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4 Key Benefits of Including Dance Education in Schools

Dance education, also referred to as creative movement, creative dance or expressive dance, is a dance form that combines movement and self-expression. It draws on the work of Rudolf Laban (pioneer of movement analysis) and is taught through dance elements within a conceptual framework. It is not based on technique that must be mastered in dance forms such as ballet, bachata, or bharatnatyam. Nor is it about students learning dance steps that must be memorized and performed. 

Dance education invites students to tap into their bodies in unique ways by listening to how they feel, and moving based on their ability and their interpretation of the world around them. Through teacher guidance and structured lessons, students can learn dance concepts, and build a dance vocabulary that they can bring to life through their bodies. Dance education is inherently inclusive in its approach and is meant to be accessible for all students regardless of their gender, ability, or comfort level. 

Unfortunately, dance education does not receive the same attention as math, science and technology, and the language arts. Similarly to music, visual arts, and drama, dance is often on the chopping block when it comes to funding cuts. In fact, dance tends to be considered the most disposable of the arts subjects. Yet, the benefits of dance education provides a very strong argument for why it should be taught in schools.  

Physical Benefits

An inclusive quality dance education program allows students to:

  • Gain greater awareness of their bodies as a whole and in parts (e.g., exploring how the whole body moves as a unit versus isolating one body part at a time). 
  • Develop healthy and strong bodies where balance, strength, mobility, agility, flexibility, spatial awareness, and posture is attended to and conditioned. 
  • Develop eye-hand coordination, and fine and gross motor skills, through the use of props (e.g., scarves, ribbons, bean bags, cones) and by exploring a variety of ways to move the body in space (e.g., wiggling fingers, giant leaps across the room).


Social Benefits

An inclusive quality dance education program allows students to:

  • Build classroom community by connecting and cooperating with others while participating in dance activities in creative ways.  
  • Build respect and trust with one another through collaborative and fun experiences. 
  • Develop leadership skills when working in groups, or with a partner, such as making suggestions when creating dances or in leading activities (e.g., mirroring). 
  • Develop appreciation for others and the different ways that individual bodies move.


Emotional Benefits

An inclusive quality dance education program allows students to:

  • Experience the joy and emotional release that comes from dancing when connecting more deeply with their feelings.  
  • Develop self-expression where they learn to communicate thoughts, ideas, and feelings through a non-verbal means. 
  • Build confidence, self-esteem, and a positive self-image by learning new skills and seeing themselves as creative beings. 
  • Reduce stress, anxiety, and depression as dancing releases “happy” hormones.


Intellectual Benefits

An inclusive quality dance education program allows students to:

  • Develop skills that will serve them throughout their lives such as self-discipline, creative problem-solving, critical thinking, active listening, and following directions. 
  • Develop literacy skills by learning dance terminology, understanding what it means, and applying it appropriately when dancing or talking about dance.   
  • Enhance learning across the curriculum by seeing the similarities in concepts between dance and other subjects (e.g., dance and math: patterns, directions, space) and using the body to explore the curriculum in new ways.   
  • Make connections to anti-discrimination education and social justice issues by exploring dance through an historical, cultural, and political lens. 

Traci L. Scheepstra, Ph.D., is the CEO/Founder of Embodied Learnings. Want to know more about her work in education? Read here!  

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