Physical Education

Dance Dance Revolution

I am a dancer.

My Grade One teacher would completely agree with this comment, I’m sure, even though her comment on my report card for Dance was “Brooke has an interesting gait”. Interesting; what a polite way to say “bad”!

The fact is that everyone is a dancer, because as Cone and Cone write in their chapter, dance is a medium of expression, and its variations are infinite. I wonder, had I been introduced to this fact when I was beginning my (short) time as a dancer, would I have felt more comfortable or worried less about making a mistake? I think that these are common problems that students face when confronted with dance, and I think that we as educators can make a difference.

(I feel as though all I do in my reflections is call for a revolution in education, and here I go again!)

It’s time for a (dance dance) revolution. As teachers, we do no favours to dance in our classrooms. Let’s call a spade a spade: the dances we teach are boring, outdated, and given so far out of cultural context that even we can’t make sense of it. Growing up, we learned traditional line dances, Celebration of Dance choreographed dances, and the Hukilau. Why did we learn these dances? Based on all evidence provided, I would guess because they are easy to teach. Could there be a better reason to learn a form of dance? Maybe – and I’m just spitballing here – because it’s culturally diverse or relevant, or applicable to another area of the curriculum, or fosters creative expression, or is new and exciting.

The way that dance is frequently taught bothers me so much, simply because dancing IS FUN. And everyone who’s lost a good friend to a Just Dance 2016 dance competition knows exactly what I’m talking about (if you don’t know what Just Dance 2016 is all about, PLEASE ask me; you deserve to know). As students, we are taught that dancing exists solely in the world of choreographed and line dances, with specific moves to be executed in a specific order. But, as Cone and Cone so eloquently emphasize, dance is about creative movement and emotional expression through that movement. Dancing is body language, and it exists outside the realm of choreography.

In my classroom, choreography will have its place, and I’m sure that line dancing will be introduced in a featurette “When Dinosaurs Roamed the Earth”. But I also want to incorporate culture, like the Hukilau but more relevant to my students, for example traditional Indigenous dances or local step- and tap-dancing. I also want it to be fun for my students, and for them to make meaning from their movement. I think that bringing in professional dancers (see step-dancing link or this link here for some very talented friends of mine) would be a great way to engage my students in seriously considering the expression of their movement, as well as to make a case for dancing as a serious hobby and career. Dance can be really beautiful, heartfelt, and expressive when done correctly. I think that it’s important for students to connect with their bodies and understand how they communicate through movement.

What are your experiences with dance? How do you see yourself as a dance teacher? What do you think about Cone and Cone’s chapter?


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