A Guide to Teaching Dance Part 1 - Why

A Guide to Teaching Dance Part 1

Let’s talk about dance! Are you a dancing queen? Can you conga round the classroom? Are you a master of mambo? Two-step or tango?! Whatever your style, or potential lack thereof - do not fear! In this blog series I’m going to cover all the steps that will help you deliver dance in your school to the very best of your ability.

I will start with a reminder of why we teach dance in schools, in Part 2 we’ll move on to the tips, tricks and techniques of how to teach dance, and then in Parts 3 - 5 we’ll go in-depth into how to create dance.

What I really want to focus on here is actually guiding you through how to teach dance effectively. It’s easy enough to read a dance handout and think ‘Ok. I’ve got this.’ But stood in front of 30 jumping, waving, twirling, swirling bodies awaiting your dance guru guidance, you might wish you’d had a helping hand (A jazz hand perhaps...!?).

Having said that, I wouldn’t let you go away empty handed, and at the end of this blog you can download some handy warm up exercises for EYFS, KS1 and KS2. Think of it as a warm up to this guide! (See what I did there?)

Whether you’re a seasoned pro or you’ve never taught dance before, if you’re not a confident mover and shaker, or if you’re simply looking for different methods in your teaching, this blog series should be helpful. Your children will be cha cha-ing round their chairs in no time.

So if you’re ready… a 5, 6, 7, 8!

West End in Schools dancer-choreographers during training

West End in Schools dancer-choreographers during training

They’re learning our  Where the Wild Things Are  workshop

They’re learning our Where the Wild Things Are workshop

Why teach dance?

The most obvious benefits of dance are probably those to do with health and fitness. It’s an active, whole-body activity. It’s bound to be good for you, right? Right! The perhaps not-so-obvious, or often forgotten about, benefits are to do with self-development and discovery.

Dancing aids and improves:

  1. Aerobic ability and endurance

    Through dance, students are training their hearts and lungs to keep their bodies going. So those twirling bodies can keep on twirling!

  2. Coordination and agility

    Throughout childhood and adolescence, youngsters are constantly adapting to their ever-growing, changing, developing bodies. Nursery and early years especially. Us grown-ups have had our bodies for ages (we shan’t dwell on specifics) but they’ve only had their bodies for a few years. Dance is a great way to explore how different parts can move in different directions and speeds; isolated and together; one after the other. What an adventure!

  3. Confidence

    As students figure their bodies out, they will feel more confident in moving and using them. Repeating steps and sequences aids muscles memory making it easier to recall actions, steps and movements time and time again. Plus, the more time a student spends in performance ‘mode’, the more relaxed they will become when having people watch them.

  4. Collaboration

    Working in pairs and groups enables students to share ideas and actions. With this comes some calculating and problem-solving. Whose arm goes where? Which step comes first? Children interacting and making decisions through dance is a really fun way for them to learn teamwork and collaboration, boosting morale all round.

  5. Social skills

    In line with their new-found collaborative skills, students will inevitably develop their social skills. The need to interact in order to plan a dance will cater to turn-taking, active listening and the opportunity to give and accept opinion. All of which are transferable skills for any given social interaction.

  6. Spatial awareness

    In the initial stages, dance is typically performed as a class. But while focusing on how to get their arms from side to side at the same time as stepping forward, little student A must begin to practise awareness of Student B to his right and Student C to his left. Through practising dance, children are also practicing spatial awareness, formations and perception.

Overall, I think we’ve discovered (or reiterated) that dance is a motivating, challenging and perhaps most importantly, worthwhile subject - for both teachers and students alike!

If you’re keen to get started you can download a dance warm up for you to use at the beginning of each dance class here. It includes exercises for aerobic endurance, coordination and spatial awareness for each age group as well as a splash of collaboration for fun at the end!

Watch this space for next week’s Guide to Teaching Dance - Part 2, which is all about the How.

- Sarah