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Dance education prepares students for life

by Gayle Kassing

Today’s society is rapidly changing, and all educators face the challenge of preparing students to become a part of that society. But what does an 18th-century ballerina have to do with getting a high school or college student ready to enter the workforce?

Quite a lot, it turns out. Dance education has always been about understanding art, learning about other cultures, and working positively with others, but it can also be the medium for teaching students to write well and use technology in beneficial ways. Dance can provide a framework for developing multiliterate* adults. An interdisciplinary approach to dance education can prepare your students to meet the economic, social, and cultural demands of 21st-century life.

Multiliteracies broaden information and communication skills beyond reading and writing to interacting with aural, visual, and digital media. Now, back to the 18th-century ballerina: High-quality dance education should go deeper. Students can research the social and political climate of the ballerina’s performances. They can write critiques of a modern-day performance of a classical work. And students can choreograph and perform their own dances. These types of projects (critical analysis, choreography, and performance) promote dance literacy, which involves a deep understanding of the dance discipline, creative skills, and critical-thinking skills in order to make meaningful connections. When students learn how to make these connections, not only do they prepare themselves for careers as dance professionals but they also prepare themselves for careers in any area of the 21st-century workforce. The four dance textbooks linked to the right do exactly that. While teaching dance theory, history, and critical writing skills, they give students the skills they need in order to be multiliterate adults with a solid foundation in the arts.

*The term multiliteracies was coined by the New London Group (1996) to highlight two related aspects of the increasing complexity of texts: (a) the proliferation of multimodal ways of making meaning where the written word is increasingly part and parcel of visual, audio, and spatial patterns; (b) the increasing salience of cultural and linguistic diversity characterized by local diversity and global connectedness. (

Gayle Kassing, PhD, taught history of dance for more than 25 years at four universities. Kassing earned a BFA in ballet and theater, an MS in modern dance, a PhD in dance and related arts, and an MAT in K-12 curriculum integrated with  technology, for which she completed a multimedia technology project on the history of dance.

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