Dance education has often been criticized for being a part of a child’s curriculum as many do not see the value. Too many times we have seen when a school’s budget is cut, the arts are the first thing to go. Why is that? Why does our society feel that dance is an extracurricular activity as opposed to core to the curriculum? Why is dance and other art disciplines looked down upon as compared to math and science? What is it about dance that makes school administrators feel it is not needed for their students? These are questions I have often posed to myself as I have wondered why dance education consistently takes a back seat to testing.
I personally feel that society’s view of dance education is misconstrued. I believe this is partly due to the fact that most people participate in dance for recreation and wonder what educational value can there be in such an activity. However, the education of dance should be highly regarded because of its great contributions to society.
In my opinion, I also feel that the lines between dance training and dance education have been blurred. Margaret H’Doubler in her book, Dance A Creative Art Experience, mentions that “Too often the tendency is to center dance education in performance, with the emphasis on technical skill, instead of studying the subject as a whole” (p.64). If dance is a career one chooses to follow than training will be needed as for any other job. This is just one part of dance education.
Jacqueline Smith-Autard in her book, The Art of Dance Education, suggests that dance education is part of one’s artistic, aesthetic, and cultural education. These are all components of a holistic educational experience. Just as it is argued for studying math, reading, and science, studying dance can help shape students into well-rounded citizens.
With that said, I now raise the question of how can we as dance educators raise the bar and increase awareness and appreciation for dance education as there are far too many people who have no idea what we do.
A helpful resource that is available is the new documentary entitled PS Dance. Created by award winning filmmaker Nel Shelby and pioneer dance educator Jody Arnhold and dance education consultant Joan Finkelstein, this film shadows dance teachers in New York City public schools as it demonstrates how a rich dance education program can develop and enhance students’ artistic, social, academic, and life skills.
Here is a preview of the documentary:
This film shows a range of programs for students K-12 and interviews students at each stage as they discuss why the love dance and the benefits they personally get from it. I know that unlike math and science, dance is hard to measure because you can’t necessarily give them a test and expect students to get the correct one answer. Dance is more of a personal experience. The students here talk about how dance allows them to express themselves while using their imagination. They build skills that are necessary for any career such as working collaboratively with others, being creative, leadership skills, which can all go on their resume. The dance studio becomes a safe place to express opinions and gain respect towards each other. Dance allows students to learn what they are taught in the classroom in a different way, as it often makes meaningful connections to other subject areas such as history, science, and math. Students are also allowed to take ownership of their learning, something that doesn’t happen often in traditional learning environments.
For more information, please visit: http://psdancenyc.com
I am an advocate of dance education for every child! I have been dancing since I was a child and I still do! I am a strong believer in dance for every child because I feel the skills they learn in the studio are transferable to all academic subjects and all careers in any field. I have learned so much about myself and learned how to be disciplined, to think outside the box, and how to work collaboratively with others. It is my hope that all children across the United States will have access to such an amazing opportunity!
In light of #GivingTuesday, today marks the first day of “Thank a Dance Teacher Challenge.” This is an initiative started by the National Dance Education Organization in 2014 to inspire fundraising and support for dance educators worldwide for the month of December. The goal is to financially support professional development for dance teachers and support dance education.
There are a couple ways to get involved!
- Take an “unselfie” and capture your appreciation for your dance teacher(s) by writing it on a sign.
- Record a short video of yourself performing a series of dance steps.
- Contribute to the Thank a Dance Teacher Fund.
- Share what you do on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram,Be sure to include #ndeothanks and nominate others to do the same!
In honor of this challenge, here is my support!
For more information, please visit http://www.ndeo.org