during this tricky time.

“The issue that adolescents deal with most is identity formation,” Bryan says.

“You begin to separate yourself from the family group and identify more with your peer group. … Having a success experience at this age, or any age, is really important.”

Performing arts camps create opportunities for success by allowing kids to either blend in to an ensemble or seize the limelight. CenterStage Director and Founder Amy Austin says this choice allows introverted or young kids to build confidence on their own terms.

“It’s an environment where they can feel out the group and see what others are doing,” Austin says. “While you might be too shy to sing or dance on your own, a group environment is a safe place to try new things and step out of your comfort zone too.”

Unlike in sports, acting camps usually have a range of young actors with different ages and abilities sharing the stage.

This allows younger kids to learn from older mentors, and eases children into leadership roles as they grow.

Jeffrey Dolgan, who is the senior psychologist in behavior health at The Children’s Hospital, says performing arts can also offer other community benefits lacking in academia.

“Things are often unilateral in school; there’s the teacher, the curriculum and you,” Dolgan says. “What I think is great for kids is improv. They learn how to compliment someone else when they come in to an interaction and how to back out when it doesn’t make sense. I think that face-to-face interaction builds social skills necessary for confidence.”

Performing arts also gives kids valuable talents for the classroom. Though Boulder Performing Arts Company works primarily with kids age 12 and younger, Director Pollyanna Demitro says acting can aid expression.

“They’ll be able to stand up in front of classmates to be able to deliver speeches and presentations because they’ve been used to an audience,” Demitro says. “Performing arts directly relates to many skills they need in school.”

Many kids can tell that performing arts is giving them valuable confidence, even if it takes some time for them to come into their own.

“Many kids start off with their hair in their eyes and staring at their feet on stage,” says Rocky Mountain for Kids Director Michelle Romeo. “But they stick with it. It’s amazing because kids can sense that something great is growing inside; it’s instinctual.”