Once upon a time, the role of dance in the school setting was a purely social event with a hokey theme. It served to further praise the popular while scorning the awkward to Carrie-like proportions.
Of course, you may have been spared this by residing in a puritanical locale where dancing was believed to lead to the temptation. Sigh.
So it’s no wonder that researchers weren’t in a mad rush to understand how dance enhances education. Once they did, however, they unearthed amazing discoveries about this misunderstood art form.
How Dance Enhances Education
Students focusing on dance at an arts academy middle school or high school have an intrinsic understanding of how dance enhances education.
But if you have two left feet, it may be challenging to grasp the idea that dance can stimulate learning, thought, creativity, and intelligence. These, however, are not solely the property of the brain but rather the whole body.
Dancers have known since time immemorial that the body and mind are undeniably connected. Now researchers are getting on board. So we’ll take a look at the ways dance ties into education.
1. Boosts Academic Achievement
Dance and other forms of movement are especially beneficial for kinesthetic learners. These are folks who learn more effectively through movement. For example, kinesthetic learners are more easily able to grasp mathematical theories when demonstrated through the highly calculated movements of dance.
Furthermore, learning movement combinations increases memory, order, and sequencing skills. Students must learn to develop concentration, focus, and discipline. As a result, students who have dance as part of their curriculum tend to score higher on standardized tests.
In addition, the need to remember patterns, sequences, forms, structures, and relationships transfers seamlessly into other areas of learning and achievement.
2. Has Positive Impact on Cognitive Development
Despite the convenience for parents, infants don’t just decide one day to stand up and start walking. There is an involved process to get there.
Tiny humans have to roll, sit, and then crawl to learn the language of movement. In the process, cross-lateral patterns engage cross-hemispheric brain functions. This, in turn, stimulates activities in the brain and encourages the corpus callosum to grow. The corpus callosum is involved in developing spatial patterning and reading capabilities.
Obviously, by the time a student is middle school- or high school-aged, he or she has a fully developed corpus callosum. But movement continues to help students make sense of the world. And dance allows them to further organize their observations in such a way that they are able to express their point of view through it.
Students who dance learn how to create and communicate meaning through expressive movement. They also learn to respond to meaning in the movements of fellow dancers.
Furthermore, they must interpret movement vocabulary. They have to figure out how to complete choreographic movement exercises that present certain problems. And all of this leads to the further development of higher-order thinking skills.
3. Encourages Social and Self Awareness
Have you ever watched dance performances that demonstrated movement from another part of the country or world? (As an example, Tchaikovsky’s Trepak – Russian Dance from The Nutcracker pops to mind.) Perhaps the unique choreography and costumes motivated you to learn more about the culture.
Dancers performing this choreography are steeped in analyzing these different cultures though. They become more aware of the values and beliefs in foreign cultures. Meanwhile, they examine the values and beliefs that dictate their own. It becomes an exercise in social awareness.
In addition, there is the purely communal and collaborative aspect of dance. It requires students to cooperate with one another when working toward a mutual goal. They learn patience and respect for one another.
Along with promoting a deep appreciation of others, creative movement also encourages self-reflection. For those who thrive on movement, dance might be the ultimate form of self-expression. The ability to express feelings and ideas through dance builds self-confidence, self-esteem, and a powerful sense of identity.
This leads to more awareness and, ultimately, more acceptance of the self.
4. Promotes Better Physical Health
This one is a no-brainer. Movement is good for the body.
This was understood even in the early 1900s when dance was first included in the educational curricula. It was a means to promote better physical health. Of course, it was introduced to young women as a non-competitive activity that promoted the gracefulness they needed to nab a husband.
Yep. Those were different times.
Today though, in a highly digital era, young people are moving less and less. Add to that the fact that many of the artistically inclined aren’t big fans of participating in athletics or sports. This means we’re looking at some potentially sedentary teenagers.
The bigger issue is that so much inactivity can lead to issues with bone formation, cardiovascular health, joint stability, and obesity as they move into adulthood. Physical exercise such as dance combats the risk of these, while increasing flexibility, strength, and coordination.
Finding a love match notwithstanding…
See Firsthand How Dance Enhances Education
It’s clear that dance enhances education by helping students develop skills that are necessary for learning. Such skills include critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity.
This is especially the case with kinesthetic learners who struggle with conventional education.
If you want to find out how learning through the creative process can help your artistic-minded middle- or high school-aged child, contact us today to take a tour of our school.
And give them a more complete educational experience.