The Value of Dance for Primary Children
Dance is a fundamental means of human expression. It requires no equipment apart from the body itself (the instrument) and a space in which to move (the medium). We read body language before we listen to what is said. This is why dance, with its non-verbal communication and symbolic movement, affects the viewer immediately.
The uniqueness of dance lies partly in its dual nature—it is both physical and expressive, and this makes it both similar to and different from other physical activities and art forms. Dance develops physical, creative, imaginative, emotional and intellectual capacities. It also requires social skills. Dance provides opportunities for artistic and aesthetic education as well as opportunities for children to explore and express moods and ideas symbolically through movement. To be physically proficient, children develop a range of technical skills and the ability to improve their performance. Because of its close relationship with music, dance develops rhythmic and musical sensitivity. Through experiencing dance, children can also develop their cultural and historical knowledge and understanding.
Dance has its own body of knowledge, understanding and skills. This is accessed through the processes of performing, composing and appreciating. By the end of the primary phase, children should be able to do the following:
- Lead warm-up and cool-down activities.
- Perform various styles of dance with fluency and control.
- Dance confidently and expressively.
- Perform with musicality.
- Adapt and refine the way they use space, dynamics and relationships.
- Work creatively and imaginatively to create solos, duos and group dances.
- Use appropriate vocabulary to describe, evaluate and reflect on their own and others’ dances.
- Talk about dance with understanding.
- Recognise that dance makes them healthy.
In addition, they should have experienced the following:
- A range of starting points and stimuli
- A range of accompaniment
- Dances of different times and places
- Different types of dance
- Viewing professional dance live or on film
Dance has so many significant benefits that daily doses should be prescribed for all!
- gives access to a unique form of communication and expression;
- develops the ability to make informed and critical judgements;
- develops creative thought and action;
- develops a sense of performance and audience;
- provides opportunities for appreciating and collaborating with other art forms;
- introduces children to a theatre art; and
- develops kinaesthetic, spatial and visual awareness.
- develops coordination, control, strength, stamina, mobility and flexibility;
- develops technical skills such as those required for travelling, jumping and turning;
- encourages physical confidence and enjoyment in moving;
- develops a responsible attitude to health and fitness; and
- helps make connections between physical and emotional well-being.
- provides enjoyment, motivation, aspiration and achievement;
- develops self-confidence and self-esteem;
- develops the ability to respond creatively to challenge;
- provides opportunities to explore links between feelings, values and ideas;
- encourages independence and initiative;
- develops the determination to succeed; and
- provides opportunities for achievement and success for all.
- promotes physical and emotional trust and sensitivity when working with others;
- develops skills to work with others to solve problems and achieve goals;
- develops the ability to lead and be led and to take on different roles (performer, choreographer, audience);
- provides the opportunity to contribute ideas and share in the creative process; and
- develops the ability to discuss, negotiate, listen and give and receive feedback.
Dance also plays a role in developing a broad range of personal, learning and thinking skills that help children improve their learning and performance in school and life. Some of these skills are explored in more detail in chapter 8. They include the following:
- Communication: Children can practise their speaking and listening skills by listening, understanding and responding to others when creating dances with others. Dance enriches children’s use of language when they describe, interpret and evaluate their own and others’ dances and respond to the written word when text is used as a stimulus for dance.
- Application of numbers: Dance provides opportunities to rehearse mathematical language, particularly space, shape and direction.
- Information technology: Digital and video cameras are instrumental in recording and evaluating (and improving) dance. We also use computers and DVDs to view and research dance.
- Teamwork: Dance is the perfect medium for developing this skill. To dance effectively with others, children will contribute ideas, meet challenges, collaborate and cooperate. They have to understand the needs and experiences of others and share space sensitively.
- Self-improvement: This skill is clearly embedded in the ability to reflect on, evaluate and identify ways to improve performance and composition.
- Problem solving: In dance, children translate ideas into actions: this in itself is a problem-solving activity. They have to find ways to find solutions to physical problems such as how to represent a machine with moving parts using four dancers. They also adapt skills and techniques to suit different outcomes, for instance by combining two short partner dances to create a group dance.
- Creative thinking: This is a fundamental skill for dance composition. It requires the ability to respond imaginatively to a stimulus or idea, explore movements and improvise, generate new movement material and extend and develop material.
- Independent enquiry: This is exercised when children plan dances, make informed decisions and explore issues or events from a different perspective.
- Self-management: In dance, children are expected to take responsibility for their actions (literally!) and show initiative and perseverance. They also take imaginative risks and show mental flexibility. If they have the desire to improve and the drive to become a better dancer, then they need to manage their emotions and deal with pressure.
- Effective participation: Through participating in a range of dance activities, children can play a full part in the life of the school.