History of Creative Dance Essay Sample
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History of Creative Dance Essay Sample
Creative dance is perceived differently by different sectors of the education system. In many provinces, creative dance is part of the physical education curriculum. More recently, two provinces— British Columbia and Saskatchewan— have considered placing dance under the rubric of arts education. The aspect of creative dance that is emphasized reﬂects the position creative dance is assigned in the curriculum. When in the physical education curriculum, creative dance lessons typically focus on development of the motor skills involved, with little concern for the experience’s aesthetic potential. In arts education, the primary focus is creative dance’s aesthetic potential. Advocates view creative dance not only as having potential for developing motor skills or aesthetic sensibility, but as a means to improve students’ self-concept and as a valuable component of an integrated curriculum. Upon closer scrutiny, however, these different ways of justifying creative dance may prove contradictory. “Creative dance” is a particular form of dance. This form is typically taught in elementary schools because unlike other dance forms, it does not require years of training.
Basically, creative dance involves the use of movement elements to express thoughts and feelings. Dimondstein (1974) expands on this deﬁnition when she considers dance to be “the interpretation of a child’s ideas, feelings, and sensory impressions expressed symbolically in movement forms through the unique use of his body” .Creative dance teachers may suggest particular ideas or feelings they want their students to express through movement. Alternatively, they may provide a stimulus— for example, a piece of music, a poem, a painting— which they want students to interpret and express through the medium of movement. The medium of movement can be further deﬁned using the elements of movement. Rudolf Laban (1975) has comprehensively analyzed movement and its constituent elements. Examples of Laban’s movement elements include body wareness; space awareness; the awareness of weight, time, and ﬂow; and the adaptation to partners and groups. The movement themes developed from these elements have formed the basis of numerous handbooks on creative dance, among them Preston-Dunlop’s (1980) A Handbook for Dance in Education, Joyce’s (1980) First Steps in Teaching Creative Dance to Children, and Boorman’s (1969) Creative Dance in the First Three Grades.
Although Morin (1988) criticizes the curriculum content these writers propose as too myopic, I suggest that the development of an elemental movement vocabulary has a wider purpose, that being to express the inner self. In fact, Joyce (1980) states that the goal of creative dance is “to communicate through movement” , and PrestonDunlop’s handbook (1980) includes a theme she refers to as “Meaning, Expression, Communication and Embodiment” . Creative dance, then, is not simply what Morin (1988) refers to as “elemental dance” (dance whose content is based solely upon the use of movement elements) but includes aspects of what she refers to as “expressive dance” (dance dealing with aesthetic qualities and qualitative relationships). Whether the focus is on elemental or expressive aspects of creative dance is often a function of who is viewing the activity. What is Creative Dance?
The creative dance curriculum incorporates the movement education concepts of Rudolf Von Laban, who stressed the educational benefits of dance as an aesthetic, social, and communicative form. A problem solving, non-competitive learning approach is used to enhance the students’ awareness of their motor, cognitive, and expressive abilities. Rudolf Von Laban
Rudolf Von Laban (15 December 1879 – 1 July 1958) was a dance artist and theorist, notable as one of the pioneers of modern dance in Europe. His work laid the foundations for Laban Movement Analysis, Labanotation (Kinetography Laban), other more specific developments in dance notation and the evolution of many varieties of Laban Movement Study. He is considered to be one of the most important figures in the history of dance and fencing. The creative arts help students to:
* gain confidence and a positive self-esteem
* learn problem solving skills
* make discoveries about themselves, their friends, and the world around them
* learn cooperation by working together as a group
* learn to respect each other’s unique style
* learn spontaneity, leadership, and self-control
* develop creativity
* gain physical strength, flexibility, and stamina
* develop good posture, balance, and coordination through dance exercises and yoga postures
Combining dance technique with the art of expression gives students the necessary tools to express their feelings through movement. Students develop dance skills, through traditional modern and ballet exercises, providing them with a strong foundation in dance technique. They develop creative skills as they are encouraged to explore the different qualities of movement in relation to space, time, force, and flow. As they explore, they become aware of their different body parts and how they can move them, discover new ways of moving, create designs, and express feelings. Yoga postures and stories and relaxation techniques are integrated into the class to connect body, mind, and spirit.
