During my bachelor degree I had a brilliant opportunity to undertake a two-week placement at school (UK) which provided dance classes for children and youth. Before the first lesson I had an interesting conversation with Jane, a tutor of ballet classes, who explained that the school supports the idea of freedom of choice and creativity and emphasizes the individuality of every child who should get the pleasure from the learning process, be eager to try new opportunities, and follow their own feelings and imagination.
This child-centred approach emphasizes the “process of dancing and its affective contribution to the participant’s overall development as a moving/felling being” (Smith, 1994, pp. 4-6.). Reflecting back I remember how little boys and girls accompanied by a live piano music danced by using their own imagination and feelings, one little girl danced as a butterfly, the other girl sang the “Hickory Dickory Dock” and inspired the whole group to sing together. The main idea was that the dancing and learning was an enjoyable and interesting process and Jane’s role was to support children to build their own understanding through dance and movements. Moreover, parents had the brilliant opportunity to take part in the learning process of their child and even join and dance! I think parental involvement was one of the important factors positively affecting the learning process.
These dance lessons helped children to develop socially, physically, emotionally and intellectually. There were many children from different backgrounds, gender and age, nevertheless children easily communicated, cooperated, learnt together and had fun. Lessons helped children to develop physical coordination, gain strength, and endurance. Furthermore, a well-planned dance program helped children to become more confident. According to Jane, there were some students with learning difficulties, emotional and personal problems, who despite their challenges continued to visit lessons and relax by freeing their emotions through dance activities. As Humphrey (1987) believes “dance is a means of releasing aggression in a socially acceptable manner…the very atmosphere that should prevail in the dance situation, a happy situation free from stress and fear, promotes a feeling of emotional well-being” (p.14). Moreover, during the lessons children developed intellectually. Jane always repeated the phrase “work with your brain, not with your body”, as dance required concentration and a good memory. During the exercises children (4-5 years) counted together, sang the songs, and exchanged opinions, which, from my point of view, definitely helped them to grow intellectually.
I had a brilliant opportunity to see and learn ‘how children learn’, when they are active creators of their own knowledge. I have witnessed new approaches of learning, such as participation of parents, creative dances, and development of the whole child, which hopefully positively contributed to children’s early learning process and development. To sum up, I would like to add that every adult/parent/teacher has an opportunity to empower children by giving them a choice and a chance and let them learn to make their own decisions and trust their feelings.
Humphrey, J. H. (1987). Child development and learning through dance. New York: AMS Press.
Smith, J.M. (1994). The art of dance in education. London: A & C Black.