I didn’t always consider myself a dance educator. In fact, when I began my elementary teaching career I thought of myself as a math and science specialist. It wasn’t until my first professional learning experience in dance education 10 years ago that my mindset shifted about the benefits and value of dance education. I began exploring how dance and movement could be used to unlock students’ abilities to take risks and think critically, build their mental health and well-being, and encourage creativity. As I watched students use their bodies for learning, as well as instruments of expression, I witnessed their engagement in school increase. Since then, I’ve plunged myself, and my students, into the world of dance. Dance develops students’ creativity and ability to problem-solve collaboratively, two of the most important skills needed by twenty-first-century learners. Giving students the freedom to make choices within a structured program encourages them to reach beyond what comes easily, use their imaginations and test their personal boundaries. Dance also enables students to better understand themselves and the world in which they live. I have come to realize that dance education is more than movement for fitness or entertainment. Dance education today concentrates on process, the process of using the body to
- Express an idea
- Think about and challenge opinions
- Develop emotional understanding of self and others
- Revise and refine choices through critical analysis.
Planning and Organization Are the Keys to Success Effective dance programs are highly organized and require both teachers and students to be keenly observant. As students move around the room, they must watch where their bodies are in relation to other dancers and objects in the room. They can choose to keep their personal space at a distance, or they can choose to engage with other dancers and objects. This requires students to think quickly and critically about the quality and quantity of their interactions. One of my roles, as teacher, is to side-coach – to ask students meaningful questions while they create to expand their thinking on what is possible within their piece. Dance is a discipline of study like any other subject area, and I put as much critical thought into my dance program as I do into my literacy and math programs. My long-range plans follow students’ continua of learning as dance creators through careful selection and scheduling of learning and assessment experiences. Students develop their understanding of dance content knowledge. Dancing, dance creation and performance appreciation are important parts of every arts program. The classroom environment must also be considered in establishing an effective dance program. Some questions I ask are: How might the classroom be best utilized? Should an alternative space be used? What safety expectations will we