Creative Dance as an Art form
Creative dance is an art form that provides potential for the expression of personal and universal qualities. Through its use of nonverbal communication, dance gives students the opportunity to participate in a way that is different from any other area of learning. In a broad and balanced elementary school curriculum dance is an important area of human experience that should not be neglected. Dance supports any subject matter area. The goal of creative dance is to communicate through movement. The instrument is the human body. In creative dance there is no “right” or “wrong” way to do things, no routines to learn. What is important is that the dancer draw on inner resources to make a direct and clear statement. Granted, an increase in skill increases ability to communicate, but in creative dance the statement comes before the technique. Examples of Creative Dances
Salsa is normally a partner dance, although there are forms such as a line dance form “Salsa suelta”, where the dancers dance individually and a round dance form “Rueda de Casino” where multiple couples exchange partners in a circle. Salsa can be improvised or performed with a set routine. Salsa is a popular social dance throughout South America as well as in North America, Europe, Australia, and some countries in Asia and the Middle East. Salsa dances are commonly held in night clubs, ballrooms, restaurants, and outside, especially if part of an outdoor festival. Basic movements
There are a few basic steps of Salsa. The most common is the three weight changes (or steps) in each four-beat measure. The beat on which one does not step might contain a tap or kick, or weight transfer may simply continue with the actual step not occurring until the next beat. The option chosen depends upon individual choice and upon the specific style being danced. One of the steps is called a “break,” which involves a change in direction. Different styles of Salsa are often differentiated by the timing of the break step (On Beat “Downbreak on 1” or Off Beat “Up beat on 2”). After 6 weight changes in 8 beats, the basic step cycle is complete. While dancing, the basic step can be modified significantly as part of the improvisation and stylings of the people dancing. In many styles of Salsa dancing, as a dancer changes weight by stepping, the upper body remains level and nearly unaffected by the weight changes. Caught in the middle are the hips which end up moving quite a bit —- famously known as the “Cuban hip movement.” Perhaps ironically, the Cuban Casino style of Salsa dancing actually has significant amounts of movement above the waist, with up-and-down shoulder movements and shifting of the ribcage.
The arms are used by the “lead” dancer, to communicate or signal the “follower,” either in “open” or “closed” position. The open position requires the two dancers to hold one or both hands, especially for moves that involve turns, putting arms behind the back, or moving around each other, to name a few examples. In the closed position, the leader puts the right hand on the follower’s back, while the follower puts the left hand on the leader’s shoulder. In the original Latin America form, the forward/backward motion of Salsa is done in diagonal or sideways with the 3-step weight change intact. In some styles of salsa, such as LA and New York style, the dancers remain in a slot or line (switching places), while in some Latin American styles, such as Cuban style, the dancers circle around each other, sometimes in 3 points. This circular style is especially true for casino rueda dancing. Styles of Salsa
* Colombian / Cali style
Cali-Style Salsa, also known as Colombian Salsa, is based on geographical location of the Colombian City of Cali. Cali is also known as the “Capital de la Salsa” (World’s Salsa Capital); due to salsa music being the main genre in parties, nightclubs and festivals in the 21st century. The elements of Cali-Style Salsa were strongly influenced by dances to Caribbean rhythms which preceded salsa, such as Pachanga and Boogaloo. The basic step of Colombian Salsa is the “Atras” or “Diagonal”; breaking backwards diagonally instead of moving forwards and backwards as seen in the New York and L.A. Style.
