Educating children should not be just about preparing them for future employment, the child should also be exposed to experiences that will develop them emotionally and physically and enrich their ability to express themselves.
Dance in particular helps to fulfil these needs by developing qualities and abilities that have very practical applications. Qualities such as grace, co-ordination and poise. Dance is also an excellent recreational activity with the added advantage of helping to develop well shaped, strong bodies.
Young girls and boys are mainly attracted to dance because of the joy of moving to music, but they gain much more. Dance develops grace, poise, balance, and a high degree of co-ordination learnt through self-discipline. This gives the student a heightened physical awareness and a respect for their “instrument” the human body.
Because the arts are neglected in most Australian schools this important side of the child’s education is usually left to the parent. Luckily dance is very popular in Australia and dance schools can be found in most areas. The biggest problem the parent will have is deciding between the styles taught in these schools – Classical Ballet, Contemporary Dance, Musical Theatre Dance, Tap Dance and Ballroom are just a few of the most popular.
Here is a brief overview of each of these exhilarating forms of dance.
Ballroom Dancing requires a good sense of body carriage, rhythm, balance and co-ordination. It is an elegant form of social dancing performed with a partner. Ballroom dancing can be done competitively and is hoping to become part of the Olympics as a Dance-Sport.
Tap Dancing is an exciting dance form that differs dramatically from other forms of dancing by its concentration on the rhythmic tapping of the toe, heel and flat foot. Currently undergoing a resurgence of interest, it requires a heightened sense of co-ordination and lots of rhythm.
Musical Theatre Dance which is sometimes called Jazz draws on elements of tap, contemporary and ballet techniques. It stresses line, correct footwork and isolated body movements frequently used in complicated patterns. It requires an outgoing personality and a flexible, well-shaped body.
Contemporary Dance has been developed by numerous dancers who each emphasised their right to move in a unique way based on his or her own theory of movement. It concentrates on breathing, gravity and the position of the spine.
Classical Ballet is a stylised, theatrical form of dance which requires the student to learn a very specific technique that was established centuries ago in the courts of Europe and has been evolving ever since. Some of the obvious features of ballet dancing are the regal bearing of the body and arms and the emphasis on fully stretched legs and feet. Ballet requires a slim well proportioned body with good outward rotation of the legs.
The vital link in the success of any attempt to educate the young and developing student is the teacher, which means that after the style of technique is decided upon, the choice of school is of absolute importance. If there is more than one dance school in your area, ask the principal of each school whether you and your child can observe a class. This will allow you to gauge how the school is run. Apart from having a caring approach to the training of the students, the school should be well appointed and observe safe-dance practices. The level of discipline in the class should enable the smooth running of the lesson but not be so strict as to stifle creativity.
If possible it is also wise to attend a performance given by the school under consideration. Like students, schools have different qualities and philosophies, which means they set their sights on different goals. The dancers who graduate from the school will display the values of that school, such as the different qualities they emphasise and the effectiveness of their training system. Good dancers at a school are not only an indication of the school’s merit, but they are also an inspiration to the other students in the classes. They help to create an atmosphere that stimulates artistic growth.
A final word. The quality of the teaching is more important than the system of dance taught. Today, good teaching practice aims to utilise the students’ natural enthusiasm, and their need to be constantly challenged, to make their mastery of movement from the simplest to the most demanding a rewarding task. A good teacher transmits to their students their obviously love of dance, and the rewards are students who not only excel in exams and competitions but who also enjoy dancing and can communicate that enjoyment.