When I first took over the reins at Peninsula School of Dance many of my senior dancers were just tiny tots in tutus. I’ve watched them grow not just as dancers but as young adults, and I am proud of the people they are becoming. They are a credit to their parents, to themselves and to our dance studio.
It is not easy growing up in today’s context.
I believe our young people are faced with so many more pressures and challenges than we were growing up in the 80s and 90s. I am grateful to have faced my teenage struggles without the added pressures of the internet and social media.
Staying the course with dance, or any other extracurricular activity for that matter can equip students for lifelong engagement and enjoyment. I recently sat down with some of my senior students to talk to them about their dance commitments and what it means to them. It was a great insight into where dance helps some teenagers in their day to day life, and how I can as a dance teacher continue to support them and their families.
Here’s why dance is great for teenagers, and how to help them stick at it:-
Dance helps teens stay busy, and boosts emotional engagement and self-worth
“Dance is a big part of me being happy” -Emily, Dance Student, aged 14
The longer term impact of dance on a developing teenagers feeling of self-worth should not be under-estimated.
So many studies have been done into adolescent participation in extracurricular activities like dance, and the effects on academic and personal feelings of self-concept and life satisfaction. Additionally extracurricular commitments can keep kids busy, and occupied offering potential preventive effects for teens considered to be “at-risk” for negative developmental outcomes. You can check out much of this research HERE and Google the reports of Silliker & Quirk, 1997; Cooper, Valentine, Nye 1999. )
Many of the studies I’ve stumbled across in my years of teaching have noted that there is an undertone of pride and achievement in the students undertaking difficult choreographic routines, excelling in competitions, extending performance skills, setting examples for other students, or playing a central role in productions – all activities which could provide a welcome boost to teenage egos and feeling of self-worth.
Not only are these positive feeling to experience, but the process also sets them up with great life skills to apply in other aspects of their life, and in their general attitude.
“Ever since I was a little girl I wanted to be like the big girls – and have the jazz runners, the pointe shoes. Now that I’m the OLDER girl, THEY look up to me, and it’s kinda nice to be the role model. I WAN’T to be the role model. I want to be a primary school teacher one day so this is good for me to experience” – Emily, Dance Student, aged 14
I’ve also enjoyed a relationship with many of my parents where they are grateful for the sanctuary of the studio, and for the ‘little jobs’ I assign their kids along the way. These teens are unknowingly being kept busy, safe and on-track and for many parents this comes with a sense of relief.
Dancers have positive friendships and a shared memory of participation
An unexpected bonus of being a dance student for many is the companionship of like-minded people.
“All my dancing friends are different from my other friends. We’ve done a lot of things together” – Olivia, Dance Student, aged 14
These kids have a big history together and it’s a bond forged in sweat, laughter, tears, a rare tantrum and sheer commitment to putting on a show, getting a move just right, preparing for exams together and moving through to the next level. There’s a special and very positive bond of mateship with young dancers, and one I myself am privileged to be a part of.
In the dance studio peer group pressure takes its shoes off at the door!