Talking about cooperation is not nearly as effective as cooperating. Learning to live together in social accord is better understood by having to live together in social accord. Teach democracy by modeling a democratic society. Striving for excellence is not at cross purposes with democracy. Promote this in dance by being the facilitator for learning rather than the autocratic voice of rigid conformity that hinders creative development. Everyone gets an equal chance to succeed through feedback, scaffolding, and safety nets.
Not only can you set up the classroom so students interact with each other and develop social skills in their dance making and doing, but you can also construct cooperative group dynamics through composing and critiquing. Keep competitiveness out of your classroom. Make sure holistic student-centered learning aids psychosocial development. When artistic processes become collaborative, they contribute a great deal to this development
- by asking critical friends to provide critique and feedback,
- by composing and problem solving in a group, and
- by collaborating when performing.
Social studies and dance focus on the nature of human expression throughout history and in different cultures. Because dance universally expresses social, historical, cultural, and familial contexts, traditional dances naturally reveal insights into the people who made them. Folk dances can jointly carry goals of social studies and dance forward. Dances that have been passed through generations bring to life times and places other than our own (see chapter 8).
One way to retain vital information from a particular era is to embody dances of the era. World history can be taught just as easily in the context of the arts and culture as it is through military conquests and politics. In fact, the politics of the arts make interesting history study! Students in grades 3 through 8 find folk dances especially interesting. At the time they are learning to fit into the biggerworld, they like to learn dances of the past and what motivated them—to learn about dances and to dance dances that other people made and dancedfor centuries. Folk dance can rivet student attention in social studies or history. Performing folk dances is a cooperative activity as well as an opportunity to perfect unison movement patterns and refine stylistic quality.
Use historically based dance works such as John Henry by Arthur Mitchell to portray the story of the early 20th-century laying of the railroads across America. Or show the plight of the prisoners on achain gang in Donald McKayle’s Rainbow ’Round MyShoulder to raise social conscience. To investigate the times when dance was out of favor or in favor reveals the restrictiveness of the times. The times that certain dance forms were banned, such as the hula (Hawaii), the Bharata Natyam (south India), and the ring shout (southern United States), are keys to finding information about the times and the prevailing cultural values or political agendas. Kings who were dancers, such as Louis XIII and Louis XIV of France, brought dance into the courts and were thefirst examples of royal patrons of dance. Investigate them and others.
This is an excerpt from Teaching Dance as Art in Education.