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HomePhilosophy, Standards for Learning and Teaching Dance


Standards for Learning and Teaching Dance in the Arts: Ages 5-18


  Philosophy Underlying Ages 5-18 Standards    

Bodily movement is an adaptive necessity as well as a human birthright. As humans, we move for many reasons. We move for pleasure, communal bonding, ritual, and self-expression. When movement becomes consciously structured and is performed with awareness for its own sake, it becomes dance.


Back to       Ages 5-18 


Child's Bill of Rights in Dance

The Intrinsic Value of Education in the Art of Dance

Dance is basic to human nature and is a basic form of individual and cultural expression. It is pre-verbal, beginning before words can be formed. It is innate in children before they possess command over language and is evoked when thoughts or emotions are too powerful for words to contain. Dance can celebrate play, prayer, courtship, recreation, entertainment, and the human need to communicate the meaning of life in art. Just as all societies create forms of visual representation or organize sounds into music, all cultures organize movement and rhythm into one or more forms of dance. Dance can be a powerful artistic medium for communicating values and beliefs about the human experience.

To study the art of dance is to learn the language of bodily movement as it expresses and communicates the essence of humanity. Artistic dance education serves to stimulate conscious understanding of the language of movement and to develop aesthetic knowledge and skill in movement expression.

Education in the art of dance provides students with deep, thought-provoking experiences that combine many art forms and disciplines. The act of choreography is akin to sculpting with the human body in mobile space--a visual arts endeavor. Musicality with rhythm, phrasing, and a full partnership with the musical accompaniment is demanded. Dramatic skills and techniques are necessary to choreograph an interesting work and perform it. Learning the art of dance is a full, enriching, and physically joyful experience.


  The Instrumental Value of Education in the Art of Dance    

The intrinsic value of dance is not separate from its instrumental benefits. The byproducts of learning dance include the instrumental benefits of physical health, emotional maturation, social awareness, cognitive development, and academic achievement. Learning and growth in each of these areas are embedded in the standards. 
        Physical Health: Dance was first included in educational curricula at the turn of

        the century to promote physical well being. It found its home in girls’ physical

        education as a non-competitive activity that promoted flexibility, strength, 

        coordination, and gracefulness. Today, we know dance also beneficially

        addresses cardiovascular health, childhood obesity, bone formation, joint

        stability, neurological development, and other physical childhood issues. 
        Emotional Maturation: Participation in dance is an enjoyable experience for most

        students, and it promotes self-confidence, self-esteem, and a strong sense of

        self-identity. When students are able to express feelings and ideas through

        artistic movement, they gain self-awareness and often self-acceptance. Creative

        movement experiences promote both self-reflection and a deeper appreciation for

        others. The communal nature of dance learning often helps students who might

        otherwise feel isolated or alienated in group settings.

        Social Awareness: Studying dance increases students’ social awareness and

        skills on many levels. Students become more aware of the values and beliefs of

        their own and different societies by performing and analyzing diverse dances.

        When dancing together, students learn to be united as a group through

        coordinated action and rhythms. Students learn to cooperate with one another

        toward mutual goals when working on collaborative movement projects. They

        learn to respect one another’s efforts and appreciate one another’s diverse

        cultural heritages. 
        Cognitive Development: There is anecdotal evidence that early motor

        development involves sequences of movements that develop neurology for later

        learning. As infants roll, sit, crawl, and walk, cross-lateral movement patterns

        engage cross-hemispheric brain functions that stimulate vestibular activities in

        the brain and the growth of the corpus callosum. Skill in spatial patterning and

        even reading has been known to be affected by this development.

        It is now recognized that core dance experiences involve understanding

        the “language” of movement. As an artist, a choreographer makes sense of the

        world, organizes it, and communicates a point of view through movement.

        Content is embedded in the form and structure of the dance and clear meaning

        is developed through the creative process and expressive movement. Students of

        artistic dance learn how to both create and communicate meaning through

        movement and understand and respond to meaning in the dance of others. The

        uniquely human capacity to understand and create symbols matures gradually

        from the concrete and physical expression of a child—the infant’s first symbol

        system being bodily movement—to the abstract conceptualization of adults.

        Experience creating and interpreting movement vocabulary promotes learning

        and maturation in these higher-order thinking skills.

        Students of artistic dance also develop and use creative higher-order thinking

        skills while inventing solutions to movement problems. Just like an artistic

        choreographer has to be an inventive problem solver, weaving aesthetic

        movement to find logical solutions to kinesthetic issues, students of artistic

        dance have to engage higher-order thinking skills when completing

        choreographic movement assignments and exercises that present kinesthetic

        and spatial problems. 
        Academic Achievement: A correlation has been observed between students who

        dance and higher standardized test scores (College Board statistics). Through

        dance education, students develop focus, concentration, discipline, creativity,

        problem-solving skills, self-assessment skills, and the desire to do well. In

        addition, students learn to remember patterns, sequences, relationships, forms,

        and structures. These transfer into other areas of learning and achievement.

        Many of the Multiple Intelligences proffered by Howard Gardner are addressed in

        the core dance experience. It has been demonstrated that children who are

        kinesthetic learners learn effectively through movement experiences. It has also

        been found that many children from multi-cultural or minority populations are

        kinesthetic learners (Park, 1997, 2000, and White, 1992). As these populations

        expand in American schools, dance education can help close the gap to

        equalize academic achievement among students.

  Importance of the Standards    

The Standards for Learning and Teaching Dance in the Arts: Ages 5-18 are important because they

  • Provide a scaffold outlining the breadth and scope of learning and teaching dance as an art upon which to design curricula and course syllabi.

Standards are a guide, not a directive nor a curriculum. They offer constructive support, suggesting areas of curriculum but not defining it. Standards allow each district or school to develop an approach most suited to local or individual values.

  • Serve as a springboard for creativity for the learning and teaching of dance making: improvisation, choreography, and composition.
    Standards suggest avenues of creative exploration in the arts-making processes of Performing, Creating, Responding to, and Interconnecting dance learning to knowledge of other disciplines and life skills. 
  • Define age-appropriate expectations and levels of achievement in the art of dance. 
    Standards inform individual schools of dance and school districts what students should know and be able to do in the art of dance at certain benchmark levels when taught by a highly qualified dance teacher in a graduated curriculum.