Why do we dance?
The majority of people often reply ‘because dance is fun and it feels good’. Fun leads to enjoyment, happiness and sometimes fulfillment; aspirations many of us would like to have for ourselves as well as for those we love and care for. Perhaps knowing how the body feels also links to an empathetic understanding of others; as if we are walking in another’s shoes, or living in another’s skin. Educationalists care about these things too. Teachers of children would like to think they were doing the very best for children in their learning environments. Dance, as an embodied understanding of ourselves, can connect to a moral and ethical pedagogy that not only honors the life of the child but also makes possible a new way to envisage being human.
Dance has emerged to become an essential learning area within the arts, together with drama, music, and the visual arts. Dance is a distinct learning area that has the possibility of being seen as a unique area of learning that encompasses ‘all of the traditions, purposes, practices and contexts of dance both past and present as artistic, aesthetic, and cultural education’.
Any dance curriculum is founded on the aspirations for children to grow up as competent and confident learners and communicators, healthy in mind, body and spirit, secure in their sense of belonging and in the knowledge that they make a valued contribution to society. Through dance education, children develop abilities and interests in a range of domains – ‘spatial, visual, linguistic, physical, musical, logical or mathematical’ and an ‘increasing confidence and a repertoire for symbolic, pretend, or dramatic play’. They develop increasing control over their bodies, including development of locomotor skills, non-locomotor skills, manipulative skills and increasing agility, coordination, and balance and strategies for actively exploring and making sense of the world by using their bodies…confidence with moving in space, moving to rhythm, and playing.
To feel good or to have fun when we dance acts as a great stimulus and enhances our well-being. Alternatively, dance can be used to escape from the real world and live in a world of fantasy. Sometimes a world of fantasy or make-believe can create those opportunities to imagine what could be for the good of the world. Perhaps it is not so much about simply dancing for our pleasure, or about escaping into another world, but more about understanding what pleasure or escapism means related to life and being human. The body, which inextricably links to dance, is a repository of life experiences: a site for oppression and liberation, and something that can be drawn upon to help us make meaning for ourselves. Situating the child, and their lived experiences is central to creating dance. Above all, it is about honoring the life of the child in dance education where creativity and imagination can thrive and be directed toward understanding what it means to be human. When the genesis of dance comes from the child, the creative spirit will blossom. Adults need to pay attention and bear witness to the ‘magic’ that unfolds before them during these spontaneous and inspirational moments of dance.
Mindful pedagogy in dance: honoring the life of the child.
Drop by our Brooklin Dance studio to start dancing today!Adrienne Sansom The School of the Arts, Languages and Literacies, Faculty of Education Auckland, New Zealand 13 Nov 2009