Why learn to dance when you could learn to code, engineer or paint? If you are keen to get your child into the studio but they are questioning the importance of dance and choreography, just take a look at all of the benefits that come from dancing as well as our top five reasons to learn how to dance. 🕺
Have humans always danced?
The notion that dance is somehow intrinsically human – an innate behaviour that transcends time, culture and civilisations – goes mostly unquestioned. So, what are our earliest known experiences with the dancing body? And how has the concept of dance changed through the ages?
The earliest historical records of dance appear in 8000 BCE Indian cave paintings and again in 3300 BCE Egyptian tomb paintings. It is thought that these early dances – predominantly religious in nature – developed over time to become increasingly ritualistic, performative and eventually hedonistic by the era of ancient Greece. 🏺
Meanwhile, in Asia, Chinese dance dates back at least 3,000 years, with ceremonial and folk dances – such as the dragon dance and lion dance, still seen today – being adapted for performance at court. And, despite British colonists’ best efforts to restrict Hindu dance in India due to its ‘immoral’ nature, it survived and flourished once again after the country regained independence.
In Europe, the folk dances of the Middle Ages turned into formal ballroom dancing; the Renaissance gave rise to formal court routines as well as ballet; the nineteenth century saw dance become more expressive as women's clothing allowed for freedom of movement; and finally, in the twentieth century, modern choreographers began to deconstruct ballet to create new forms of contemporary dance as we know it today. 🩰
Why do dancers dance today?
The history books – and indeed the trusty Oxford English Dictionary – would have us believe that dance, although a rich part of human social history, is the simple act of following a set of steps whilst moving rhythmically to music. But, for the more soulful among us, this reductive description belies the uniquely transcendent, fleeting, powerful and emotional value of dance. 💃
So, who better to help us understand why dancers choose to dance than…well…dancers? Perhaps the words of some of the world’s most revered choreographers, past and present, will give insight into the motivations behind learning and continuing to dance.
Pina Bausch, one of Germany’s greatest choreographers, saw dance as ‘expressing feelings’, stating that she was “not so interested in how people move as in what moves them.” Similarly, Akram Khan – an English dancer and choreographer of Bangladeshi descent – relies on his childhood memories and subconscious brain to fuel his dance as they “create far more interesting things than [his] conscious brain can ever dream of.” 🧠
Meanwhile, Martha Graham, widely regarded as the mother of modern dance, described it as “the hidden language of the soul, of the body” and American pioneer, Merce Cunningham, believed that “you have to love dancing to stick to it. It gives you nothing back, no paintings to show on walls, no poems to be printed and sold, nothing but that fleeting moment when you feel alive.”
Common among them all is a belief that dance is a tool for communication, a way to describe what we feel without words, a universal language, a form of self-expression that we can all – with a little commitment and passion – learn to do. 🙌
Why learn to dance? Top five reasons
So, why should people dance? Moreover, why should kids learn to dance? We know there are plenty of good things about dance – namely, it's loads of fun! – but sometimes it is difficult to know how to dance when you don't know how to get started. For those of you out there looking for another reason to teach your kids to dance, look no further than our top five below. 👇
#1 Boosts overall fitness
Dance is a great way to burn off some of that extra energy even if they are just learning how to dance casually – from cardio to flexibility and sometimes strength training too. It is a fun way to keep your kids fit and healthy.
#2 Trains muscle memory
Most learning that takes place within an academic setting relies on memory and recall of the mind but dancing relies on muscle memory too. This physical recall is a great skill to learn and implement across other subjects and sports training. 💪
#3 Supports self-expression
Another reason to dance is that it offers a new way for your child to express themselves and their emotions. Improvisation and choreography are a particularly accessible ways for them to explore new modes of communication. 🤩
#4 Encourages self-mastery
Learning how to dance and master dance techniques will help your child to master themselves both physically and mentally. As they test their own limits they will learn how far they can and when to push themselves further. 🧘
#5 Improves socialisation
Whether they're dancing solo, with a partner or part of an ensemble, your child will learn about communication, cooperation, feedback and collaboration – all important skills for life beyond the dance studio. 🤝