Research recently conducted by the University of Maryland (2007) focused on the linkage between children's participation in activities such as dancing, acting or music lessons and the positive outcomes in schools and a child’s emotional development and behavior.
The research shows participation in performing arts is linked to positive outcomes in school, emotional development, family life and behavior. They also play a central role in cognitive, motor, language and social emotional development.
Let’s look at how dancing can help your child to grow. A child’s self-esteem is enhanced with dancing. In a classroom setting, children are placed by age and skill level. Accomplishing the different positions of ballet or steps and routines in Tap create a sense of self-worth for the child. Being able to create moves with the music is a very satisfying event for a young dancer. And dancing is not just for girls. Boys are becoming more active in dancing, just look at all the boy bands and the synchronized dance moves they perform.
In addition to self-esteem, dance can reinforce a sense of pride. A child who wears glasses, has braces, is “pudgy” or maybe a little clumsy will find a renewal in their pride when dancing. When you are on stage or dancing by yourself, you are in a different world. It may not happen overnight, but it does happen.
Grace and poise are two physical benefits of dance, in addition to providing an intense and fun form of exercise.
A child in dance learns different positions and steps, which utilize all parts of their bodies. They are educated on proper posture, head and body alignment and moving with their entire body to create a flow of movement. Dance techniques have been used to train professional athletes including football and basketball players to help them develop faster moves on the playing field and allow them to move without injuring their bodies.
Acting and drama lessons improve intelligence and communication levels. Working with scripts helps improve reading and general knowledge skills and doing tasks such as improvisation develop imagination and self expression.
Exposure to singing and music allows children to easily access emotions as songs hold different feelings and can quickly change. The quick mood changes in songs help children to realize emotions are not something to be scared of and change naturally. Learning music assists with primary mental abilities (verbal, perceptual, numeric, spatial) and motor-skills. Different styles of music introduce children to cultures across the world and make them more accepting of different races to their own.
Kids who attend performing arts schools or have access to performing art classes in their regular school curriculum are:
- Developing creativity. Imaginative play stimulates and challenges the brain, and allows kids to be innovative and broad-minded
- Developing confidence. Strategies to help you get up in front of an audience and present an idea are extraordinarily valuable and very little appreciated in many areas of adult life, personally and professionally. Learning how as a child is a wonderful asset to have.
- Promoting self-discipline and self-motivation. Because all performing arts are physical and individual like doing sports or athletics, achievements are also gained from including practice at home and scheduling personal training,
- Exposed to art and culture. The impact of a sophisticated cultural and artistic education is life-long, and adds enjoyment, depth and meaning to both personal lives and professional work as adults. Not everyone is lucky enough to have the opportunity.
- Overcoming anxieties. The triumph of going out of stage, performing a rehearsed piece successfully, and receiving feedback afterwards is one of the profound and tangible reassurances of worth and achievement you will ever get. It gives kids a sense of control and power equivalent to winning scholastic prizes or sports championships, and will encourage aiming higher, overcoming more obstacles and achieving greater goals in future endeavours.
- Learning memorizing skills. Working on your ability to absorb and retain information is something many successful entrepreneurs recommend for the success of professional adults, and is important and fun to develop through performing arts.
- Improving language and musical skills. Like an exposure to culture and art, developing language and musical skills offer a significant advantage for any student, and make for a richer, more liberal-minded adulthood.
- Problem-solving. Dealing with unexpected situations and working through to viable solutions is a wonderful and perhaps surprising skill gained from performing arts classes, where creative challenges are set, self-generated work is encouraged, or problems encountered on stage are overcome if things go wrong or are forgotten.
- Social interaction and cooperation. Performing arts classes promote working as a team while also encouraging and developing individual talent: the best possible combination.
As with any extra-curricular activities or high-performance education route for kids, there are of course also possible pitfalls for students and parents, but overall, the benefits of being exposed to performing arts will benefit a student not only academically, but in dealing with life.