My daughter is a dancer and I get a lot of people thinking that we are a few shuffle steps away from the reality television show Dance Moms, which isn't the case. I've always found dance to be beneficial for my girl, but I wanted to ask a life-long dancer and dance teacher what benefits she has seen for herself and her students.
Please help me welcome today's guest poster Shannon Holst who is setting the dance record straight and sharing seven benefits of dance class. She discusses tweens specifically, but it seems to me that these apply to all ages.
The ever-thriving stigma against dance gets exhausting when you are fortunate to be part of a supportive environment lead by vivid teachers and fellow artists. Of course any time you are intimately involved hour upon hour with a group of people there will be conflict of opinions and personalities, but if you are blessed to have a figure of drama-free confidence in front of you on the dance floor, so many opportunities for growth abound for tweens and teens who choose dance as an extracurricular activity.
Being active in dance classes or on a competitive team helps tweens build meaningful and respectful friendships. You spend a lot of time with your co-dancers – both fun and many tough times, too. When you are struggling to master a skill, your dance friends understand the struggle. On the other hand, if you are jumping out of your skin excited because you finally got that skill down, your dance friends are there to celebrate with you and understand the “mountain” you climbed. Dance teachers often make sure to limit the amount of competition between dancers and replace that energy with time to encourage one another and the opportunity to help each other.
There are so many worries that plague tweens and teens today - from boy troubles to self-image issues and even the pressures of knowing what their careers will be in 10 years, dance provides a place for tweens to forget all of that stress and focus on building self-esteem, self-respect, and self-confidence. It gives dancers the opportunity to build their skills and accomplish their goals in a fun environment.
3. Benefits tweens with special needs
Kids with sensory processing disorder, autism, and socio-emotional or physical difficulties can use dance to improve the symptoms of their conditions and give them the opportunity to freely express themselves. Michael O’Donnell, a parent of a special needs child, spoke about his observations in an article with San Diego Family magazine: “When children are engaged with the world around them, they are more prepared to interact with it, learn from it, and contribute to it. Dance is a vehicle that stimulates this engagement.”
Peter Lovatt, a dance psychologist with the University of Hertfordshire in England, is also finding health benefits of basic recreational dance for all ages including a boost in self-esteem and problem solving.
4. A refuge from the streets
Dance, along with most extra-curricular activities, provides a place for tweens and teens to escape the dangers of peer pressure outside of school. Instead of going to a party and possibly getting into trouble on a Friday night, chances are dancers are in the studio until 8:30/9pm and have to be back in by 9 am the following day. Being in the dance studio gives dancers “the excuse” they sometimes need to say “no” to their peers about making poor decisions.
5. Discipline and responsibility
It’s simple, really. To be successful in dance, you have to be disciplined and responsible. If you aren’t prepared with the correct attire for ballet, you are asked to leave class. If you don’t remember all the parts of your costume for a performance or a competition, you don’t perform or compete. If you forgot to write your 10-page research paper due the following day and at the same time you have a mandatory rehearsal the night before, it looks like you’ll be up until midnight finishing it after rehearsal!
6. Developing healthy habits
Dancers develop an understanding on how to correctly fuel their bodies to reach their maximum potential in the dance studio. Tweens and teens experience so many changes in their bodies and sometimes it’s hard to understand how to deal with it. But dancers learn the best ways to stretch sore muscles, work through those nasty PMS cramps, hydrate like a camel, and select what kind of food to eat to make their bodies work best in the studio every day. These healthy habits are priceless tools to have throughout life.
7. Dance helps tweens perform better in school
The discipline, responsibility, and self-confidence that dancers develop in the studio translates as a tool when tackling schoolwork. Plus, according to neuroscience educator Robert Sylwester, mobility is central to everything that is cognitive, whether physical motion or the mental movement of information to our brains. Our cognitive system helps us make intelligent choices like rapid decision-making. And that rings true for trying any new extracurricular activity.
Discipline, responsibility, self-confidence, and learning a healthy way to communicate with peers in the dance studio combined with the stimulation of the brain and body, is nothing but a win-win situation. The positive engagement both physically and emotionally that tweens feel in dance results in a foundation of personal growth that lasts a lifetime.
Shannon Holst is the artistic director and owner of A Step Above Dance Academy in Batavia, Illinois (a west suburb of Chicago). Dancing from the age of 3, Shannon was accepted to train for a summer with The Royal Winnipeg Ballet School in 1999, where she truly found her passion for Ballet. Shannon has had the privilege to train under such esteemed professionals such as George de la Peña, Eloy Barragán, Deanna Carter, Charlotte Adams, Jennifer Kayle, and Armando Duarte. Connect with Shannon on the ASA blog, follow her dancers on Instagram, and find interesting articles and beautiful dance images on the ASA Facebook page.
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