At the tail end of spring every year, my daughter’s school spends a week rehearsing, dancing and performing for their World Dance Festival. Frankly, I wish that dance was a part of their curriculum all year long, because aside from the obvious physical benefits, it has been shown that students who are dancers are not only better, more confident students, but hey, they get higher test scores. Coincidentally, that’s one of the primary motivating factors in today’s school system, so shouldn’t more schools be looking at implementing a dance program?
The potential benefits run the physical, emotional, social and academic gamut. Here are a few factual tidbits to chew on (compiled from the a study by the National Assembly of State Art Agencies titled: “Critical Evidence: How the ARTS Benefit Student Achievement”):
• In a well-documented national study using a federal database of over 25,000 middle and high school students, researchers from the University of California at Los Angeles found students with high arts involvement performed better on standardized achievement tests than students with low arts involvement. Moreover, the high arts-involved students also watched fewer hours of TV, participated in more community service and reported less boredom in school.
• In an experimental research study of high school age students, those who studied dance scored higher than non-dancers on measures of creative thinking, especially in the categories of fluency, originality and abstract thought.
• Dance also can affect the way juvenile offenders and other disenfranchised youth feel about themselves. One study demonstrated that when a group of 60 such adolescents, ages 13 to 17, participated in jazz and hip hop dance classes twice weekly for 10 weeks, they reported significant gains in confidence, tolerance and persistence related to the dance experience
• Dance has been employed to develop reading readiness in very young children.
• According to the Center for Educator Development in Fine Arts, higher academic test scores, higher self-esteem, stronger social skills, and greater content knowledge can be attributed to students participating in groups in dance classes.
Dance uses both the right and left hemispheres of the brain as dancers learn and memorize combinations of movement as they express concepts and emotions, focus and count every beat of music while inhabiting a different world- something other than the monotony of rote repetition that school can often be. Spatial awareness, motor coordination, strength and flexibility all come into play, too, with the end result being… stronger, more confident human beings who possess greater cognitive skills.
Isn’t that supposed to be what education is about?