Dancers do not shift their body weight greatly as seen in other styles. Instead, dancers keep their upper body still, poised and relaxed while the feet execute endless intricacies. The dancer breaks mostly On1 (sometimes On3), with short measures of “4” instead of full “8” counts. A major difference of Cali Style and the other styles is the footwork which has quick rapid steps and skipping motions. They do not execute Cross-body Leads or the “Dile Que No” as seen in LA/New York-style and Cuban-style salsa, respectively. Their footwork is intricate and precise, helping several Colombian Style dancers win major world championships. Cali hosts many annual salsa events such as the World Salsa Cali Festival and the Encuentro de Melomanos y Coleccionistas. * Cuban “Casino” style
Cuban-style salsa, also known as Casino, is popular in many places around the world, including in Europe, Latin America, North America, and even in some countries in the Middle East. Dancing Casino is an expression of popular social culture; Cubans consider casino as part of social and cultural activities centering around their popular music. The name Casino is derived from the Spanish term for the dance halls, “Casinos Deportivos” where a lot of social dancing was done among the better off, white Cubans during the mid-20th century and onward. Historically, Casino traces its origin as a partner dance from Cuban Son, fused with partner figures and turns adopted from North American Jive. As with the Son, Danzon and Cha Cha Cha, it is traditionally, though less often today, danced “a contratiempo”. This means that, distinct from subsequent forms of salsa, no step is taken on the first and fifth beats in each clave pattern and the fourth and eighth beat are emphasised.
In this way, rather than following a beat, the dancers themselves contribute in their movement, to the polyrythmic pattern of the music. What gives the dance its life, however, is not its mechanical technique, but understanding and spontaneous use of the rich Afro-Cuban dance vocabulary within a “Casino” dance. In the same way that a “sonero” (lead singer in Son and Salsa bands) will “quote” other, older songs in their own, a “casino” dancer will frequently improvise references to other dances, integrating movements, gestures and extended passages from the folkloric and popular heritage. This is particularly true of African descended Cubans. Such improvisations might include extracts of rumba, dances for African deities, the older popular dances such as Cha Cha Cha and Danzon as well as anything the dancer may feel. * Miami-style Casino
Developed by Cuban migrants to Florida and centered around Miami, this form of Cuban Salsa fused with American culture and LA Style. Major differences of Miami-style Casino is that it is exclusively danced on the downbeat (On1) and has elements of shines and showstyle added to it, following repertoires of North American Styles. Miami-style has many adherents, particularly Cuban-Americans and other Latinos based in South Florida. * Los Angeles style
L.A. style is danced on 1, in a slot, with a measure of easiness and adaptability to it. It is strongly influenced by the Mambo, Swing, Argentine Tango and Latin Ballroom dancing styles. L.A. style places strong emphasis on sensuousness, theatricality, aerobics and musicality. The lifts, stunts and aerial works of today’s salsa shows are derived mostly from L.A. Style forms with origins in Latin Ballroom and Ballet lifts. The two essential elements of this dance are the forward–backward basic as described above and the cross-body lead. In this pattern, the leader steps forward on 1, steps to the right on 2-3 while turning 90 degrees counter-clockwise (facing to the left), leaving the slot open. The follower then steps straight forward on 5-6 and turns on 7-8, while the leader makes another 90 degrees counter-clockwise and slightly forward, coming back into the slot. After these 8 counts, the leader and follower have exchanged their positions. Albert Torres, Laura Canellias and Joe Cassini are credited for the early development and growth of L.A. Style Salsa. Later, such dancers as Alex Da Silva, Edie Lewis, Joby Martinez, Josie Neglia, Liz Rojas, Johnny and Francisco Vazquez and Janette Valenzuela are often credited with developing the L.A. style of Salsa Dancing as we know it today.
