(updated October 15, 2014 and January 16, 2016)
As well as being a fun, creative outlet, studies have shown that Creative Dance, and the specific class atmosphere it provides (described further below), offers many important benefits for a child’s well-being. It has positive impacts on personal development, academic learning, mental health, creativity, social skills, as well as physical health.
In the area of personal development, it encourages self-motivated learning, develops more self-reliance and self-discipline, boosts self-confidence and self-esteem, and generates a positive body image. Creative Dance has been shown to improve mood/behavior, develop a longer attention-span, and teach self-control. It offers coping strategies and releases tension for managing stress. This is a place for children to integrate their experiences and place in life.
As “cognitive learning is stimulated by movement,” (B, C & L) Creative Dance also has a positive effect on the brain and its capacity for learning. It helps to develop language skills, encourages clearer thinking, and develops vital brain and body connections. It improves memory, eye-tracking, proprioception, motor skills and sensory integration. It also balances brain hemispheres. When the brain is optimally functioning every experience is processed better.
Additionally, Creative Dance classes offer physical exercise, foster better breathing, generate stronger bones and muscles, and help in coordination, balance, flexibility and spatial awareness. It teaches general movement and dance vocabulary which “enhances movement development that occurs between ages two and seven”. (B,C &L ) There is only benefit for the physical body – and there is no limitation to what type of body can participate.
Socially, Creative Dance improves the capacity for listening, cooperating, and leadership skills, provides a sense of belonging, builds respect, and improves communicating and problem solving skills.
Finally, a class where exercise, fun and creativity takes places generates joy – which is a healer in itself. Thus, Creative Dance boosts the human spirit.
What are the components of a Creative Dance class? What makes the class atmosphere different from other classes?
The basic principle of Creative Dance is to establish an environment conducive to safe, individual exploration. Upon entry students will engage in welcoming exercises to create groundedness, security, and belonging. They will warm-up for physical balance and safety. They will be exposed to rhythm and dance concepts (e.g. big/small, fast/slow, locomotive movements, gestures, body parts, etc) through games that motivate their curiosity and natural expression (e.g. “How wide and low can you walk? What does that make you think of?”). Each individual discovery is met with verbal encouragement and praise, which prompts self-motivated, further exploration.
Because they are working on natural concepts – “move your arm in a way that is curvy and fast” – they are internally connected with their bodies and injury is less likely to occur.
A general rule in Creative Dance classes is respect: everyone shares their discoveries and listens to others without judgement. There is an underlying acceptance of individuality as opposed to conformity. Sharing happens so inter-wovenly in the class that children don’t often notice that they are “performing” for others.
Typically less tangible and visible than learned steps, physical phrase-work, or vocabulary, the benefits from Creative Dance are deeper and long-lasting. They touch every area of your child’s life and gleanings come from inside them – they don’t realize they are learning things. They also come at naturally, slowly, as they need them. You may feel like you aren’t seeing results, but pay attention because there is a lot happening!
Because of the lack of conformity you may see MORE of your child’s uniqueness and see it as a non-difference. But all bodies are capable of the same types of movement and when their personality is added it is striking in a new way – not necessarily incorrect. It is the opinion of this author, that though some ways of moving are more healthy than others there is no wrong way to express yourself through movement! Being an individual does not need correction, but exposure and guidance can produce the most optimal version.
In regards to physical conditioning, this is usually practiced in the warm-ups of a Creative Dance class, and is done differently based on who the instructor is. Some teach ballet, for example. At BaredFeet we teach movement fundamentals and yoga: strong cores, alignment, and balanced tone from connected movements.
In general, the foundations of the class are what makes the class different from other classes using the body. Right from the get-go, students know they are individuals with a “voice” that matters, that self-learning is the goal and that their body is important to understand and take care of. This is what they are really learning.
With all of these benefits to your child’s growth and health it maybe worth checking out! Most of these same benefits can be applied to adults that participate in Creative Dance exercises. Sample a class and notice all the positive impacts from the inside-out!