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Teaching through dance

by Gayle Kassing

Today, dance is everywhere—in schools, communities, theatres, and electronic media. It’s something many students naturally enjoy—but not every physical educator is comfortable teaching dance.

Gaining a wider knowledge of dance performed in countries throughout the world helps students gain a sense of their cultural identity; develop knowledge about the diversity of the classmates and community, and understandings about other cultures throughout the world. Dance has been called an international language. Viewing dances and dance forms from around the world opens a window to students as how dance is a part of a society as recreation, a cultural tradition, or a theatrical event. Students seeing and responding to performances of different dance forms can begin to identify and characterize dance forms, which in turn can support deeper experiences , more background from which to respond in discussion or writing about dance. Critically analyzing a dance work within the cultural context of a society either today or from the past becomes a natural extension which could help students gain a sense of the dance within the larger context of a global society. Researching a dance or dances with a culture fosters a deeper understanding of the dance and the culture. All of these strategies contribute to engaging students in developing dance literacy.

Living and dancing in one world offers many opportunities to learn more about dance in your community as well as across the globe, and provides many opportunities to explore the wonderful world of dance. But how do you expose students to the benefits of dance, and encourage reluctant students to participate when you’re less than comfortable with the subject yourself?

Fortunately—there are many resources available that can help even the staunchest non-dancer teach kids about dance and provide a quality educational experience. Start browsing the Dance section of this Web site for a wide range of great resources.

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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