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Modern Dance Strengthens Education, Essay Example

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Essay

Many see dance as a form of entertainment, a form of art, but not something that would be considered an indicator of strength to the education of many students and others around the world. Many believe that dance is supposed to be fun, entertaining, and simply about appeasing an audience. However, dance is so much more than that. It is more than running around a stage, twirling, acting, and making people laugh or feel in awe based on the production. Dance can have so much more potential for individuals (specifically youngsters) than merely helping them learn an art form, more potential than giving them something to do to keep them out of trouble, more potential than allowing them the satisfaction to show their true feelings through an art form. It is important to look at the empirical data and previous research to show the world how art (dance, in particular) has helped young adults learn other valuable lessons. This will be shown through scholarly articles that explain modern dance and the ways in which the form of art strengthens the educational bounds, intellectual capacities, and abstract thinking for young individuals all over the world. In short, equally with all of these things, dance (modern specifically) assists children in their ability to apply fundamental aspects of life such as discipline, self confidence and self-esteem, teamwork, and helps them learn life lessons about relationships and the many other aspects of being a true individual.

Through modern dance, anything is possible, especially learning. Many dictionaries define modern dance as “a form of contemporary theatrical and concert dance employing a special technique for developing the use of the entire body in movements expressive of abstract ideas” (Strzepek, n.p.). Modern dance began in the United States and Germany in the early twentieth century. Individuals such as “Isadora Duncan, Loie Fuller, Ruth St. Dennis, and her husband and partner Ted Shawn, each made significant contributions to a new type of concert dance in America” (Strzepek, n.p.). These individuals were called the forerunners as they were the ones that took modern dance and made it what it was and is today. According to the article entitled “Modern Dance” by the Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, “modern dance resembles modern art and music in being experimental and iconoclastic” (1). The main focus of the forerunners was to rebel against the origins of ballet and show dancing to be of something more than form and rigidity. “Each sought to inspire audiences to a new awareness of inner or outer realities, a goal shared by all subsequent modern dancers” (“Modern Dance” 1). Most importantly, the forerunners wanted to be seen as artists, wanted to be taken seriously, rather than being seen merely as entertainers. They were passionate about what they did and what they were bringing to America (Brown 2). When speaking of modern dance, Strzepek explains it the best in the following paragraph:

Their dance reflected and challenged the art, philosophy, and issues of their time, explored the cultures of other places and times, made new advances in theatrical lighting and spectacle, and discarded the costumes and artificiality of classical ballet. They were exploring and expressing themselves in a way that had never been seen before, and they were guiding others to do the same (n.p.).

The main idea for these artists was to create their own dances, moves, elements, and visions in reference to what they considered dance. They did not want to dance what others had already been dancing. They wanted different. They wanted new. According to Carolyn Adams and Julie Adams Strandberg, “they wanted to create a new language, drawing on the past but moving in new directions, discovering different ways of using breath, the torso, weight, space, rhythm, and subject matter” (23). And honestly, this is exactly what they did. Modern dance became something that individuals of all ages wanted to learn, understand, love, and do. However, just as many other individuals who are engaged in the arts, dancers did not want the world to merely look at them and see entertainment. They wanted them to see that dance could provide other key elements to the lives of children everywhere; they wanted everyone to understand that dance improved a person’s discipline, a person’s self-confidence and self-esteem, a person’s ability to understand and implement teamwork, and most importantly, show them key components of the ways in which to live their lives.

Dance isn’t just a form of entertainment. Dance is a discipline in itself. It requires knowledge, skill, patience, grace, teamwork, and a love for the art. Dance can be so much more to a person than entertainment. The first thing it can do is teach a person discipline. In order to be a dancer, one must be disciplined. He or she must be able to practice, persistence and focus. Dance helps aid in this category by far. According to Linda Nathan, “the arts teach students persistence, empathy, teamwork – and much more” (48). This is a very true statement. The discipline and persistence one must have in order to dance is extreme and this helps them in many other aspects of their lives. The discipline and persistence that they learn in a dance classroom can be taken immediately to their academic classrooms, to their jobs, to their families, to their other relationships, but most importantly every other area of their lives. One who is persistent and disciplined can be a very successful person and that is what this world needs right now. But discipline isn’t all that is learned in the dance classroom; self-confidence and high self-esteem are learned and embedded in the minds of dancers.

