“Dance??!!?” I exclaimed with great surprise once my fellow course mates revealed our next workshop. Unlike drama, PE and music, this was a subject area I had never delved into too much (in an educational and purposeful manner) before attending university. Like many others similar to myself who have just left secondary school, with the exception of Scottish dancing at Christmas time, dance was not explored widely at school and certainly didn’t seem to be a core aspect of the curriculum so I did feel slightly uncomfortable at the thought of the workshop. This level of discomfort, however, actually encouraged me to reflect on why everyone (including myself to a certain degree) seemed so horrified about the idea of having to teach dance.
For me when I think of dance, vivid memories of the ballet class I attended for a few years in primary school spring to mind. Whilst I started off having lots of fun with my friends and performing, my later years as a ballet dancer were filled with pressurising assessments and constant reminders to keep pointing my toes out even further and work harder on my flexibility. As young people (especially in high school) we are constantly assessed, examined and given worth in the form of a letter and for myself, it’s sometimes hard to break out of the mentality of not every class is necessarily simply for a grade or result. I realised I was worried about the dance class because I’m not the best dancer and whilst very much enjoying the activity in a social setting, my dancing ‘technique’ is non-existent. I was worried about being judged for this or feeling embarrassed in front of my peers with plenty of experience but, as I braved the workshop I quickly understood how wrong I was and most importantly, how different the purpose was to Higher Chemistry (to get a good grade).
Upon reading the Get Scotland Dancing Literature Review, I was interested to find that a much lower percentage of Scots (3%) were likely to take part in dance because they had no qualification compared to those who do have a qualification (16%). This relates back to my previous comments about being apprehensive about dance simply because we don’t have confirmation of talent in the formal form of a grade or qualification. As teachers, we have the power to a certain extent to eradicate this feeling in our future young people so they have the confidence and self-esteem to try new things and lead healthier lifestyles-without worrying about how ‘good’ they are.
Prior to the workshop I was aware of the advantages to health and confidence that dance brings to children and adults alike,however, I soon began to acknowledge the many other fantastic qualities the teaching of dance in primary schools bring. I soon began to realise that dance isn’t just about body movement and technicalities but also about creativity, critical thinking and team work.
During placement, I hope to allow the children to create their own routines or movements in coordination with another topic or theme they have been learning about in a different curriculum area. This may be a specific culture which they have been learning about’s style of dance or even a dance routine to accompany a piece of music they have composed prior to the lesson. Not only does this allow for the children to be as creative as they please but it also allows links between the curriculum to be made and a deeper understanding of different dance styles and their origins. This would be in line with the Curriculum for Excellence’s Experiences and Outcomes for Second Level (I can explore and choose movements to create and present dance, developing my skills and techniques-EXA 2-08a and I have taken part in dance from a range of styles and cultures, demonstrating my awareness of the dance features. EXA 2-10a).
The Curriculum for Excellence for the expressive arts (dance specifically) also highlights the idea mentioned above of critical thinking. Being able to watch other’s performances and identify areas of strength and improvement and comment constructively is a skill required for many aspects of life and education. On placement I would like to facilitate this by creating an ‘I can help you with this’ sheet. I would ask a group of children to perform whilst the other groups watch and describe both areas of strength and improvement on the sheet. Once everyone has performed and filled out both areas of feedback, I would allow the children to go around the room and find someone whose area of improvement matches with another’s area of strength. Once this has been organised and settled I would allocate some time for the children with the area of strength to teach and explain to the other pupil how to improve their skill. If time allows, the children could perform again (but together) to demonstrate their newly improved skill. I hope to also use this idea throughout many different areas of the curriculum. This would facilitate the Curriculum for Excellence’s Experiences and Outcomes for Second Level for Dance (I can respond to the experience of dance by discussing my thoughts and feelings. I can give and accept constructive comment on my own and others’ work-/ EXA 2-11a).
The dance workshop not only gave me new and exciting ideas for my own class one day but also really encouraged me to see the wider picture of dance and how we can use it to improve and build upon many different skills in a creative and fun manner. It also inspired me to attempt to rid the stigma or fear in young people (alike myself originally!) to try dance by ensuring the key message that you don’t have to be the best dancer to enjoy or benefit from the experience very clear.