We all know there are not enough hours in the day and for young dancers trying to fit in academics and dance at a critical period in their lives this is particularly true. How can you fit in both without one area being compromised for a young dancer?
The Huffington post article below points out what can be lost when a dancer with not enough time choses academics over dance, particularly in terms of long term health benefits. And we know dance is the new super food - there is more and more evidence to suggest that dance is great for preventing loss of cognitive function as we age and has enhancing effects for academic performance in young dancers (1, 2, 3, 4, 5). Arguably dance also helps develop skills that have been proven to result in 'successful' adults namely - self control (see Radio NZ - the Dunedin study) and in this new world of entrepreneurialism where you need determination, conscientiousness, creativity and focus, dancers are potentially well placed.
However, dance demands for aspiring professional dancers are increasing, as are the number of dance schools offering full time courses at critical ages for the development of literacy and numeracy. Difficult choices need to be made. If dancers can't go full time then they are looking at punishing schedules after school to fit in the required amount of training. If they can go full time then they are relying on parents to provide enough support with home schooling and correspondence or the dance school to provide quality educational tuition. Some academic schools are really helpful in terms of providing some flexibility for dance schedules but some are not and for those dancers that are 'giving up' schooling to pursue dance how can they keep their options open?
There are not any one size fits all answers and I am really interested in what others think. I suspect that more could be done to merge dance training and education. Educational schools are broadening what they offer (dance as a subject is becoming more and more popular in an academic setting which is fabulous) but I feel that there is now the opportunity for dance schools particularly those with younger dancers (12 - 16) to broaden their offering; so that they focus not only on dance training outcomes but dance education also. There are a number of ways to build educational outcomes in an academic sense into a dance class and into dance training generally, wouldn't it be great to support students with this type of training resulting in specific educational skills. I'm not suggesting educational qualifications here (although maybe one day... :) but I do think that a dance setting can be used to develop useful skills that would be valuable to any employer, and perhaps even skills that traditional educational schools find difficult to offer (the subject of another blog!). And I do know of some fabulously inspired teachers that are starting to provide this.
Dance is a language and an art, it draws on or involves an understanding of the areas of humanities, history, drama, story telling, composition, exercise science, psychology and social science and of course links to specific skills in costume design and making, make up, hair artistry and music. It can be used to develop critical analysis skills and even numeracy in many ways. It is evolving and creative, can be political and strategic. As dance becomes more and more linked with technology there are also opportunities here (video and film making, interactive and immersive experiences, even coding for dance - I met an ex-dancer at IADMS recently who was wanting to make this their career). And of course every young dancer is their own start up, developing their own profiles, managing their marketing and social media, their public relations and their team. Vying for position of CEO usually with their parents until such a time that they out grow them and there is a change in management :).
Dance schools could tap into many of these areas, ideally as part of the class curriculum but also as an add on to it. More and more, academic schools have a learning management system to help with managing class content, projects and external learning, which makes more student-directed leaning possible. With tools like Movitae, dance schools have the potential to create a dance learning management system and tap into the teaching resource that is the internet in a way that can guide self-learning. It's not perfect but it is an opportunity to provide enriched learning for those who are game. And as this blog by 'a ballet curriculum' about adding depth to dance learning, states:
'The world—not just the dance world—needs smart dancers. We need artists who have longevity, who know how to communicate, who understand how to troubleshoot their own problems, who can carry the tradition of classical ballet by passing on their wisdom, and who get that there is so much more to ballet than nailing the fouetté.'
Last week my journalist friend and Pilates participant Sara shared a piece about herself, in The Mirror. She was young and posing in her ballet costume. She had the biggest, beaming smile on her face. But the article explained that she’d given up dancing to study for her school exams. She hasn’t danced since.