* New York style
Introduced by Jay “the Golden goose” Grote, Like LA-style salsa, New York style is danced in a line. However, unlike LA style, it is danced on the second beat of the music (“on 2”), and the follower steps forward on the first measure of the music, not the leader. The etiquette of New York Style is strict about remaining in the “slot” and avoiding traveling dancing in a sandbox area with a lot of spins, turns and styling. There is greater emphasis on performing “shines” in which dancers separate themselves and dance solo with intricate footwork and styling for a time—suspected origins from Swing and New York Tap. * FLAMENCO
Flamenco dance (baile) is a highly-expressive, Spanish dance form. The flamenco is a solo dance characterized by hand clapping, percussive footwork, and intricate hand, arm and body movements. In recent years flamenco has become popular all over the world and is taught in many countries: in Japan there are more academies than there are in Spain. On November 16, 2010 UNESCO declared flamenco one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. Flamenco Technique
With roots in Indian, Arabic, Spanish cultures, flamenco dance is known for its sweeping arm movements and rhythmic feet stomping. Flamenco dancers spend a great deal of time practicing and perfecting the often difficult dance. Although there is no single flamenco dance, dancers must follow a strict framework of rhythmic patterns. The steps a dancer performs are dependent on the traditions of the song being played. Perhaps the greatest joy of flamenco dancing is watching the personal expressions and emotions of the dancer, which change many times during a single performance. The Flamenco Dancer
Flamenco dancers, known as bailaores and bailaoras, are serious and passionate. Typical of flamenco dance, a dancer will often stand motionless and free of expression for the first few moments of a song. As he or she begins to feel the music, the dancer might begin a steady beat of loud hand clapping. Then, as emotion builds, the dancer will begin a passionate dance. The dancing often involves fierce stomping, sometimes made louder with percussion attachments on the shoes, and graceful arm movements. Castanets are sometimes held in the hands for clicking, and folding fans are occasionally used for visual impact. Learning Flamenco
Probably the most important thing you will need to start flamenco dancing is patience. The art of flamenco dance is often difficult to master. Besides learning intricate steps and movements, you will also need to learn how to nonverbally communicate with a musician or a singer. You will be taught how to properly display your innermost emotions and feelings to an audience. However, with a good instructor and a bit of patience, even an inexperienced dancer can learn. * EXOTIC DANCE
The terms exotic dancer and exotic dance can have different meanings in different parts of the world and depending on context. In the erotic sense, “exotic dance” is often used to refer to practitioners of striptease. In a non-erotic sense, it can mean many forms of foreign or cultural dance. Forms of Exotic dancing
In a non-erotic sense, the word “exotic” applies to the fact that something is out of the ordinary or perceived by spectators as unusual. It can also apply to those dancers who master a rare or largely lost art form, including whirling dervishes, shaman dancers and religious dancers. Middle Eastern dance is often referred to as exotic dance in this way, though its use of hip/pelvic movement and isolation often results in its conflation with exotic dance in the erotic sense. Other forms of exotic dance are aerial dance, many forms of experimental dance, pogo, breakdance and all other dance forms with unconventional movements. Strictly speaking, many anarchistic dance forms in wild parties can be considered as exotic dance, when movements take place that are not used in standard or Latin dance. In an erotic sense, the term “exotic dance” is used as a synonym for erotic dancing. * HIP HOP DANCE
Hip-hop dance refers to street dance styles primarily performed to hip-hop music or that have evolved as part of hip-hop culture. It includes a wide range of styles primarily breaking, locking, and popping which were created in the 1970s and made popular by dance crews in the United States. The television show Soul Train and the 1980s films Breakin’, Beat Street, and Wild Style showcased these crews and dance styles in their early stages; therefore, giving hip-hop mainstream exposure. The dance industry responded with a commercial, studio-based version of hip-hop—sometimes called new style—and a hip-hop influenced style of jazz dance called jazz-funk. Classically trained dancers developed these studio styles in order to create choreography from the hip-hop dances that were performed on the street. Because of this development, hip-hop dance is practiced in both dance studios and outdoor spaces. What distinguishes hip-hop dance from other forms of dance is that it is often freestyle (improvisational) in nature and hip-hop dance crews often engage in freestyle dance competitions—colloquially referred to as battles. Crews, freestyling, and battles are identifiers of this style. Hip-hop dance can be a form of entertainment or a hobby. It can also be a way to stay active in competitive dance and a way to make a living by dancing professionally.
Styles of Hip Hop dance
Breaking was created in the South Bronx, New York City during the early 1970s. It is the first hip-hop dance style. At the time of its creation, it was the only hip-hop dance style because Afrika Bambaataa classified it as one of the five pillars of hip-hop culture along with MCing (rapping), DJing (turntablism), graffiti writing, and knowledge. Though African Americans created breaking,Puerto Ricans maintained its growth and development when it was considered a fad in the late 1970s. In a 2001 interview Richard “Crazy Legs” Colón, the president of Rock Steady Crew, commented on how Puerto Ricans contributed to breaking: “I think the difference is when the brothas first started doing and it was at its infancy they weren’t doing acrobatic moves.
