Benefits of Dance Training for Children
My daughter will be two and a half in the fall and I have already signed her up for her first ballet and tap classes. I also added a beginner tumbling class, an art class and an early music class to her suddenly busy schedule. I never stopped to think about why I wanted her to participate in all of these fine arts activities…I just signed the forms. One night, after signing my daughter up for her activities, I came home from work to see my husband puzzling over the pile of registration forms and receipts. He quietly stood staring at them, flipped through them, and then asked, “Why?” I might have rolled my eyes, heaved an exaggerated sigh and said “because” and then proceeded to make supper. At the time, I did not give much thought to what I was doing, or why - I just enrolled her in these activities because it’s something I did. Growing up, I took music lessons. I enjoyed art. I loved dance. Naturally, I want to share my love of the fine arts with my daughter.
As I prepared to write this essay, I started gathering information. I read many articles, web pages, and books. I asked my friends and I asked my clients why they wanted their children to dance. Most answers were the same. Some replied with, “I’d like her to stay busy afterschool so she doesn’t get into trouble.” Some were more concerned about the tutus and dresses their child would get to wear and how cute they would look in it. Some were on an endless cycle of finding the “right” activity that their child would enjoy. And like me, some said, “Because I used to dance and I loved it.”
Although developing a “love of dance” is a great reason to enrol a child in dance classes, there are so many more benefits that a dance class can provide a young dancer. These benefits range from increasing the amount of daily exercise a child receives to making new and lasting friendships based on shared interests. Whatever the reason, it can be said that studying dance trains more than just the body. It truly influences the entirety of a person.
Consider the following examples of how dance training provides many benefits and areas of development:
Experiences and opportunities for learning shape a child’s development. As our western culture tends to favor logical/mathematical and verbal/linguistic learning styles, it is crucial for children to have exposure to kinesthetic learning (the act of learning by carrying out a physical activity). Although kinesthetic learning is the major style of learning that occurs in a dance studio, dancers are also exposed to visual, auditory and verbal learning styles. An introduction to many styles of learning maximizes the full development of each child. The creative variety dance offers teaches dancers that there are many ways to approach and find solutions for problems.
Children in dance classes are encouraged to develop special awareness while increasing control, co-ordination, and flexibility and balance skills. Dance also helps children learn about their body and improve posture. They are taught to move safely while experiencing a wide range of gross and fine motor movements. The movement patterns that develop in dance classes will last a lifetime and beginner dance elements such as running, skipping, hopping, jumping and turning can be utilized in many other sports and activities throughout adolescence and into adulthood. As dancers delve more deeply into classes, they will develop a larger vocabulary of movement.
Dance class offers a safe environment for cultivating confidence in imaginative learning. Children learn to communicate their thoughts and feelings non-verbally with the use of narratives and storytelling. Responsiveness to music is an asset in the dance world and is developed through contact with many genres of music. Dance teachers encourage students to express their own creativity and style preferences through class activities like improvisation or self-choreography. Dancers may also be responsible for music selection of routines and styling their own dancewear for class allowing for further exploration of self-expression.
Often children will join dance classes to socialize with friends and/or make new ones. Many of the friendships that are founded in dance classes will last through high school and beyond. In comparison to other sports, dance is unique in that it allows for both individual and group learning. While dancers are encouraged to focus on technique and develop their skills individually, they are also exposed to a team atmosphere through group routines and participation in performances or competitions. This group dynamic helps to develop trust and co-operation among peers. As dance class is often run as a large group setting, students have the opportunity to explore the feelings and views of themselves and others.
Discipline and Etiquette
Dance classes follow long-established protocols and syllabi for the proper training of the body. They operate with a firm discipline and moral code and children who dance learn to accept and apply the courtesies expected in class. Often these “dancers manners” transpire into daily life through waiting ones turn, respecting and addressing adults and teachers, learning time management skills, and dressing appropriately.
Participation in dance class offers an outlet for children who do not gravitate towards vigorous sports such as soccer or basketball. Our culture is increasingly sedentary and children often choose activities such as playing iPad or watching TV. Dance is a great way for children to reach their daily activity levels and can even burn up to 200 calories per hour helping with weight management and encouraging a healthy lifestyle.
Eating habits are often a difficult topic amongst young dancers and their parents, but teachers should encourage students to properly fuel and hydrate their bodies before and after dance classes. Dancers learn that maintaining a healthy balance of food, fitness and sleep/rest is essential for their well being. An introduction to basic nutrition, requirements for sleep and rest, and the benefits of physical fitness provide a starting point for a life-long interest in good health.
As education becomes more and more demanding, less school hours are spent in fine arts classes. Introducing children to dance helps them to develop an appreciation for the fine arts. Children who observe success in dance classes and personal performances will hopefully grow up to be adults who encourage and fund arts initiatives, are involved in or buy tickets to local performances, and keep the arts alive.
Children who study dance are required to be organized. From making sure that they are prepared for classes with the necessary shoes and attire stowed in their dance bag to scheduling their life events around their weekly dance classes, organization can be a struggle. Dancers must learn to pre-plan their short and long-term schedules. Often, dancers are the ones who submit their school assignments early. Strategizing ways to accomplish everything often creates individuals who are driven and goal oriented. Prioritizing and the ability to set short and long-term goals are skills dancers will maintain throughout their lives.
Skill Absorption and Application
Dancers develop an ability to grasp complex combinations in a short period of time due to the fast paced nature of dance classes. Being able to effectively listen to specific instructions and then execute necessary skills is highly valued in the work world.
Self Confidence and Self Respect
Success in dance is highly influenced by a dancers intrinsic motivation, self-discipline and ability to set and meet personal goals. Dance training teaches children to be confident in their abilities. Their accomplishments show them that they can handle a variety of jobs, pressures, and responsibilities and they often develop an “I Can” attitude. When a child is encouraged to practice regularly, they will progress and begin to see the fruit of their work. Commitment to frequent practicing develops a strong work ethic, a sense of respect for the process of hard work, and a respect for themselves.
Responsiveness to Constructive Criticism
Through comments and evaluations from dance teachers, peers, professionals and mentors, children learn that their growth in dance requires constructive criticism. Good dance teachers educate their students that comments and corrections are a teacher’s way of fostering progress in their students and that students should desire these critiques and see them as a form of compliment.
After much deliberation as to why I want my daughter to dance, I realize that the benefits of dance for a growing child are endless. So why do I want my daughter to dance? For all of the reasons listed above, but most importantly, I believe that children find a great deal of pleasure and enjoyment from their dance classes and that as parents and educators, we need to foster this love of dance in our students.
This may be the most important benefit of all!