Steps in the Right Direction

by Evann Duplantier

As I once again fall into the routine of driving to and from my five girls’ weekly dance classes, each on a different day and time, and some twice weekly, I wonder if it’s really worth it. The two oldest are now entering their twelth year of classical ballet, Broadway tap, and jazz. The oldest has taken five years “en pointe” and another has taken three. They are now the “older girls” at their dance studio.

Well, is it worth it? I think so. There are numerous benefits to long-term dance education. The most obvious benefit is physical. Dance increases muscle tone and flexibility, and improves coordination and posture. But there is much more to dance than just the physical benefits.

Dance teaches discipline. Regular attendance and honest effort are required in order to progress. Ballet and tap require enormous concentration, and students learn to listen attentively and apply themselves mentally as well as physically. Dance education cultivates self-discipline, motivation, and the ability to work in a group. In time, children learn to apply these traits to their own preparation for careers and vocations.

Then, there’s the socializtion aspect. Through their dance classes, my children have been exposed to children from different cultures, races, and religions. They are branching out from our small homeschool world and mixing in positive, realworld situations. This exposure to a vari-ety of personal and social perspectives is a very valuable learning experience.

There’s also the too-often misused word, self-esteem. The dance-class environment increases self-confidence and self-esteem. Dance education introduces children to the basics of theatre and performance. In an enjoyable process, shy children become relaxed and confident in front of a group.

Exposure to any art form is beneficial and the expression of art and creativity comes naturally to children. In dance children find beauty in form, repetition, movement, and coordination.

On a cultural level, dance education offers a variety of benefits. Ballet especially will expose them to classical music. This gained awareness of and appreciation for classical music, as well as many other styles, can inculcate a lifelong love of music. There is also a literary aspect to dance. Classic ballets tell classic stories. We can’t overlook the foreign language benefits either, for most of the terms used in classical ballet are French, but there are linguistic contributions from Italian and Russian as well.

Of course, worthwhile dance education is not limited to ballet and tap. Your family may prefer jazz, lyric, modern, folk, Irish step, or even flamenco. All require hard work and dedication and will result in rewards that will last a lifetime.

Evann Duplantier, homeschooling mother of six & thankevann.com webmaster, has been taking her girls to dance class for twelve years.

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