What is the effect of dance on your kids?

Kids enjoy dancing and moving to a rhythm almost seems like second nature to our kids. When this movement is structured and performed with an intent and awareness, it transforms to dance.
Dance is one of the most basic forms of self-expression and children embrace the joy of dancing to a beat. However, as our kids grow older and studies start taking priority, kids are forced to relegate their dancing shoes in a corner. During this period other extracurricular activities such as sports, drawing, public speaking take precedence and we often end of neglecting dance.
However, experts suggest that it is essential that we provide our children with the developmental benefits and unique learning opportunities that come from organizing movement into the aesthetic experience of dance.
Our Bangalore editor, Lakshmi Datta Arun, recently met with MridulaRao, Founder Kala Sahita, a premier Kathak institute for kids and working adults in Bengaluru to understand how dance effects kids.
1. Does dancing have an effect on the physical health of children?
Of course yes!! Through dance children early on develop a sense of awareness of their bodies. Children’s bodies are far more flexible than adults and coupled with right training they develop the strength and stamina to execute movements with ease. Right posture, agility, non-verbal communication, body coordination and much more form an integral part of dance training. The range of physical benefits is hence myriad. However, attention must be paid while teaching dance as wrong teaching techniques can result in injuries.
2.    In what ways can dance enhance the mental well-being of a child?
The body has a mind of its own and through arts we access the intelligence of the body. In dance we use the whole of our body to express something. This is not done just cerebrally as we learn to function and move as a whole. When we dance, we move into the zone of intuition and instinct and we access that part of ourselves which most of the time mainstream education fails to do. There is a sense of satisfaction, a sense of wonder, a world of imagination and creativity that arts bring to us. Mental well-being is possible if we can traverse in these spaces too!!

3.    Does dance have any effect on social skills and creativity?
When we say social skills, we are most of the times talking about manners, about mixing up well with people and exchanging pleasantries. If we take this as the definition, then I am not sure if dance helps the social skills of children.
What good dance training however can aim to do is to inform students of personal space as well as others who are in that space. When children work together to create something, that act of creation binds them, blurs the boundaries between them and increases ownership and team spirit. At times when they have to dance alone for a group of fellow students, the act of presenting themselves gives them an opportunity to work on their inhibitions and gain confidence to present their work.

Creativity is the soul of any art. Through dance children are encouraged to imagine and move with their bodies and present their ideas through new means of communication. The need to create and play is in an innate desire in children and dance is one of the mediums through which one can access this.

4.    If a child is showing an interest in dance, how can parents encourage him / her?
If a child shows interest in dance then parents need to enquire about the form the child is interested in learning and make enquiries about the teaching methodologies of different teachers to see what style and teacher suits their child the most. Since most schools have dance clubs, parents can encourage their children to join those clubs. I think it is important to create a culture at home where children can freely discuss their art learning with parents and parents must try to be active participants in their arty journey. It is also important for parents to take them to watch performances, encourage them to create and be supportive of their passion. Being overtly judgemental, pushing a child to excel in dance, comparing their dance with others can take away the joy of dance from children.

5.    What is the perfect age to introduce a child to the classical forms of dance?
I think to learn classical dance, 5 and above is a good age. Classical dance is rigorous and requires a certain mental makeup. I hence feel that 5 + is a good age to start classical dance.

6. For kids just starting to dance, is there any specific form that you would recommend?
In my experience, children themselves start showing an inclination towards the form they want to learn. However, a child must be allowed to experiment and see if he/she likes the form that they are learning.

7. Many parents shy from sending their sons for dance classes, ( especially classical) and would rather invest their time and effort in a sports workshop. What is your take on this?
We live in a gendered world where right from the child’s birth their clothes, hairstyle and even toys are separated. This is particularly dangerous as we wish to neatly put our children into boxes without any regard for what they might like.
Dance is a human legacy and it belongs to all. The need to move and dance sees no gender. I love classical dance because of its rich knowledge base and I would find it appalling that it is denied to a child because of his sex!!! In the same way, I do not appreciate when girls are encouraged to dance but not play sports as parents find sports to be a man’s domain. I think we as parents and teachers need to seriously consider if we are providing for our children or taking away from them!!

– By Lakshmi Datta Arun

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