How Does Dance Benefit Society?

by David on December 14, 2010

I often write about the personal benefits of dance. I believe that it is encouraging for people to recognize how taking part in dance could really lead to positive benefits in their life. But what are the larger scale benefits? It may be easier for you to recognize how dance benefits your own life, but how does dance benefit everyone else? How does dance benefit the rest of society?

Given what I have been up to for the last few months, it seems fitting that I begin to ask this question. I’ve spent the past 3 months student teaching at a public middle school. This particular school is very arts-based, so I was fortunate enough to teach 2 periods of dance per day. It was an amazing experience. Very few schools have dance programs. Arts programs in general are consistently under review. Many schools are facing very large cut-backs in their budgets, and so, many decide to cut their art programs. Because of this, I feel I really need to know how to support dance and art. I really need to be able to portray the positive aspects from the perspective of budget-minded schools who are often focused on meeting evolving and confusing standards.

My hope is that I will find a job in either English or Social Studies, but bring my Dance endorsement and convince the school I am at to start a small dance program, if they do not already have one. For the next few months I will be writing my Master’s paper on the positive ways of integrating art into core curriculum. I have already been researching this idea a bit, and definitely pull some ideas with dance in mind.

I will share some of the ideas that I have come across, and will continue to share and support new ideas as I explore this idea. Here is a basic introduction to the ideas I’ve so far stumbled across. Some ideas may seem obvious, but it is important to think of the evidence we can find for these ideas.

Sample of benefits:

  • students who study art learn important skills for employment
  • studying art positively affects cognitive development
    • Dance instruction leads to improved visual-spatial skills
  • arts in schools encourages more involvement/less absences
  • students who study art have shown (in many studies across many different areas and types of students) higher standardized test scores than students who do not study art

One of the ideas that really touched me was the idea that students who were at-risk of dropping out or had less advantages, were most positively affected by art programs in school. As a high school dropout myself, I am very interested in anything that could help students find their place in school. Similar, there is evidence that art and dance is very beneficial for incarcerated youth (children in jail or juvenile detention). As a child I had my fair share of run-ins with the wrong side of the law. I’m extremely thankful that my life didn’t end up with me in jail, but I understand how easy it is for someone to end up there, and that these children are not just “monsters”. Many times they have just not found other ways to fit in society.

Because of this last idea, I began to wonder if there were any dance programs for dis-advantaged or incarcerated youth. A quick search revealed Stanford’s program which brought dance to juvenile halls. There is a great article here that goes into depth about many of the benefits of dance in prisons and in rehabilitation. At some point I would love to go deeper into this topic.

The college I am doing my Master’s degree at has a mentor program where college students visit once a week to work with incarcerated youth at nearby juvenile centers. Over the winter I will be volunteering with this program one day each week. While doing so, I will be working with the program to see if weekly dance workshops would be a benefit to the youth in the centers. If it seems that it will be positive, I plan to develop a weekly dance workshop to deliver to inmates for a couple of months in the spring. I understand that it could be possible that this won’t work, but I’m excited that it is even a possibility. My dance teaching experiences so far have had many possibilities to fail, but have seemed to contribute much more than I expected.

Over the next several months I’ll be sure to keep readers up-to-date with what I find. How do you think dance benefits society?

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Anne December 15, 2010 at 3:01 pm

Awesome =) !

2 Hello I Am A Dancer January 19, 2011 at 10:57 am

Much too often, dance and the arts are discarded as simply entertainment, but as you’ve noted in your piece, it’s much more than that.

Dance is a gift to our society, I’ve found after trying times that have rocked our communities i.e. 9/11, Hurricane Katrina etc…people turn to the arts.

3 Alex August 9, 2012 at 7:33 am

When I drive to the ballet studio, I always thought about how much dance can educate the world, bring civilization to it, bring an art of living. On the road, I see cow boy drivers, speed fanatics, and, if only they could dance, they would behave better and consider having respect to others, would be more balanced, and would focus on developing virtues and elegance. If only …
This is just an example. At school, it would develop determination, focus, satisfaction of effort, taste for challenge, understanding of space, ability for sharing with others, aristocratic standards, and discipline. The list of benefits is endless …

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