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Why Children Should Keep On Dancing!

By Jeremy Newton, CEO of The Prince’s Foundationfor Children and The Arts.

The Ebacc has been criticised for its apparent omission of arts subjects and there is indeed a real danger that the arts could be consigned to the periphery of the curriculum. Having worked for the last seven years engaging young people with the arts, I’ve seen just how influential they can be on helping children to develop life skills giving them the confidence they need to shape a better future. The arts can also have a huge effect on increasing children’s engagement with mainstream learning.

What is perhaps surprising for some is that one of the most effective art forms I have seen – with both girls and boys- is dance. Dance is something of a ‘Cinderella’ subject area in school, with most unsure whether it should sit within PE or as an arts subject in its own right. Certainly, it is not usually accorded much priority or curriculum time. Yet dance can have an overwhelming effect on young people, increasing vital communication skills, helping them gain an understanding of emotional expression and giving them an ability to appreciate themselves in relation to others.

For children with behavioural difficulties in school, for example, or for those who suffer from a lack of self-worth and demotivation, dance can foster positive social encounter and cooperation whilst teaching children to focus. Through using their bodies in a different way and working as a team, it helps children gain sensory awareness; and the knowledge that a performance lies at the end teaches them determination and equips them with a real drive to achieve. At the recent London finale of our national DanceQuest Project, which introduces children to inspirational dance performances and workshops, girls and boys from as young as 11 took to the stage of Sadler’s Wells to perform dance routines. These children were from disadvantaged backgrounds and most had never experienced professional dance, let alone danced themselves. Throughout their school term they had the opportunity to work with professional dancers and visit professional performances at their local arts venue – in this case Sadler’s Wells. For these students, dance helped them engage with their own bodies, channel their energy and ignite their creative expression, which developed their confidence and self-esteem.

By participating in dance events either at school or in an arts venue, children experience what it is like to participate in pure cooperative and collaborative group endeavours, without competition. They increase social, communication and listening skills and an awareness of space and movement. Despite the threats which the arts may face from the Ebacc, it looks like the UK is embracing dance more and more. With shows like Strictly Come Dancing and Britain’s Got Talent, hopefully children will see that dance is positive, fun and also a potential career step. I hope schools will continue to open their eyes to the positive effects dance can have on pupils, for the skills they develop can set them on their way toward a better future in life.

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