That didn’t come into play until more Puerto Ricans got involved in the mid 70s. We then took the dance, evolved it and kept it alive. In ’79 I was getting dissed. I would go into a dance and I would get dissed by a lot of brothas who would ask ‘Why y’all still doing that dance? That’s played out’. By 79, there were very few African American brothas that was doing this… We always maintained the flava. It was like a changing of the guard and all we did was add more flava to something that already existed.”Breaking includes four foundational dances: toprock, footwork-oriented steps performed while standing up; downrock, footwork performed with both hands and feet on the floor; freezes, stylish poses done on your hands; and power moves, complex and impressive acrobatic moves. Transitions from toprock to downrock are called “drops.” * Locking
Locking, originally called Campbellocking, was created in 1969 in Los Angeles, California by Don “Campbellock” Campbell and popularized by his crew The Lockers. In addition to Campbell, the original members of The Lockers were Fred “Mr. Penguin” Berry, Leo “Fluky Luke” Williamson, Adolpho “Shabba Doo” Quiñones, Bill “Slim the Robot” Williams, Greg “Campbellock Jr” Pope, and Toni Basil, who also served as the group’s manager.At the 2009 World Hip Hop Dance Championships, Basil became the first female recipient of the Living Legend Award in honor of her role in giving locking commercial exposure. Locking looks similar to popping, and the two are frequently confused by the casual observer. In locking, dancers hold their positions longer.
The lock is the primary move used in locking. It is “similar to a freeze or a sudden pause.” A locker’s dancing is characterized by frequently locking in place and after a brief freeze moving again. It is incorrect to call locking “pop-locking”. Locking and popping are two distinct funk styles with their own histories, their own set of dance moves, their own pioneers, and their own competition categories. Locking is more playful and character-driven, whereas popping is more illusory. In popping, dancers push the boundaries of what they can do with their bodies. Locking has specific dance moves that distinguish it from popping and other funk styles. In the 2006 book Total Chaos, hip-hop historian Jorge “Popmaster Fabel” Pabon lists some of these moves which include “the lock, points, skeeter [rabbits], scooby doos, stop ‘n go, which-away, and the fancies.” According to Dance Spirit magazine, a dancer cannot perform both locking and popping simultaneously. * Popping
Popping was created in Fresno, California in the 1970s and popularized by Samuel “Boogaloo Sam” Solomon and his crew the Electric Boogaloos. It is based on the technique of quickly contracting and relaxing muscles to cause a jerk in a dancer’s body, referred to as a pop or a hit. Each hit should be synchronized to the rhythm and beats of the music. Popping is also used as an umbrella term to refer to a wide range of closely related illusionary dance styles such as strobing, liquid, animation, twisto-flex, and waving. Dancers often integrate these styles with standard popping to create a more varied performance. In all of these subgenres it appears to the spectator that the body is popping. The difference between each subgenre is how exaggerated the popping is. In liquid, the body movements look like water. The popping is so smooth that the movements do not look like popping at all; they look fluid. The opposite of this is strobing (also called ticking) in which the movements are staccato and jerky.
