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.