Dance May Keep Kids From Eating Their Brains

Kids are creative. They like to move. You don’t need a scientist to tell you that.

So why do we need to teach our children to dance?

Let’s ask the Sea Squirt, shall we?

By Silke Baron (originally posted to Flickr as Sea Squirts) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The sea squirt eats its brain once it attaches to a rock. A testament that if you don’t need to move, the brain becomes a luxury.

Brains Evolved For Movement

Neuroscientist Daniel Wolpert gave a profound TED talk titled “The Real Reason for Brains” in which he states,

“Not all species on our planet have brains, so if we want to know what the brain is for, let’s think about why we evolved one. Now you may reason that we have one to perceive the world or to think, and that’s completely wrong. If you think about this question for any length of time, it’s blindingly obvious why we have a brain. We have a brain for one reason and one reason only, and that’s to produce adaptable and complex movements. There is no other reason to have a brain.”

We all know that dance contributes to a healthy body, but it also stands to reason that dancing maintains healthy brain function, as executing complex moments are a fundamental function of our brains.

You are not only exercising your body when you dance, but your brain as well.

Need more reasons? Here they are:

Because Children Move to Learn

This story told by Sir Ken Robinson about the famous choreographer/director, Gillian Lynee (Cats, Phantom of the Opera) who, as a child in the 1930’s, might have been diagnosed with ADHD today, illustrates what doors open for children when movement is not discouraged, but encouraged or even channeled.

Ken Robinson – Gillian Lynne – Igloo Animations

Watch this video on YouTube.

Mrs. Lynne, Gillian isn’t sick; she’s a dancer. Take her to a dance school.” I said, “What happened?” She said, “She did. I can’t tell you how wonderful it was. We walked in this room and it was full of people like me. People who couldn’t sit still. People who had to move to think.” – Gillian Lynee

In a time of increasing ADHD diagnosis, what are the implications of declining dedication of the U.S. public school day to programs as basic as gym and recess? (I talk more about this in my extended article on the Uprise Academy blog.)

Kids are dancers to begin with. They explore the world with movement even before they learn to walk.

All children benefit from being given the chance to think and learn through movement.

Because We’re All Born Artists

Children are born with oceans of creativity, too, and frequently express themselves with movement.

You can’t learn to dance by sitting at a desk. You can’t learn dance from reading a book and there’s no test you can pass to become a better dancer. This sets dance education apart from other important subjects like science, math, and humanities.

You can only learn dance by doing. You observe your teacher and then try to imitate them. You progress through trial and error and the feedback you receive. You learn by making mistakes and slowly overcoming them over time.

“All children are born artists, the problem is to remain an artist as we grow up.” – Picaso

Dance education preserves a child’s precious innate creativity and ability to learn things through trial and error, while the rest of the world is trying to suppress those characteristics.

Because It Teaches Us Self-Mastery

As a dance teacher, I mainly teach adults. Most of my dance students are in their 20s or 30s with zero to little dance experience. They are typically professionals with careers that require a high degree of intelligence, yet they are unable to tell their right foot from their left.

When you walk or breathe, your body just moves for you. When you dance, you actually have to learn to tell your body to do what you want it to. That’s when you realize how little control we actually have over our own bodies. They often don’t do what we want them to.

Through dance, we don’t just learn specific moves, we learn to master our own bodies and overcome our own limitations. It requires a tremendous amount of discipline, hard work and practice to become an expert dancer, and those are excellent virtues for children to learn.

Because Our Economy Needs It

While, unfortunately, lucrative careers specifically for dancers and choreographers are difficult to come by, the skills that one learns from dance have a lot of value in every field of work.

Dance teaches us to visualize ideas creatively and collaboratively and businesses today have to innovate to survive. Our economy was once an industrial economy, but now any kind of repetitive task based on numbers and rules is something we can write a program for. Jobs like these are automated and outsourced.

Right now, robots are being developed that can do knowledge or analysis-based work; pharmacists for example. Several hospitals around the world now have advanced robot assisted operating rooms. In another twenty years, the only jobs left are the ones that computers can’t do.

Let’s teach our kids to dance, so that when they grow up and enter into the workforce, they do so with a fully in-tact, highly valuable asset: their imaginations.

Dance educator, Todd ChenTodd Chen is a dance educator and entrepreneur from NYC. In 2008, he set about to disrupt the world of dance education by combining his passions for Design, Marketing, and Dance to create RiSE Dance Co. An innovative new dance school that integrates traditional studio classes with online videos and components of gamification. Find out more about their brand new kids’ program at uprisedance.com.

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Comments

  1. My daughter loves taking dance classes and I feel like she has become a more disciplined person because of it. She has ADHD, but the movement that dancing allows her is really beneficial. I am really glad that her dad and I decided to encourage and channel her movement into something positive, because that has really affected her positively on and off the dance floor.

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