Popping as an umbrella term also includes floating, gliding, and sliding. These are lower body dances performed with little to no movements in the chest or arms. In floating, gliding, and sliding a dancer appears as if they are drifting across the floor on ice. Opposite from gliding is tutting, an upper body dance that uses the arms, hands, and wrists to form right angles and create geometric box-like shapes. Tutting can be done primarily with the fingers rather than the arms. This method is called finger tutting. In both variations the movements are intricate, linear, and form 90° or 45° angles. In practice, tutting looks like the characters on the art of ancient Egypt, hence the name—a reference to King Tut. While popping as an umbrella term is widely used by hip-hop dancers and in competitive hip-hop dancing, Timothy “Popin’ Pete” Solomon of the Electric Boogaloos disagrees with the use of the word “popping” in this way. Many of these related styles (animation, liquid, tutting, etc.) can not be traced to one person or group. Solomon states “There are people who wave and there are people who tut. They’re not popping. I say this to give the people who created other styles their just dues and their props.” * TRIBAL DANCE
In some cases dancing is extremely simple and consists of little more than meaningless shuffling of the feet or waving of the hands. At other times it is more swaying of the body to the clapping of hands or beating of primitive drums to mark time. Yet another forms shows only the monotonous movement of the hands and feet. But, generally speaking, a wide range of movement involving all parts of the body, the head, back hips, arms, fingers and the feet and even facial muscles are utilised in tribal dances.
There are very complicated tribal dances as well in which dancing harmonises gesture, expressing the whole gamut of sentiment, where rhythm is kept by swaying the body and intricate steps executed with adept foot work. Usually the dances having the slow beginning, but gather momentum and work up to a heavy tempo of the vociferous climax of the drums, and the ecstacy of the ever – mounting rhythm of spontaneous music. Many of these dances are heroic or martial in character. Some tribes have songs to accompany where dances. Either the dancers themselves sings or the on – lookers sings and thus participate. Special musical instruments are sometimes used, but the drum is almost an indispensable feature. The customs of the dancers vary from approximate nudity to full attire and ornaments which are extremely colourful and gaudy. Reasons why we need to take Creative Dance
* Creative Dance Develops Healthy Bodies
In a non-competitive atmosphere, creative dance teaches a confidence and proficiency in using the body as a tool for functional tasks, athletic competitiveness, communication, and the expressive art of dance. Moving healthfully builds self respect and boosts an individual’s physical and emotional well-being. Offering the opportunity for successful movement experiences is especially vital during physically awkward stages of development. With sedentary activities like watching television or playing video games on the rise, it cannot be taken for granted that today’s youth receive adequate movement opportunities. In general, young people are not as active as they used to be and childhood obesity is on the rise. (Newman, 2004) Partly due to the ease modern technology affords, physical activities are less a part of normally active early years, pointing towards future potential health hazards for society. Although schools may have some sort of physical education program, it is not the case that physical activity is a part of every school day.
For example only 32% of American high school students took physical education classes in 2001. (Newman, 2004) In some schools even recess time is being cut back. Creative dance can re-infuse movement into students’ lives and set the stage for life-long activity. Creative dance is a great stress release. Relieving stress through exercise and relaxation facilitates efficient brain function and has obvious connections to mental and physical wellness. (Hannaford, 1995) Learning to modulate both tension and relaxation practices control of the body and oneself. Contraction in the muscles aids stability in movement and provides a base of strength for forceful movements. The letting go of tension aids flexibility and allows for an ease and lightness in gentle movements. One of the many goals in dance is body awareness. Students gain awareness of the possibilities of their physical bodies as they are guided through explorations of movement. Body awareness helps one recognize healthy alignment, which aids balance and prevents injury. As students move among others, body awareness helps them to avoid accidents by being pro-active with physical self-control. Gaining awareness and trust in the body helps a person make natural and effective kinesthetic choices. This is the beginning of efficient coordination and grace.
* Creative Dance Awakens the Senses
Dance provides opportunities to balance many kinds of sensory awareness. Those who work at cultivating the kinesthetic sense are paying attention to who they are, where they are going, and what they are doing. Although the kinesthetic sense is the main player in dance, the sense of sight is called upon for perceiving visual designs in movement; hearing is sensitized as movement and sound are integrated; and the tactile sense is engaged when dancers contact parts of the body, other dancers, supporting surfaces, or objects. Kinesthetic dance experience is profound in its integration with life, and is conducive to learning on many levels. The multi-sensory nature of dance contributes significantly to the critical role that movement and sensory perception play in physical and neurological development. (Hannaford, 1995) Combining other sensory awareness with the primary kinesthetic sense helps students to integrate experience and knowledge within the arts and offers diverse ways of solving problems. Movement increases students’ chances of success through activation of many sensory learning modes. A dancer awakens the kinesthetic sense in preparation for dancing. * Creative Dance Inter-connects the Arts
Art sparks imaginations to explore and celebrate being human in an increasingly technological era. Concepts learned through creative dance build a solid foundation for understanding all of the arts: music, drama, and the visual arts. Mettler (1980) saw dance as primary and central to all the arts because all other art forms stem from movement. The throwing of a pot, the placement of fingers on a keyboard, the air flowing over vocal chords–these are results of movement. Without movement, a paintbrush would have no “stroke”, a guitar could not be “strummed”, and actors would have no physical support for their voices.
