Dance classes when taught by professional child specialists is a truly unrecognized educational value for the young child. The developmental head start is readily observable to parents who have seen their children flourish with dance. Because of the observed benefits, it is not an over statement to recommend that every child should experience dance for at least one or two years during the crucial formative years from 3 to 8.
Society seldom makes the effort to critically analyze the components and skill-sets developed in childhood dance and the study of it. The usual response is "Dance is fun." This is true but it is not a thoughtful analysis. It is a simple observation. Also inferred with "Dance is fun" is the implication "So therefore any instruction and study of it must be just an extension of simple children's play and therefore of no "real" educational value." Or there is the often observed, "Dance builds self esteem." Which is true, but the basic assumptions that dance classes for children are non-educational for the most part go unchallenged. Still largely leaving the questions unanswered, "What is involved in childhood dance and the study of it? And what is its broader educational value?"
Context of the Learning Environment First of all dance is immersive. It fully surrounds the individual. Few activities naturally and fundamentally engage the individual, especially the young child, with such completeness and immediacy. The sensory paths (referred to in educational literature as modalities) that are active in dance include:
auditory (hearing the music for synchronization and vocal cues), visual (for synchronization with others and self-perception and control) kinesthetic (literally the entire body is called into action) tactile (touch - both with the floor and others)
There is no school activity that provides as broad of an experience for coordinating the senses so completely as dance. What school activity requires the movement of the entire body to learn the actual material being learned - requiring the coordination and the integration of sight, sound and body in a real time precision situation - all the while exercising imagination, memory, synchronization and both fine and course motor skills? It is a fact that many learning techniques meant to enhance efficiency and efficacy for learning standard school subjects introduce elements found naturally in dance. Sports at the early ages is never involved with fine motor skills or estehetics or imagination or visualization or some of the many other areas mentioned above.
An interesting point about the levels introduced by dance is that they occur mostly in the pre-lingual arena. Much of what is addressed in dance class introduces the child to a stronger foundation for language. For example: every speech pattern has a cadence, a rhythm; dance teaches rhythm. In fact many music educators extol dance as the best way of teaching rhythm to the young musician. Every conversation or communication is a delicate synchronization, a reading if you will, between the two parties. Dance teaches synchronization. Watching and listening closely and performing the appropriate action. Even at the higher levels of imagination and emotions language is not used. And it is the realm of art to speak in the terms most appropriate to the emotion or concept being addressed. If it was more efficient to convey what dance, or any art for that matter, conveys with words then that would be the preferred mode used. The arts communicate concepts in the medium that imagination finds most efficacious. Those concepts many times cannot be easily or efficiently communicated with words. The words simply do not exist.
Specific Areas of Learning Dance is multi-faceted. For the very young student, dance instruction involves a) socialization b) exercising and increasing concentration c)exercising and refining physical motor control d) exercise of the fullness of the imagination e) esthetic introduction and understandings introducing the child to the connection between the emotional and esthetic f) music appreciation and fundamental music introduction g) synchronization with others h) the sense of rhythm - temporal awareness, i) anticipation and sequencing skills j) spatial awareness, and there is more. Much of what is being worked on with the child are pre-linguistic or non-linguistic concepts. Extremely important in preparing the child for other "higher-level" learning experiences. Also important with integrating the individual with themselves and with the group. The holistic foundation put in place by dance is not formally presented to the child in all these aspects by any other modern-day class available. It is not a stretch to say that dance instruction for the young child is on the leading edge of education and education theory.
The ML Dance Academy 2002 Officeview Place Reynoldsburg, Oh 43068 Phone 614-834-4955