Self-confidence and self-esteem are two of the hardest components of life to teach a child. Unless a child lives with very supportive, encouraging parents or guardians, this is something that many struggle with on a daily basis. They do not realize their self-worth and therefore do not develop the self-confidence and self-esteem they need in order to be productive in this society. Dance has the opportunity to teach them that they can be self-confident and have high self-esteem. Dance has the opportunity to do this by showing them they can master new skills and perfect them (“The Benefits of Dance, n.p.). The problem is that many people believe that children can only learn self-confidence in the general classroom by obtaining good grades and being an excellent student. This is not the case. Their ability to be creative, even through the arts such as dance, helps their confidence levels and self-esteem. Linda Nathan states that “if we believe, as the literature suggests, that students learn by doing, by engaging, by getting their hands dirty, then the arts must be central to any core curriculum” (50). This is very true. An article written by Christensen, Horn, & Johnson in 2008 states that students must be able to think “beyond the linear, logical, and analytical skills that are easily measured by standardized tests” (Nathan 50). Yet, the only way to do this is through being creative and dance does this for these students. It seems that Carolyn Adams and Julie Adams Strandberg state it best in the following paragraph:

Dance education must create partnerships with other institutions outside of the schools. Students and teachers must be involved in the creation of educational materials on dance. It is in that process that the true essence of the works and their significance can be found, and it is through that process that students and teachers discover their own creativity and connections to the works and the artists who made them (30).

Dance also engages and teaches students teamwork. In this facet, students learn to work with others and learn to build healthy, stable relationships. Dance helps students meet new people and engage with them due to their similar interests (“The Benefits of Dance” n.p.). In the same aspect, this helps them learn about other cultures and gives them the opportunity to work with others who are not like themselves. Learning teamwork is a building block to learning to be successful and productive in life. The way in which students engage with each other during dance recitals, dance classes, and dance in general helps them understand that teamwork is a core component to their success inside and outside the dance classrooms. Dance gives them the opportunity to work together, to bring their creative ideas to one place, and to allow each other the opportunity to share with the rest of their pupils. In turn, this creates the self-confidence they need in other areas of life to do just that. These are thing in which they will need to know and learn in order to be productive in our society and dance teaches them that.

As you can see, dance is not just about entertainment. It is more than that. It is more than providing a nice visual to an audience that enjoys the entertainment. It’s a teacher. It’s a teacher of craft, technique, balance, spirituality, discipline, self-confidence and self-esteem, teamwork, empathy, creativity and relationships. Yes! Dance is an art form that is used for entertainment and that many enjoy watching; however, it can be more than that to the individuals that participate in it on a daily basis. They learn more techniques and lessons than what is taught specifically in the dance classroom. By being dancers and entertainers, they learn that the components listed above are important and they learn to be good, sound, structured individuals because of it. Finally, modern dance has been discussed throughout this paper, but it is important to state that modern dance, ballet and show dancing can be combined to show that their themes are quite similar even if their techniques are not. All of these forms of dance are not merely entertainment. These dance forms have purpose and that purpose is to help people of all ages learn life lessons that will help them in many different ways. If society continues to only see dance as entertainment, it could easily lose its value to be something bigger and better for the individuals who consistently participate in these dance forms.

Works Cited

Adams, Carolyn, and Julie Adams Strandberg. “Access, Education, and Preservation through the Prism of American Dance.” Arts Education Policy Review. 102.1 (2000): 19-31. Web. 10 Oct. 2013.

“Modern Dance.” Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia. (2013): 1-2. Web. 10 Oct. 2013.

Nathan, Linda. “All Students Are Artists.” Educational Leadership. . (2012): 48-51. Web. 10 Oct. 2013.

Strzepek, Nichelle. “What is Modern Dance?.” Dance Advantage. N.p., 05 Feb 2013. Web. 10 Oct 2013.<http://www.danceadvantage.net/what-is-modern-dance/>.

“The Benefits of Dance.” N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Oct 2013. <http://www.dance-teachers.org/dancestyles/the-benefits-of-dance.asp&xgt;.

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