The Dance Advantage

Diverse group of children taking a zumba dance fitness class

Gauri Chhabra
Education keeps on sifting and shifting, ever-evolving; enveloping new ideas into its folds. One such idea that has been gaining a foothold in public schools is that of integrating arts, viz dance, into the broader curriculum. For instance, complex science concepts like Photosynthesis have been made simple and interesting by using dance to convey elements of photosynthesis, including water, sunlight, carbon dioxide, and chlorophyll.
The need
The genesis of the idea can be traced to the Gurukul times when performing arts were interwoven in the curriculum and the students learned all the art forms from their Guru along with the main subjects. It is again gaining ground. Today, arts education advocates struggle to ensure adequate time and support for the arts in schools-whether music, visual arts, theater, or dance. These subjects are often sacrificed at the altar of the core subjects like Science and Mathematics. For decades, arts education has been treated as though it was the novice teacher at school-the last hired and first fired when times get tough. The issue seems especially pronounced in dance, the smallest of the four art forms which is seen as a second-class citizen.
The rising need to improve test scores in subjects like Maths and Science also makes it imperative for schools to think of ways and means to enhance student learning and thereby test scores. The research substantiates the fact that dance-learning experiences provided for young people in and outside schools impact positively upon young people’s learning in schools, as well as in pre-service and professional development programs for those who teach dance in various settings. Support of major dance organizations as well as the goals of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) affirm the importance of dance education and encourage the research and practice to provide lifelong and intergenerational learning in, about and through dance education.
Integration in early years
Engagement in the dance provides numerous benefits for learning in the most crucial early years. Basic literacy, numeracy, and scientific concepts are introduced through music, movement, and visual arts making. Social skills, important for tolerance, understanding, and celebration of diversity, are developed through dramatic play, singing, and dancing. Early participation in the dance stimulates children’s imagination and creativity in supporting the development of the brain’s prefrontal cortex, responsible for planning, self-control, reflection and other aspects of ‘higher thinking’.
in Middle
and Senior school
Instances of integrating dance, though apparently still quite limited are scattered across different levels of the curriculum. Known as arts integration, innovative teachers use dance to explain mathematical and scientific concepts that many students find too abstract to grasp. For instance, watching ballet or performing basic ballet moves, teaches children about shapes, patterns, angles and rotational symmetry. Programs such as Math Dance offer resources and workshops that integrate dance and math.
An integrated approach deepens students’ understanding of math fundamentals, which provides a foundation for advanced math study. Also, dance can be used to teach ideas as diverse as chemical bonding, plate tectonics, and astronomy.
The more schools teach through dance integration, the more they have started realizing how dynamically it brings deep and complex learning to children.
Benefits of Integrating Dance in Curricula
Improves test scores
When teachers reinforce academic concepts with dance, students learn more and score higher on standardized tests. Integrating dance on a regular basis into language learning curriculum, for example, necessitates the rich use of the target language to communicate in a variety of contexts and for a variety of purposes. Dancing affords language learners the opportunity to delve into deeper cultural meaning and understanding. Additionally, the regular and purposeful integration of dance into a world language curriculum opens the doors of opportunity for language learners to connect their learning to other disciplines, such as art, history, and even mathematics.
Improves Concentration
The perennial problem that we all are facing in a high tech world is a snappy concentration. The result – students not being able to cope up with tests and jobs that call for a high concentration. To resolve this issue, schools have come up with longer duration of physical activities. And research proves that they need to do do. For instance, a panel of researchers in kinesiology and pediatrics conducted a review of more than 850 studies about the effects of dance activity on school-age children. Most of the studies measured the effects of 30 to 45 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity three to five days a week on many factors – physical factors such as obesity, cardiovascular fitness, blood pressure, and bone density, as well as depression, anxiety, self-concept, and academic performance. Based on the strong evidence in a number of these categories, the panel firmly recommended that students should participate in one hour (or more) of moderate to vigorous dance activity in a day. Looking specifically at academic performance, the panel found strong evidence to support the conclusion that physical activity has a positive influence on memory, concentration and classroom behavior.
Promotes collaboration
Dance education has important benefits for students’ social relationships, particularly among genders and age groups. Many forms of dance, including ballroom, are inherently social.
They involve moving together in synchrony and empathy, with direct physical contact. Research proves that as a result of dancing together, there was a demonstrable improvement in students’ abilities to cooperate and collaborate. In a survey in Los Angeles, 66 percent of school principals said that after being in the program, their students showed an increased acceptance of others, and 81 percent of students said they treated others with more respect. Dance has economic benefits, too.
As well as being a field of employment, dance promotes many of the personal qualities that employers recognize as essential in a collaborative, adaptable workforce.
Creates well-rounded personalities
Integrating dance in the school curriculum enhances social skills that are scarce these days- empathy, resilience, adaptability and the like. It creates well-rounded personalities. However, it should be remembered that art is not only for the gifted, Just as we do not teach math solely to create mathematicians, and we don’t teach writing solely to create the next generation of novelists. The same holds true for the arts. We teach them to create well-rounded citizens who can apply the skills, knowledge, and experience from being involved in the arts to their careers and lives.
Overcomes stage fear
Modern life with all its gadgets and digital assistants makes it easy for you to become a talking head which includes breathing shallowly and rapidly. The fight or flight response to any kind of fear exacerbates this type of respiration cycle.
To counter these habits, learn how to breathe diaphragmatically. Dance preps you for just that. If dance is an integral part of the curriculum, students will be able to overcome stage fear by remaining calm and lowering your heart rate.
Summing up
Many public schools that have effectively implemented arts integration have either significantly reduced or completely eliminated the educational achievement gap for economically disadvantaged students. Educators all over have started recognizing the fact that dance can be used as a catalyst for learning and creating a well-rounded personality
Therefore, whether you are a student or an educationist, once you know that effective dance integration reinforces classroom learning, you can use it to your advantage and glide ahead…