In our last blog post,
We noted the tendency for people to blame others and play the victim. We found that a holistic dance curriculum based on democratic pedagogy puts students in a position to take responsibility for learning and for contributing to the learning community.


We will look at Characteristic #1 of holistic dance education in K-12 and higher education: The Comprehensive Dance Program.


What does it mean to have a comprehensive dance education program?


A comprehensive dance education program is broad, spanning many facets of dance including:

  • Technique
  • Improvisation
  • Composition
  • Critique
  • Kinesiology, Somatics, and Injury Prevention
  • History, Anthropology
  • Cultural Dance Forms
  • Theatrical Terms


Why is breadth in dance training valuable?


I am reminded of the story about not being able to see the forest for the trees. Breadth requires zooming out in order to see the big picture:

  • What is beyond my own understanding of dance?
  • Is there a greater purpose beyond my own personal interests?


Reaching out to all edges of the dance discipline expands the dancer’s perspective and thus enhances his awareness of his place within the field. It is like looking at a map and seeing the red arrow that says, “You are here.”


What does a comprehensive dance education program look like?


Well, it looks like a huge forest! Flying over the forest in a helicopter reveals larger patterns like wooded pathways and aspects of terrain such as hills and valleys.


The same is true in dance – a holistic dance education program will explore all facets of the field to reveal larger patterns and relationships.


For example, a performer benefits from knowledge in different areas:

  • History helps the performer understand the motivation or intention behind their role in a classical ballet by Marius Petipa.
  • Kinesiology helps the performer understand her turnout and proper alignment to prevent injuries.
  • Composition helps the performer relate to a guest choreographer’s creative process.


And the list goes on.


But how does a dance teacher get through all of that material?


Obviously, teachers must make choices to suit the length of class periods. It is impossible to cover absolutely everything in dance, because that takes a lifetime and then some!


However, Brenda McCutchen warns us about a common trap. She states, “Dance teachers tend to overemphasize one aspect of dance at the expense of another” (2006, 101).


The key is to explore a broad enough spectrum of dance so students can see bigger patterns and learn to think beyond themselves and their own limited vision of dance. New core arts standards emphasize all of dance’s artistic processes (creating, performing, responding, and connecting). This breadth often requires that dance teachers also explore areas outside of their comfort zones!


Your Comfort Zone


In which areas of dance are you most comfortable? Which ones are less comfortable for you?


____ Technique
____ Composition
____ Critique
____ Kinesiology
____ Somatics
____ Injury Prevention
____ Dance History
____ Cultural Dance Forms
____ Theatrical Terms
____ Anthropology


Broadening Your Horizons


Choose one area outside of your comfort zone that interests you. How could you expand your knowledge in this area? Remember that the folks at Dance Curriculum Designs LLC can also help you meet your goals via workshops, resources, and consulting. Like you, we are teachers of dance – passionate about sharing our art form with students and teachers. We’d love to work with you!


McCutchen, Brenda P. Teaching Dance as Art in Education. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2006.

Julianna Hade

Julianna Hade

Julianna Hane traded life on a cotton farm to become a dancer and aerialist. She holds an MFA in Modern Dance, a CLMA (Laban Movement Analysis), and is on the dance faculty at the College of Charleston.




Brenda Pugh McCutchen, M.F.A. Director
Dance Curriculum Designs LLC
Columbia, SC USA 29223-7400