Archeological evidence found in a 9,000-year-old cave in India suggests that dancing has been part of societies for a long time. The earliest form of dance was introduced in religious ceremonies, entertainment, and cultural developments. Currently, dance forms are still an integral part of society, and it continues to enrich cultures around the world. It seems that dance is appealing to young people and proof of this is the recent boom of reality dance shows on popular television. National Dance Day was launched in 2010 by “So You Think You Can Dance” co-creator and Dizzy Feet Foundation co-president Nigel Lythgoe. The idea was adopted by the United States Congress in order to promote dance as part of a healthy, active lifestyle. This year National Dance Day will take place on July 29th.
Dance is integrated into schools’ curriculum across the United States during physical education and extracurricular activities. In fact, studies reported that an after-school program incorporating dance in conjunction with family-based home intervention activities may exhibit trends toward lowering body mass index (BMI) and decreasing sedentary screen time. Additional studies investigating the use of a dance video game (Dance Dance Revolution) also showed decreased sedentary screen time and increased aerobic fitness among school-aged children. If you are still not convinced that you should incorporate dance into your curriculum, here are other reasons:
• Promotion of Physical Literacy and Activity - Dancing allows the physical body to be active - whether students are doing a creative movement, line dancing, hip hop, African, Bollywood or cultural dances. Some of the physical benefits include increased heart rate, muscular strength, endurance, agility, flexibility, balance, cardiovascular fitness as well as co-ordination and spatial awareness. Fundamental movement skills can also be explored and developed using the modality of dance: running, hopping, skipping, galloping, balancing, rolling, and crawling.
• Kids LOVE to Dance! – Children will move without judgment or inhibition with smiles on their faces and allow their bodies to move organically. As soon as they can stand, children start to dance.
• Cultural Connections - Dance is the oldest form of celebration in most cultures around the world. Classrooms across the country are diverse and rich with culture, where dance is celebrated in many forms at home and in their communities. When teachers can make cultural connections to the students they teach, it allows them to feel respected and part of the community in their classroom.
• Teamwork and Social Skills - Dance is a perfect way to bring people together whether it be through culture, celebration, performance, or just moving to music together as a team.
• It's in Your Curriculum! - Dance-related movement expectations are present throughout most Arts or Health & Physical Education curricula.
Although dance has been identified as a favored activity that could be efficacious in promoting increased physical activity, dance is not promoted in schools settings at full capacity. It is normal for the majority of teachers to ignore teaching it. Of course, teachers do not ignore dance on purpose, but historically, physical education is associated with sports and games rather than dance. For many teachers, teaching dance is intimidating. Some teachers think that they are supposed to have the perfect technique or remember complicated choreography routines in order to be a good dance teacher. This is far from the truth. You can still teach dance movement even if you are not an expert.
Teaching dance to students with disabilities might seem challenging at the beginning. The good news is that with planning and a few modifications, students with disabilities can experience the same health benefits that dance offers to their peers without a disability. Here are some recommendations for teachers who want to include dance into their classes:
• Build a dance instruction team - Seek out volunteers in the community from local training programs, such as occupational therapists, physical therapists or special educators. Contact a local dance studio to inquire about a potential volunteer dance teacher.
• Create routines for each class session – Ensure that routines are different each time to maintain the student engagement. Give the students enough time to practice and to master the routine.
• Put markers on the floor with each student’s name to help designate their area and aid the participant in understanding their place in the formation.
• Allow the use of mobility devices such as wheelchair, power chairs, crutches, and canes.
• Consider how each child can best participate.
• Place students with disabilities in areas of the formation where you can easily provide for additional visual and auditory stimulation. Provide physical assistance to complete the dance moves as needed. However, encourage independent movement at every opportunity, even if it is only an approximation of the move.
• Place students close to mirrors so they can see themselves move.
• Emphasize the social aspects of a dance class - Dance class is time to have fun with each other, support one another, and learn to dance. This is a time for kids to interact with other kids. As the children learn routines, have part of the class perform, while others watch and encourage each other.
• Allow students to be creative –Encourage students to create their own dance moves.
• Provide a challenge – students appreciate being challenged. Make sure that the skills that are practiced during the dance progress in difficulty through the lesson.
• Find common ground – To reinforce the sense of commonality encourage students to share information about themselves—birthdays, siblings, pets, etc.
• Be patient. Taking some extra time to review a step can bring great rewards—for both you and your students.
• Include students with hearing impairments – Allow them to dance barefoot so they can feel the bass through the floor. Give them cues of what the next step in the routine is. Use pictures and peers to demonstrate the next move.
• Include students with visual impairments – Place the student in close proximity to the teacher. Allow the student to place his or her hands on the teacher to understand the movement. Provide the student with verbal prompts or audio prompts (clapping, whistles, music, or other sound source) to help the student stay oriented during movement activities.
After completion of a dance unit, create opportunities for students to show their dance moves. Invite your students to choreograph a piece during a school wide function. Participating in these type of events will give the students a sense of accomplishment and will also encourage participation during class. Consider submitting a video to the 2017 National Dance Video Competition. Each year Dizzy Feet produces and distributes instructional videos featuring dance routines offering participants, across the United States, a free opportunity to learn an original choreography. Additionally, Dizzy Feet has also created an Adapted Routine aimed to support those who may need to make modifications to the main routine video. For additional information about the National Dance Day please visit: http://dizzyfeet.wpengine.com/national-dance-day/. Good luck and happy dancing!