Many Reasons Why Dance Should Be in a Student’s Life

A class of first graders sit in dark blue, plastic chairs in a nicely built room. A wall, covered in construction paper cutouts, separates the first graders from a class of kindergarteners piecing together puzzles of tiny kittens, trains, and gardens. A statue of an elephant holding up ABC blocks is placed next to a radio, which hums Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. This sounds like a stereotypical school for younger children. If you re-read the above paragraph, you’ll notice everything is centered around, or created by art; Who designed the plastic chairs? Who built the room? How did the first graders get creative when making paper cut outs of animals, and people, and whatever shape they could come up with for their wall? Who painted the picture on the puzzle pieces? Who made the statue and who composed the music? Art is all around us. But, have you ever considered dance to be an art form that could be weaved into a school’s curriculum? You might say  many school’s have budget problems, due to the economy, that dance just wouldn’t work as being part of education. Teachers, parents, what if you could make your children more focused, passionate, develop their musical, cognitive, memorization, and communication skills, just by turning on the radio and teaching some dance moves? It may be hard to incorporate a dance program, especially for older students, but if school’s started with younger students and took a few minutes out of class to dance, started a dancing after, or before school program, etc. it would improve the happiness, healthiness, and smartness of the student body. Imagine the two classrooms again with tired, unenthusiastic kids. One girl is too shy to talk to the others and participate in activities and one boy has trouble staying under control. This is the school without the arts- without the influence of dance. If kindergarten through elementary schools incorporated dance, and other arts programs that aren’t often considered for education, into their curriculum, students would be more expressive and more passionate in school, would be healthier, and would be more culturally aware and overall more focused and smarter.

Imagine a quiet person school. This student never talks to anyone and has a hard time speaking in class, or expressing how she feels about a certain project, or subject in class. Dance teaches presentation, which is a factor of expressing yourself. Body language is what tells people how we’re feeling and dance makes this language be strengthened, because a person must tell a story when dancing. What school doesn’t want a class that isn’t shy, and is instead expressive and open? An expressive and open class means that they’d be confident. Dance leads to confidence. It’s all about the image you present, so dance helps what kind of body language shines through. For example if you see a person walking down the street with their shoulders slumped, you’d think they looked sad. Dancer’s often “show their jewels”, which means that they lift their rib cage and push their shoulders back. It’s like the butterfly affect, or more simply the saying, what goes around comes around. Constantly lifting your upper body affects your mood and the mood of others around you, because seeing a person slumped over would most likely make you feel a little gloomy, but seeing a person lifted and happy looking would make you feel joyful and enthusiastic. So, dance, through expression, can affect the whole student body. Unlike other subjects, unless they have art-like projects incorporated in them, dance and any other art for that matter expresses creativity. If a course in a dance program at schools included choreography, or creative movement, students could create their own dances , or combinations. This would enrich their skills in collaboration, because they would have to find ways to present their dance, or piece to the rest of the class, which would strengthen their public presentation and speaking skills, as well as strengthen their creative and artistic abilities. Even without creative movement, you can dance a dance many different ways, but still do the same steps. You can change the dance’s feel, by  changing the count of the music, or holding a pose slightly longer, or shorter, to make it more flowing, or more up beat. A student could make it sad, angry, or happy just by expression. By incorporating dance into a curriculum, students will be more expressive , will strengthen their creative abilities through collaboration, movement, and presentation, which could later help them by making it easier to speak in many different mediums publicly, and could later let students find new ways to present a power point, or paper in class, or in a job. Another plus that dance gives is keeping students healthy.

