Why We Dance: In the Studio and On Stage

Reflecting on today’s performance, I’m struck by the many reasons we dance.  


In talking with teachers, parents and dancers about the performance, I heard the declaration of so many different reactions and motivations.  Each group had their own reasons for participating in the show, and each group felt that those reasons were validated by the experience.  The best thing about hearing everyone’s comments was the realization that these different motivations all overlap with and compliment each other.  But before the stage comes the studio and the many reasons we choose to dance. 


Ideally, the studio is a sacred place where problems are left at the door and the outside world takes a backseat to the practice.  In reality, we all know that this isn’t always true.  In the past year, I’ve seen students who are motivated by fitness, by a love of movement, and by the allure of a tutu and tights.  I’ve heard parents express an interest in the discipline of dance, the health benefits, the socialization, the intellectual stimulation, and simply the fun and enjoyment that it brings their child.  As a teacher, I want all of these things for my students.  Healthy bodies and minds that love to move and continue to be stimulated by new and different concepts including and also beyond dance technique.  I love watching students grow and change, and I try my very best to acknowledge those changes.  This year alone, I’ve seen students with severe separation anxiety become well-adjusted, creative, and independent.  I’ve seen dancers with disabilities improve in their dancing and overcome physical limitations.  I’ve seen students make connections and create imagery that have improved their dancing as well as their understanding of how their own bodies function.  Most importantly, I’ve seen students engage. From two and a half all the way through to adulthood, I’ve seen students engage their bodies and minds in the process of movement, technique, patterns, rhythm, shapes, speed, energy, and flow.  We don’t just practice A dance.  We engage in the practice of dance, with all the intricacies that it requires.  The studio is our home, our lab, our workshop, our space to learn, move, and grow.  The stage is our means of sharing those achievements.


So many of our dancers were visibly excited at the prospect of dancing on stage.  Tutus and costumes and a chance to “show-off” their skills were enough to make some of them actually bounce up and down.  Parents expressed their appreciation of the opportunity provided their children to dance and perform on the stage, but some of you actually went into this day hoping your child would grow to the occasion and, without exception, they did.  There were tears, cold feet, and a few melt downs, but they did it.  More than just showing off their dances, they showed off their bravery, their love of movement, their excitement, their skill, and their progress.  The stage shines a light on everything our dancers have learned, and while we’re proud to show our dances, we are far happier to show our ability to dance with all of the behind the scenes learning and growth that it requires.

A Visit from the Dominion Post

A few weeks ago, the Dominion Post called and asked to feature Artistry House on the front page of the business section in their Sunday issue.  We were lucky to have them visit the studio on Thursday, September 18th!  They did a beautiful piece for the September 28th issue of the paper, and we couldn't be happier about how it turned out.  

If you didn't get to check it out last Sunday, here is the article and a link to the video interview from their website.

Easing the Transition from Early Childhood to Ballet Basics

Your seven or eight year old is ready to work hard and become more serious about ballet class but still needs a touch of fun to keep them interested.  We understand how important it is that your dancer makes a positive transition into ballet and work hard to keep them engaged in learning proper technique while still having fun!  Here are some of our tips for easing the transition into beginning ballet

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The Benefits of Creative Dance in Early Childhood

"Why should I choose a creative dance program, like Leap 'N Learn or Happy Tappers, for my preschooler?"  Over the years, I've found parents asking this same question in a variety of ways.  In the article below, I've gathered information from three studies that show the importance of creative dance in acquiring and retaining new movement skills, developing tools for dealing with emotions, and improving social competence.  All of these benefits not only help a child excel in the dance studio but in everyday life, and later in the traditional classroom setting.


"Young children sense, move and respond within the context of the moment. Reaching, jumping, balancing, and hopping are experiences that teach children how to understand and negotiate the world.  Movement experiences that are layered with creative, cognitive, social and emotional experiences facilitate children's understanding that movement has meaning, intention and expression" (Lorenzo-Lasa., R. Ideishi, S. Ideishi 25).


In this introduction to the article "Facilitating Preschool Learning and Movement through Dance," the authors summarize the importance and effectiveness of an early childhood movement program that incorporates pretend play to engage a child's attention and enhance his or her experience.


"Young children sense, move and respond within the context of the moment," meaning that context is the key to eliciting the desired response from a child.  Let's imagine that you want your child to follow closely behind you.  Ask him to stay right behind you as you walk from place to place.  Does he comply? Perhaps.  Now, ask him to get on your train, call out "all aboard," and make the sound of an engine.  Did he follow you?  Almost certainly.  By providing your child with a context, you gave him a reason to move in a specific way and he responded by complying with your request.  Creating and using this type of imagery provides preschool age children with added motivation to follow directions and increases their desire to perform.  Once I have explained to a group of 4 year olds that the flamingo stands on only one leg as it sleeps, they not only balance more easily in a parallel passé position but are encouraged and excited to practice this skill.


In a study entitled "Effects of Pretend Imagery on Learning Dance in Preschool Children," Tori Sacha and Sandra Russ divided 32 children aged 3-6 into four dance classes.  Two groups were taught in the traditional way and two groups were taught through pretend play and creative imagery.  Although more research is required to validate their findings, "results found that children in the pretend imagery group had significantly better visual fixation on the instructor, engagement in and enjoyment during the task, and needed less prompting and time to recall and a shorter amount of time to learn the skill than children in the traditional teaching group" (341).


In addition to providing physical benefits, early childhood dance programs using creative play also help to develop greater emotional understanding and improved social skills.  Through creative movement activities, children learn to express emotions through their body's movements (including facial expressions) and this, in turn, allows them to more easily identify these emotions in others.  In a study comparing the socio-emotional development of children exposed to creative dance versus those not exposed, scientists found that the parents, caregivers, and teachers of the children exposed to creative dance rated them as being more socially competent and having fewer behavioral problems afer exposure to the program.  Following the results, the scientists hypothesized that "Creative dance/movement lessons may have provided the children with additional means of expression, using their bodies to communicate their ideas, thoughts, emotions and feelings" (Lobo, Winsler 514).  Through the use of pretend play, children are able to express their feelings through the creation of movement, and this is beneficial not only in dance but in life and in school.

According to Lorenzo-Lasa., Ideishi, and Ideishi, "Dance provides opportunities for children to create movements as an expression of idea or thought thereby expanding their imagination and ideation of their body in space" (29).  By engaging in pretend play within a controlled environment, children are able to experiment with concepts like emotional expression, interpersonal relationships, and personal space without the consequences of real world life.  Not only do they enjoy the freedom of moving through space, they learn how to deal with situations that will be encountered outside the studio walls.


For these reasons and many more, Artistry House supports the Leap 'N Learn and Happy Tappers programs which engage the imaginations of our students and provide the benefits of pretend play and creative imagery, while still teaching proper technique and terminology.  Both programs provide imaginative contexts, evocative imagery and creative movement to keep children working hard and having fun.


For more information, see:
- "The Effects of a Creative Dance and Movement Program on the Social Competence of Head Start Preschoolers" by Yovanka B. Lobo and Adam Winsler.

"Effects of Pretend Imagery on Learning Dance in Preschool Children" by Tori Sacha and Sandra Russ.

- "Facilitating Preschool Learning and Movement through Dance" by Rioloama Lorenzo-Lasa., Roger Ideishi, and Siobhan Ideishi.