The owner of the dance studio that I teach at (Kinetics Academy of Dance), fellow dance teacher as well as friend and I were prepping for an upcoming event where students from KAD were going to perform. We started running through some of the things that were going to have be changed last minute; dancers unable to show up, pieces being pulled or added, etc. Pretty par for the course stuff with events like outdoor fairs, mall events and the like.
The young dancers (10 through 15 years of age) that were going to perform were going to have to make adjustments on the fly, since they hadn't had a chance to practice the pieces without their missing performers. Us dance teachers really weren't worried.
Why weren't we worried? Well, we just knew that they would figure it out. What reasons did we have to come to this conclusion?
Week in and week out dance combinations, movement patterns for both individuals and groups and a variety of musical compositions are thrown at these youths. In fact, children and teens all across the world that are involved in dance (of any kind really) are experiencing the same.
Dance provides an excellent opportunity for children to exercise and hone their problem solving skills.
Aside from the magic that occurs in the brain when music and movement are combined, there are other problem solving opportunities;
maintaining a circle formation in a group
executing steps in time with a musical selection, and doing it with a variety of body movements, tempos and rhythms.
how not to crash into the people around you
how not to get kicked by the people around you
having to make quick decisions while executing an exercise or task
understanding and remembering to make last minute changes to a rehearsed pattern
the list can go on and on.
Does this show up in other activities?
Certainly. Martial arts are a great example. Many sports are dependant upon the players utilizing problem solving skills.
What stands out to me with dance though, is the musical aspect (keeping time, counting, pacing) and the wide variety of movements. Some forms of dance have a larger vocabulary than others. But for the most part, the brain is having to frequently change gears, reassess and reanalyze.
Honing problem solving skills through dance, in my opinion, is a very transferable life skill.
What can get in the way?
Being in a negative learning environment can really jack things up. For anyone, at just about any age. In just about any activity; martial art, sports, dance. Hell, even achieving excellence in underwater basket weaving can be derailed by a mean and demeaning instructor or coach. When we feel fear, humiliation or anticipate punishment, our amygdala takes center stage in our brain functioning, and we revert all brain power to a fight or flight response. Not so good for learning or higher thinking skills.
Are these benefits exclusive to the brains of the young?
Absolutely not! Dancing makes you smarter at any age.
Thanks for reading.
Enjoy the dance that is life!