Dancing to a beautiful song and performing before a crowd was something I loved to do. In grade school, I joined the dance club, but I didn't think much how dance was essential to my growth. Cheerleading and traditional dances were part of physical education (P.E.) and music subjects, so I didn't think much of it other than that I needed to do it and I didn't mind.
It was only when my son switched to a new school where dance is a separate and required subject that I realized, "Hey, maybe dance isn't just a talent of the few."
Ideas.Ted.com published an excerpt of the book You, Your Child and School: Navigate Your Way to the Best Education where the authors, Sir Ken Robinson and Lou Aronica, defined dance as "the physical expression through movement and rhythm of relationships, feelings, and ideas." Some kids are better at it than others, but it doesn't mean kids who are not good at dancing to a beat shouldn't do it.
The physical fitness benefits of dancing alone should make us all want to dance. It improves flexibility, balance, and posture and develops motor skills, strength, stamina, and muscle. It increases energy and relieves stress, boosts heart health, and even help in weight loss. But dancing also help build our child's social and emotional skills.
1. It helps promote social relationships. "Dance education has important benefits for students’ social relationships, particularly among genders and age groups," Robinson and Aronica wrote. Dancing especially social ones involve moving together in synchrony, physical contact, and empathy. It reinforces cooperation and collaboration among peers, even acceptance, and respect for other kids.
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2. It helps develop self-esteem and confidence. Dance "has been shown to increase confidence, social and communication skills as well as improve self-esteem and overall attentiveness in individuals," wrote dance and movement therapy instructor Martha Krabill. Some students don't like to try dance because they're afraid to be laughed at, but then after trying it, they discover that they love it.
3. It is a training ground for hard work. For structured dances such as social dances or group performances, kids need to practice to perform. Setting time for practice, learning the steps, trying your best to be in sync with your partner and the music are just a few skills that can help instill hard work and discipline in kids.
4. It helps promote creative expression. Dance "is a great way to express emotions that are sometimes not easily expressed verbally," Krabill said. It doesn't matter if one has two left feet, kids enjoy and have fun dancing to music. Dance helps fuel one's imagination.
5. It can help improve student's grades. "Physical activity has a positive influence on memory, concentration and classroom behavior." That's according to a panel of researchers in kinesiology and pediatrics who conducted a review of more than 850 studies about the effects of physical activity on school-age children.
My son hated dancing with a group in front of an audience in his previous school. It came to a point where he was the only student who did not join the class performance during the family day. In his new school, he was hesitant at first to participate in dance classes, but he joined when they told him he needed to participate.
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He performed two social dances with a partner, and he did well. At the end of the school year, I was surprised to learn he volunteered to join his school's annual end-of-the-schoolyear dance contest. He stayed after school to learn new choreography with his dance partner. They didn't win, but they made it to the finals.
I observed all of the abovementioned benefits of dance in my son. He used to stick by my or my husband's side during school events. Now he was hanging out more with his classmates. He used to forget assignments and now he stays on top of them and submits on time.
I'm beginning to think he might even be starting to like dancing, too. Like art, music, and sports which each offers unique advantages to kids, dancing, I think, is as important as math, reading, and other subjects in school.
As Robinson and Aronica explained, "We don’t teach math solely to create mathematicians, and we don’t teach writing solely to create the next generation of novelists. The same holds true for the arts. We teach them to create well-rounded citizens who can apply the skills, knowledge, and experience from being involved in the arts to their careers and lives."