Let’s revisit part one of this series. If you happened to miss part one, just click HERE to review my “ah-ha!” moment in class. If you remember, I was trying to get my class to execute a new combination. The first attempt was, let just say, less than what I expected. The strange thing was the class didn’t even realize they weren’t executing the combination! So, after we discussed what happened, we decided to give it another shot.
This time the combination ended in laughter…this time they saw and understood what went wrong. I received many responses like “I thought I was doing it much differently in my head.” Of course, their brain knew the steps, but getting the brain to communicate to the body was the next step. So, I divided them into 3 small groups and had them “mark” the combination together with their group.
As we discussed in part one, this helps with memory so the brain can focus on other aspects of the movement like the fluidity and quality. There were actually two reasons why I split them into groups. Yes, one was to remember the steps and sequence, but it was also to get them working together and socializing with their dance mates. There is a huge social aspect of dance that can bring out the most amazing personality qualities in a dancer that the student can translate into other social settings.
Of course there are MANY social benefits of dancing, but here are a few of what I believe are the most important:
- The Cure for Shyness- Time and time again I have a parent come to me with concerns about their child taking dance classes because they are extremely shy. My usual response is, “Well, then dance is perfect for your child because we have the cure for shyness!” In most cases, shyness comes from 2 causes: lack of confidence or fear of the unknown. For shyness stemming from the fear of the unknown, the dancer develops knowledge of how things are done in class and knows the expectations. With this knowledge, the shyness goes away…usually in just a few short classes. If the child’s shyness stems from a lack of confidence, in dance class there are little milestones throughout each class for a student to achieve that gives them an immediate sense of accomplishment. Each new accomplishment builds self confidence which in turn eliminates the shyness. The dancer will do more and more movement with each and every class. As time goes on, they start to build more friendships and interact more with their dance mates which also boosts their self confidence. It all culminates with a dancer that started out shy and timid dancing on stage in front of hundreds of people with a huge smile on their face.
- Teamwork- Dance is typically a group effort. Yes, every now and again a dancer is lucky enough to have a solo, but for the most part dance is done in groups. Teamwork is a must! Dance is usually synchronized, which means that every person dancing in the group has to have their arm in the same placement, at the same time, on the same beat of the music, and this happens over and over throughout a dance. It takes repetition and every single dancer in the group determined to get it so the entire group moves like clockwork. Students are meeting up before, after or during class to work on movement sequences and timing. Dancers learn to communicate when something is not working and praising each other for a job well done. Dance takes every single person doing their part to make it all work and when it does, it’s magical! A sense of accomplishment is felt within the group and, as a natural result, builds confidence within the group as a team.
- Lifelong Friendships- There is an old saying that dance friends are lifelong friends. I believe this down to the depths of my core. To this day, some of my best friends are dance friends from my school days and at the collegiate level. The dance studio provides a safe place for individuals to be their true self without judgements or prejudices. The environment within a dance class encourages taking risks and to push yourself further than you ever dared before. There is a trust that is developed between dancers that goes deeper than most other friendships. The joys, the struggles and the triumphs that are shared between dance friends builds bonds that last forever! Every day I see dancers of all ages come into the dance studio and hug their friends, so excited to see them again. Even though many of them just saw each other on the bus, or at a recent event, they act as if it has been years since they’ve seen one another. For me, it’s a little backwards. Even though I have not seen my dance friends in years, it is like we were together just yesterday!
There has always been a social component to dance. Ballet was founded by King Louis XIV to present at parties and social events. Dance can be traced from culture to culture, from decade to decade, and it’s no different today. Dance classes today provide a space for kids to discover who they are and to be expressive through movement. It encourages students to take risks, praising them for all of the accomplishments they make in class no matter how small, and gives them the confidence to let their personality shine in class and beyond.