The physical benefits of dance are well understood and documented. Dance is a physical activity and it is easy to observe benefits like improved muscle tone, strength, coordination, flexibility and overall posture. The social and emotional benefits like improved self-esteem, confidence and social connectedness are also well understood and documented (see previous blog post http://peninsuladance.com.au/supporting-dancing-teenager/ )
“Dance is my happy place”
“Dance class is my escape”
“My dance friends are my best friends”
These are anecdotes and stories you will hear recounted by dancers, parents of dancers or Dance Studio Owners.
But did you know that dance has many more benefits?
Did you know dance can improve memory, develop rhythmical awareness and in turn help your child to on the road to reading, writing and arithmetic?
We know that the road to literacy begins early and there are many factors that enable a child’s ability to learn to read once they reach school. Babies dance and bop to music innately. Parents encourage this naturally without realising that dancing to music, particularly classical music, serve important learning functions – they teach us pattern, pulse, rhyme and structure, interestingly all essential literacy elements. B.A Block (2001) proposes “Children should listen to the rhythm of language and actively participate in physical expressions of this rhythm.”
Additionally, when a child dances and experiences movements like;
- moving over,
- and near objects
they are learning prepositions – words so critical to language and life (R. Pica, Linking Literacy and Movement). It is well documented that children learn best by “doing” so it makes sense that the dance activities you will find in our pre-school dance classes – like jumping over bean bags, crawling through a tunnel, galloping sideways next to a partner – are all important ways that these concepts are learnt and embedded in memory.
Why Is Dance as Important as Maths?
According to Sir Ken Robinson, famous for his Ted talk, Why Schools Kill Creativity, the evidence is resoundingly clear. In a recent lecture “Why Dance Is as Important as Math in Education.” , he cites many anecdotal and research-based evidence supporting the idea that dance:
- improves social relationships and connectedness, thus reducing isolation and bullying
- promotes collaborative and adaptive working relationships amongst students, essential skills for the workforce later in life
- improves academic outcomes overall
This article https://ideas.ted.com/why-dance-is-just-as-important-as-math-in-school/ is an excerpt from his book with Lou Aronica, You, Your Child and School: Navigate Your Way to the Best Education . It is fascinating and well worth reading, along with watching his Ted Talk, Why Schools Kill Creativity (see below), currently clocking over 50 million views as the most viewed Ted Talk of all time.
At the other end of the spectrum there have recently been some research studies, well summarised here https://draxe.com/lets-dance/ , demonstrating that dance, over other forms of physical activity like walking and running, significantly improve cognitive function in older adults. The studies demonstrated outcomes such as improved memory recall, verbal fluency, along with better balance, motor coordination and posture. So, it seems the benefits of dance are life-long and not restricted to young people. Investing in dance classes for your child is more than investing in a physical activity. You are making an investment in your child’s education, the benefits of which extend well beyond the classroom.
I recently spoke with two of my former students at the DanceStep Parent Information Session (see video) about the impact of their dance experiences and how this shaped their education and career pathways.
Both of these young women are exceptional examples of how dance became an integral influence, support and focus of their education.
It is my hope that dance, music and the performing arts in general, become an integral and central part of our education system, that it is as valued as reading, writing and arithmetic.
Reference Links and further reading https://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity http://www.earlychildhoodnews.com/earlychildhood/article_view.aspx?ArticleID=593 https://ideas.ted.com/why-dance-is-just-as-important-as-math-in-school/ https://artsedge.kennedy-center.org/educators/how-to/encouraging-arts/how-dance-can-teach-literature https://ideas.ted.com/why-dance-is-just-as-important-as-math-in-school/ http://ase.tufts.edu/crlr/documents/2012RAW-LinksBetween.pdf