There’s many ways to exercise and stay healthy. There are many campaigns for kids to be healthier and exercise more, such as Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign. Usually jump roping, running, swimming, etc. is considered for these kind of campaigns and pledges to exercise and be healthier. Campaigns and programs try to incorporate fun ways for kids to exercise that won’t make them feel pressured and stressed. What about dance? Why not use a fun, yet artistic way to play, like dance? If you think back to when you were in school, was there always a person picked last while picking teams for a game of kickball? The problem with using sports as a way to exercise is that they’re competitive, create arguments, can make a person feel down by not being picked first for a team, and can often injure a person. Dance isn’t competitive and yet it’s still a wonderful way to stay fit. It may be even better than sports at helping kids be healthy. In fact, the article written by Rebecca Lake called The Benefit of Dance For Kids, says that “The repetitive movements involved in dance can improve muscle tone, correct poor posture, increase balance and coordination and improve overall cardiovascular health.” Dance of course improves flexibility, more than any other sport can, because in a regular ballet, or jazz, etc. class, the first thirty minutes, to an hour and thirty minutes is used to stretch every muscle. If a person took a dance class each day, they’d have stronger abs and hips, because of the almost constant lift of the legs, stronger ankles from releves, and stronger calves and thighs from petite and grande allegros. Have you ever heard the expression “Be happy, be healthy”? Happiness does bring healthiness, and vice versa. In fact, dance releases endorphins and serotonin, which makes a person exhilarated and happy, which leads to healthiness. If you watch a dancer, before and after class, the instant after dancing from anywhere from one to four hours, dancers often feel excited and awake. Why cut artistic programs, or not incorporate a dance program if it keeps students healthier and happier and not as stressed and pressured, because of long tests, or competition in school?

Speaking of long tests- What is needed for people to be completely focused and not bored of what they’re doing in class? Dance of course! Scott T. Grafton did a series of tests on dancers, Parkinson’s patients, and kindergarten students to find that AON research suggests three ways that learning in the arts- and in physical skills more generally- remains vital to educational practice. AON, if you didn’t know, is when the brain’s cortex is lit up, or started.To sum up the experiments and the three ways that makes the arts vital in education is to say that when AON is in action, especially during the person’s exposure to the arts, like when the student is watching a clip of a dance he, or she has much experience in learning, the understanding of and strengthening of observational skills and the harness of enthusiasm takes place, creating a passion and excitement for the arts, which, therefore helps everyone in the classroom with the exposed student be enthusiastic and focused. So, dance creates a focused classroom and can therefore help students better learn different subjects through the focusing and enthusiasm generator of art and dance. Michael I. Posner PhD, although not fully proven, did a series of tests that suggested being fully immersed in the arts can make a person smarter. It is however proved by Posner that dancing and exposing yourself to art strengthens reasoning, memory, perception, and judgement skills, in which he explains in  his article on dana.org called What Dance Can Teach Us About Learning; “Practicing for long periods of time  and in an absorbed way can cause changes in more than the specific brain network related to the skill. Sustained focus can also produce stronger and more efficient attention networks, and these key networks in turn affect cognitive skills more generally.” Dance triggers the AON, which helps a person focus and think, which teachers often have trouble getting their class to do, because students are often tired, or bored with what they’re doing. Dance should be in a child’s life, because it creates a passion inside people and makes them feel more concentrated.

Not only does dance make a person happier through expression, the release of chemicals, and the non-competitiveness, but also builds up their creative skills, their musicality, their memorization skills, and improves their concentration. Schools could incorporate dance clubs for after school for older students, have guest dance teachers do a couple creative movement classes for younger students, weave dancing into kindergarten and pre- school classes, or even completely make it a class for students. Re-imagen the class that wasn’t exposed to dance and art, or imagine the worst behaved, worst focused,and “not really going anywhere” class. Then, think about dance being weaved into their lives. The girl who was often too shy to participate in activities and talk to others, suddenly loves to tell stories and is always the first to crack open a puzzle box, or sing the ABC’s. The boy who couldn’t keep control of himself finally isn’t bouncing of the wall’s, but instead expresses his energy during the dance part of class, or when doing an art project. Well done to the teacher- you’re class is now focused.

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