NDEO’s Guest Blog Series features posts written by our members about their experiences in the fields of dance and dance education. We continue this series with a post by Ella Rosewood, Crelata® Founder & CEO. Guest posts reflect the experiences, opinions, and viewpoints of the author and are printed here with their permission. NDEO does not endorse any business, product, or service mentioned in guest blog posts. If you are interested in learning more about the guest blogger program or submitting an article for consideration, please click here.
Most K-12 students don’t have access to dance education. If students are lucky enough to have a dance teacher at their school, the classes that are available are often restricted to the teacher’s personal knowledge. This means that the small subsection of students in public schools with access to dance education may only get lessons in a few dance styles.
Based on the latest data from the Arts Education Data Project and from the recent NDEO blog:
- Only 8% of US schools offer dance classes (based on the 17 states surveyed)
- Where dance classes are available, 17.6% of students participate in dance
It’s evident that a lack of interest in dance isn’t the problem — it’s a lack of opportunity and access.
Why Should Students Learn Diverse Dance Styles?
There is no one main style or technique of dance; all styles of dance are valid and important to learn. Dance teachers must instill this belief in their students so they grow up valuing all forms of dance. Learning multiple dance forms makes students more versatile, helps them make connections between dance styles, and exposes them to things they may not have tried otherwise.
Diverse dance education provides a deeper understanding of the value and purpose of dance around the world. Through learning diverse dance styles, students are introduced to and gain connections to other cultures, expanding their worldview. Students can better understand where movements came from and how they evolved across cultures, as well as be knowledgeable about the history and embodiment of various dance forms.
In addition to learning about other cultures, it’s also important for students to see themselves represented in the curriculum. By learning dance styles from their own cultures and seeing people who look like them represented in dance, students are more likely to feel like they belong and experience a sense of pride.
How Can Educators Teach Unfamiliar Dance Styles?
Most dance programs in K-12 schools operate on limited resources. Offering lessons in one style is challenging enough, let alone introducing multiple styles, especially when the dance teacher is only an expert in certain dance styles that may not match the students’ cultural backgrounds. Three strategies can make diversifying dance offerings possible.
1. Invite guest teachers.
By inviting guest teachers to work with your students, they get to learn from an expert in the culture of a particular dance form. Students are exposed to various perspectives and styles. Meanwhile, dance educators can avoid making up lessons for styles they are not an expert in.
This approach can be costly and particularly challenging for schools in remote areas. Additionally, live lessons from guest teachers are not always accessible for all students, including students with disabilities, English language learners, or students who are hard of hearing.
2.Take workshops on various dance styles.
Attending workshops on different dance styles allows you to learn to embody the dance style yourself. It can be fun to learn new dance forms and help you expand your expertise as an artist and educator. Expanding your skillset is invaluable. However, no matter how many classes you take, you may not ultimately become a cultural bearer for a particular dance form, putting you at risk of cultural appropriation despite your best efforts. If you are teaching a style you learned from a workshop, cite your sources and let your students know that you are still learning.
3. Use video lessons.
Crelata® is an accessible video dance solution bringing diverse dance styles into K-12 schools. Current programs include on-demand Salsa and Popping lessons, each with English and Spanish captions and ASL interpretation.
With video dance lessons through a program like Crelata, experts teach your class so you don’t have to appropriate another culture. This tool is easy to implement — just click and play — and you can use video dance lessons for sub plans or for bringing in a guest artist virtually. A key differentiator of video dance lessons is that they can be accessible with ASL interpretation, accurate closed captions, and universal design principles.
While video dance lessons can be a gamechanger for schools, you will need a smart board or projector in your studio or classroom and access to WiFi in order to leverage this solution.
Introduce Diverse Dance Styles to K-12 Learners
Dance classes in school should include styles from around the world. Trying various styles helps students make connections between cultures and find the dance styles they relate to the most.
To bring diverse dance styles to your students, teachers should consider bringing in guest teachers, attending workshops, and implementing video dance lessons.
Ella Rosewood is the Founder & CEO of Crelata®, an on-demand dance education platform for K-12. Crelata is designed to make access to dance education more equitable since only 3% of students in the USA participate in dance classes in school. Rosewood is a middle school dance teacher in Brooklyn, NY by day and has been teaching in various settings for the past 18 years. She holds dual Bachelor’s Degrees in Dance and Elementary Education from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Master’s Degree in Dance Education from the Inaugural Cohort of the Lincoln Center Scholars Program in partnership with the Arnhold Graduate Dance Education Program at Hunter College.
Photo Credits: Featured Photo by Natalie Swan, Headshot by Alison Graham