Sunday, March 3, 2013

the value of dance education (revisited)

Not long ago, I created a short slide presentation on the value of dance education (in order to have something visual for administrators who may be considering beginning a dance program) — then expanded the text in order to have something to send... I still think, in terms of the true value of dance education, that I can hardly improve on what my former student said (which I posted last August); but I thought I might just copy what I wrote here, since it encompasses some ideas and language that I have refined over the years...

Dance Education — a vital component of arts and movement curricula

The arts are an important, though often overlooked, facet of education  expanding our vision and training the heart as well as the mind. Dance as an art form has been particularly overlooked in our education systems, although dance is one of the most universal and elemental of art forms.

Dance is the only discipline which combines an art form with a physical activity. In today's television- and computer-oriented society, giving students a start toward a lifetime of physical activity is a necessity. A dance program can provide opportunities for movement during the school day, aligning with the First Lady’s "Let's Move" initiative to combat childhood obesity.

Research* shows that many students today  learn best through kinesthetic intelligence —  so including dance in a comprehensive curriculum helps to provide access to learning for all children.
* including:
Clara C. Park, CSU Northridge: Crosscultural Differences in Learning Styles of Secondary English Learners
Dr. Stephen Earl White, Columbus Technical College: Factors That Contribute to Learning Difference among African American and Caucasian Students

The study of multicultural dance forms can enhance our understanding of one another as humans: through the study of a variety of ethnic dance styles, students can explore the  commonalties as well as differences among widely disparate cultures. Dance can be a way for students to experience for themselves the complex, profound art forms of other cultures.

Taught with a creative base encompassing exploration and discovery, dance helps to expand crucial critical thinking, problem solving, and spatial thinking skills, as students expressing themselves through movement are challenged to think in new ways and to form their thoughts and feelings into physical reality.

In standards-based classes using the Create-Perform-Respond model of national standards for the Visual and Performing Arts, students learn to create using the basic elements of dance — Space, Time, and Force/Energy. Problem-solving is inherent in creative dance, as each lesson poses a problem related to a specific dance element, to be solved in a movement study.

Students will also use their knowledge of dance elements to create and communicate meaning — creating, refining, and performing dances “based on ideas, experiences, feelings concepts, or images that have personal meaning or social significance" (National Dance Standards); and will build analytical and critical thinking skills by responding to the work of their peers and reflecting on their own work.

In California, only 34% of high schools, 10% of middle schools, and 14% of elementary schools offer standards-based courses in dance.

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