Talk to most adults about dance education and they will probably vaguely recall having to learn ballroom dancing at the command of their parents, who envisioned… years of country club dances in their futures? Hard to say! Or perhaps they’ll recall learning to square dance in 6th grade gym, a unit stuck in between gymnastics and volleyball. (Was that just my gym experience? Maybe.) But few adults have much experience with actual dance training beyond that, unless they were more serious about its pursuit, and studied it on their own time. And this is a shame, because dance education is something that’s valuable for all of us, a truth handily proven at Ballibay.
As with other artistic mediums, like theatre, dance can provide kids with an education that surpasses its readily seen benefits. Because while, yes, studying dance can increase a student’s grace, poise, posture, and awareness of things like rhythm and the movements of their bodies, it can also teach children so much more.
There is a long tradition throughout the world of culture’s using dance to celebrate, to mourn, to tell stories, and to educate
Dance offers a lifelong lesson in kinesthetic intelligence, a type of education in what it is that the body can do both separate from and in tandem with the mind. It increases the ways in which children communicate with their own bodies, giving them a greater understanding of the importance of a gesture, a tilt of the head, a shift in weight from one foot to another. It also allows kids to better interpret another person’s body language, a skill that is bound to come in handy at countless points throughout their lives.
More so than that, dance is an art form that has been present at every stage of civilization; partaking in its beauty is a way of connecting to humans past, present, and future. There is a long tradition throughout the world of culture’s using dance to celebrate, to mourn, to tell stories, and to educate. Dancing is as much a part of the human condition as song and speech; learning this language is an invaluable tool for anyone interested in better understanding our collective humanity.
For kids who are not interested in competitive sports, dance also offers an alternative means of exercising and engaging the body, something that is invaluable in this rather sedentary age. The demands made on a dancer’s body are specific to the medium, and they teach a dancer to pay attention to the signals their body is giving them, until listening to these cues becomes second nature.
For kids who are not interested in competitive sports, dance also offers an alternative means of exercising
And like other art forms, dancing is strongly correlated to problem solving, and thus the intellectual engagement a dancer has is related to their need to identify patterns, and find solutions for the questions at hand.
There’s a (very) corny saying that’s been floating around the internet for the last few years, and you’ve probably seen it quoted on some Facebook friend or another’s wall: “Dance like nobody’s watching.” This maxim is, I guess, supposed to encourage people to live life freely, and not to care about what anyone else around you thinks about what it is you’re doing—even if that’s dancing like a whirling dervish. And I understand the sentiment, I really do. But the beautiful thing about dance, and what anyone who studies it will soon understand, is that dancing is something that is best not done in a vacuum, and indeed can not be done in one—the dancer herself is always watching. Rather, dance is an art of mindfulness; it is about being present and attuned to yourself and those around you, and letting the body lead the way as you move through the world, one step at a time.