Why we Foster Creativity in Our Early Childhood Dance Programs

Fostering creativity through dance is an important aspect of dance education, particularly in the early years, as it helps children discover more about themselves, their bodies and their ability to communicate with others.  In the following article, we look at two ways in which research has shown how creative dance programs help children to develop both physical and social skills and one way in which the inclusion of creativity through dance has benefited the students in the early childhood dance programs at Hope Performing Arts Centre.

Develops Body Awareness and Self Control 

Developing body awareness (an important aspect of learning to dance) is seen as an essential aspect of understanding one’s own emotions and gaining body control; this is the first step towards developing behavioural self-control (Hanna 1988 and Stinson 1998).  In the early childhood years, children who participate in creating dance movements and linking dance movement together quickly learn a sense of where their bodies are, what their bodies can do, and how they can use their bodies to move in time with music, as well as how their bodies can tell stories through moving to music. Studies are now showing that by learning these concepts children are able to develop better control over their bodies which can lead to better emotional regulation and the ability to be able to express emotions in more healthy ways.

Fosters Community and Acceptance

Creative dance promotes a bond between the children who participate.  It helps them to understand how they share the same physical space, how they can interact and collaborate within that space and develop the ability to accept the ideas and differences of others. (Von Rosseberf-Gempton, Dickinson and Pool 1998).  By allowing students to explore and interact with others through dance they develop a greater sense of shared community and acceptance of others who may be different to themselves. Building strong community bonds in a child’s early years is essential to healthy identity formation and self confidence. Learning to dance and participating in creating dances may help children to develop a sense of belonging and inclusion.

Promotes Confidence and Self Expression.

At Hope Performing Arts Centre, our early childhood dance programs includes activities to promote creative dance.  These activities include story telling through dance (where the child tells a story by making up their own steps), free dancing with props, and collaborating with others to put a set of known dance steps together to create a new dance.  We have found that the children who enthusiastically participate in this section of the program are more confident in their technical work and have developed a stronger sense of self-expression through dance.  These elements are key to continuing dance success, as dancers need both technique and musical expression to be able to dance well.  While technique can be taught through traditional dance instruction, the ability to express emotion and stories through dance is very much connected with the dancer’s ability to connect with themselves and others through movement.  By allowing time for students to create and perform their own dances, they are better able to discover and develop the art of storytelling through dance.

Getting Ready For Your Child’s First Dance Class

Your child’s very first dance class is a special time full of excitement and nerves.  For many children, a preschool dance class is often the very first activity that they take without their parent in the classroom. Not all children will feel confident participating in their first lesson and some may even just want to watch from the side.  Letting your child set their own pace will ensure that they feel confident participating in the class.  Whether your child is watching or participating in their first class, they are learning and discovering what it is like to take part in a dance class.

To help your child settle in we have some pointers to help you get them ready.

  • Help your child pick something to wear to their first lesson. 

The clothing they wear should be comfortable and allow them to move freely.  Avoid clothing with loose items that they could trip on or get tangled in.   If your child will be upset with taking their shoes and socks off for class, it may be helpful to buy them a pair of proper ballet slippers that fit their feet well.  If you have a daughter with long hair, please pull the hair back out of her face so that she will not be distracted by it during class.

  • Talk to your child about some of the things they will do in their first class.

In your child’s first lesson, they will get to learn how to move to music in many different ways like skipping, walking on toes, bending, and jumping.  Talking to your child about some ways in which they will move their bodies will help them become familiar with some of the language they will hear in class

  • Move to the music together.

Taking some time in the week before the your child’s first class to listen to and move to music together will help your child feel confident about dancing.  Also spending some time having your child copying your movements will help your child get used to listening, watching and copying the teacher.

  • After Class

After your child’s first class, talk to them about the steps they learned and the music they danced to.  Encourage them to show you what they have learned and have a go at doing it with them.  Dancing together every day will help them to remember the skills they learned in class and make them more confident in future lessons.

  • Future Dance Lessons

After your child’s trial period, if they choose to continue with dance lessons they will receive a dance outfit to wear to class that will help them feel part of the Hope Performing Arts Centre family.  As your child continues in lessons, they will become better at the dance steps and will even learn how to perform a series of steps in sequence, to create a dance.