“The Value of a Well-Rounded Education” and How It Impacts Dance Education

“The Value of a Well-Rounded Education” and How It Impacts Dance Education

The Every Child Succeeds Act (ESSA) makes for a brighter future by broadening the perspective about what it takes to educate a child in today’s schools.  That expansion bodes well for education which has unintentionally languished through the years of the No Child Left Behind law (NCLB).  Now that ESSA repeals the narrowly-focused NCLB, the value of arts education is re-emphasized. Dance education is particularly vulnerable during this transition.  Here is why. To add dance just for the sake of diversifying the curriculum is insufficient. To create performance-driven dance programs narrows the curriculum by allocating too many educational minutes to performance preparation. While they are entertaining, overemphasis on showcases diminishes the key content and experiences that afford a complete education in all artistic processes. The goal of ESSA is to provide a well-rounded education which includes dance. But unless dance re-envisions what a well-rounded dance education means, dance will become nothing more than a satellite to the core curriculum.  Its performance-driven emphasis will prevent it from achieving the criteria that would make it educational.  That would be a shame for everyone. Now is the opportune time to redesign the old 20th century model of performance-driven dance in K-12 in favor of a well-rounded education in dance.  To expand the traditional one-dimensional “steps and styles” emphasis into an inclusive multi-dimensional emphasis is necessary if dance is to achieve educational integrity.  Expansion of our horizons for the sake of a broader dance literacy will require a systemic change in how dance specialists are prepared as undergraduates in higher education, in how dance is taught in the schools, in how dance specialists...
What is Dance Doing in Education?

What is Dance Doing in Education?

  Dance, when it is at its very best, is an indelible representation of the history of the human species.  Dance as art and human expression has flourished since the dawn of mankind.  It is the natural way to communicate.  Indeed, it preceded human language and from its outset dance has dwelt in the land of abstract symbol and also of representation as a way to communicate with unseen forces as well as those in plain sight.  As pre-verbal communication, dance became a personal art form, an encapsulation of the values, beliefs, and hopes of peoples from every corner of the world.   Whether theatrical, ritual, therapy, or art, each type of dance had a specific intent to carry out in no mistakable terms.  There was no ambiguity then as there is now about what dance is.  When we ask “What is dance doing in education?” we need to think of Dance with a capital D, of Dance as the quintessential art form, of the big picture of Dance from the dawn of civilization to the present moment.  It is Dance that turns the body into a crucible of energy and an instrument of expression.  It is Dance that expresses all that is important to the species throughout history.  The study of Dance, therefore, should be the rich study of cultural anthropology, of humans responding to their plights and expressing their joys, of people at their best and worst, of dance as the preservation of cultural identity and the means to pass on values to the next generations.  Dance should be investigated as a record of history’s major cultural revolutions and an art form that is bound by...
Dance Appreciation—the Discovery of a Dynamic Art Form

Dance Appreciation—the Discovery of a Dynamic Art Form

Arts appreciation courses at the college level are some of the most important to help us navigate in the civilized world.  A universal language, the fine arts communicate across language barriers and thereby become shared experiences among people around the world. References are continually made to leading works of art, past and present, as a way to communicate nuance worldwide.  Because art belongs to everyone, arts appreciation courses connect us in innovative ways to the present and past.  With the arts accessible even to far-reaching corners of the globe it becomes more important to raise the expectations for the courses that develop a keen awareness of one or more of the arts as part of one’s general education. The goal of any arts appreciation course should be arts literacy.  Arts literacy is one of the highest forms of human intelligence.  That is because it activates all the dimensions of higher order thinking in at least four different aspects of an arts discipline: Original creation of the art Demonstrations of the work (exhibit or performance) Analysis and critique of the art Relation of the work to a broader context so as to enrich the experience by generating a better understanding of the work. To be an artist requires all of these.  To be an appreciator requires the last two. The fact that many university arts appreciation courses, such as dance appreciation, fall short of engaging its students in higher order thinking and production sells the arts short.  Surface treatment trivializes the arts. To merely show “art in the dark” followed by a multiple choice test misses the point of the...