This day in age, parents have countless activity options for their children. When it comes to a skill that requires a significant amount of time and money to master, it is difficult to know which choice is the correct one. Parents often ask themselves: "Will my child enjoy this?" "Am I pushing my own desires on him?" "Will she be any good at it?" "Can we commit the necessary time to it?" "Can we afford it?" "Will it offer any benefits for the future?" The questions can be overwhelming.
Dance is innate in all of us...we are born moving and reacting to the music we hear before we even possess command over language. It is pre-verbal, helping us communicate before words can be formed. Even as we age, people use music and dance to express ourselves when our thoughts or emotions are too powerful to explain in words.
Children move naturally. They move to achieve mobility, they move to express a thought or feeling, and they move because it is joyful and feels wonderful. When their movement becomes consciously structured and is performed with awareness for its own sake, it becomes dance.
Dance is a natural method for learning and a basic form of cultural expression. Children learn movement patterns as readily as they learn language. Just as all societies create forms of visual representation or organize sounds into music, all cultures organize movement and rhythm into one or more forms of dance. Yet, while our educational systems for early childhood include drawing and singing, they often neglect to include dance. It is essential that education provide our children with the developmental benefits and unique learning opportunities that come from organizing movement into the aesthetic experience of dance.
When asking students why they dance, the most common responses are:
"I love performing"
"It makes me strong."
"It's where I feel most like myself."
"It's the way I express myself."
"I love the friends I've made."
"Dance is my therapy & it brings me peace."
Discipline and Concentration - From the dress code to the repetition of exercises to the multiple classes per week, to the memorizing of choreography, to the application of critiques, dancers have to be alert, smart, and quick. This sense of discipline in dance is instilled from an early age in fun, non-stressful ways. In order to perform a skill correctly, a dancer must learn to concentrate and be really tuned into what the body is doing at that particular moment.
Lifelong Friendships - Students spend years mastering the art of dance. What many don't realize is that these students spend years with the same classmates experiencing the learning and the rush of performing with each other. I have seen amazing friendships form within the students AND the parents within the studio. Because of the teamwork aspect of dance, students often have to learn to work out their differences with one another. In choreography, there has to be a sense of trust and support among the dancers in order to have a cohesive piece. I have watched students support on another in mature and professional ways, even knowing they didn't always get along on a personal level. This skill is an essential one to have as they become adults!
Increased Mental Function & Memory - Children who take dance or participate in kinesthetic learning processes tend to do significantly better in school, pick up on complex concepts faster, have more patience during the learning process, and show more commitment and dedication to their area of study.
Young children will create movement spontaneously when presented with movement ideas or problems that can be solved with a movement response. Movement provides the cognitive loop between the idea, problem, or intent and the outcome or solution. This teaches an infant, child and ultimately, adult to function in and understand the world.
*Complete* Physical Fitness - Dance training....especially dance training that encompasses a VARIETY of dance styles, enhances posture, coordination, balance, flexibility, spacial awareness, and overall strength of muscles and bones. Students of dance work minor muscle groups right alongside the major muscles so your child is actually getting better muscular development than if they were to participate in a sport. Dance involves a greater range of motion, coordination, strength and endurance than most other physical activities. This is accomplished through movement patterns that teach coordination and kinesthetic memory. Dancing utilizes the entire body and is an excellent form of exercise for total body fitness. Young children are naturally active, but dance offers an avenue to expand movement possibilities and skills.
Body Awareness - A very good knowledge of ones own body is necessary in order to execute more advanced dance skills. Through years of training, dancers learn about how the body functions and develop an acute awareness of how their body functions. They learn how muscles work together, and the difference between the discomfort of effort and the pain of an injury which is important knowledge to take with them throughout their entire lives
Confidence in Front of Crowds - Dance training helps students overcome their fear of performing in front of others. By learning to perform on stage in front of a crowd in dance, students lean a positive association between their love of dance and being in front of an audience. As the dance student matures, that relationship can deepen even more where the dancer feels that he or she is effectively communicating to the crowd while on stage. Once a person has bared their emotions on stage, getting up to give an oral presentation at school or work is a piece of cake!
Emotional Maturity - Dance promotes psychological health and maturity. Children enjoy the opportunity to express their emotions and become aware of themselves and others through creative movement. A pre-school child enters a dance class or classroom with a history of emotional experiences. Movement within a class offers a structured outlet for physical release while gaining awareness and appreciation of oneself and others.
Safe Space - Dance class provides a safe place for them to be as they are growing up, keeping their mind on positive things and their own personal goals. It can also be an incentive to finish homework quickly and get good grades, since many parents make those at-home rules in order to continue taking dance lessons. When a child enjoys a physical activity they learn early on that exercising and working hard is a good and enjoyable thing which is valuable throughout life.
Dance doesn't just teach tricks or techniques....it teaches LIFE skills that will carry with a child throughout adulthood.
Dance is so much MORE THAN DANCE!