Further more, each art form has an inherent relationship to dance through the Elements of movement. Dance shares the element of Time with music, and creative dance studies which emphasize time patterns and sound integrate with music. Spatial studies in dance are also design studies, sharing the Space Element with the visual arts. Dance integrates with drama through the Force Element, which calls forth emotions and the dramatic nature of interacting forces. These intrinsic connections between dance and the other art forms enable creative dance to act as the common thread when integrating the arts with each other and when infusing the arts in cross-curricular studies. * Creative Dance Exercises Thinking Skills
Harvard clinical psychiatrist John Ratey states that movement relates not only to the motor functions of the brain but “is crucial to every other brain function, including memory, emotion, language, and learning.” (Ratey, 2001, p. 148) These “higher” brain functions evolve from and depend upon movement. Why is this so? The same neural circuits that regulate physical tasks are involved in thinking processes because they involve recalling, evaluating, and sequencing actions. The brain “walks through” these actions as it remembers, plans, and makes decisions. Eric Jensen (2000) notes that movement activity is needed at fairly frequent intervals for the brain to process new information being assimilated.
Movement helps stimulate brain activity by coordinating different areas of the brain. Because the two sides of the brain control different sides of the body, contra-lateral movements (that cross the mid-line of the body or counterbalance the sides) activate neural connections between the sides of the brain. Activities such as reading and logical investigation require cross-brain integration. Brain Gym movements developed by Paul and Gail Dennison (1994) harness this connection between movement and thinking. Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen (1993) has also demonstrated how developmental movement sequences promote intellectual growth. While it may not be necessary to “dance” to allow these important nerve connections to mature, dance offers movement opportunities that stimulate and ground them.
The natural movements of creative dance wake up the brain of the dancer. As described in Chapter 10, Engaging Multiple Intelligences, (p.X), the broad ability of creative dance to exercise thinking skills can potentially tap all of Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences. Gardner (1983) looks upon intelligence in terms of problem-solving and product-producing abilities in a variety of modes. One of the most profound intellectual values of creative dance lies in its rich opportunities for creative problem solving. Because of the exploratory nature of creative dance, the answers to problems are often unknown, and students must call upon resourceful kinesthetic thinking. There can often be several correct solutions and ways to arrive at each answer for a posed problem. People practice higher level thinking skills when they create dances for artistic expression and also when they combine dance with academic themes and concepts. * Creative Dance is Basic Communication
Early in life, before speech, the qualities of common movements communicate expressive meaning. How a baby reaches his or her arms out–eagerly, desperately, languidly–communicates meaning without words. Even after children learn to talk, they continue to use movement to enforce their words, or as a way to say something without any words. A shrug, a hug, a wave, or a start of surprise–each express a message that can be clearly understood. Facial expressions, body gestures and postures add personality and meaning to spoken language. Body movement can also reveal contradictions to what is being said. Often movement communicates where words fail. Creative dance keeps this channel of communication alive. When words are removed from communication, movement expression becomes especially significant. A simple action like a walk can speak eloquently. Whereas Sally’s walk has a spirited lightness to it, Anna’s may be intent and strong, while Celia’s may be stiff and awkward. The walk carries with it attitudes and subconscious habits. The unique style that a person lends to any movement, like walking, demonstrates a personal characterization. If the quality lent to movement is a conscious choice, the dancer is crafting the communication of movement feeling. Genuinely expressed feeling can evoke a feeling of kinesthetic empathy from those who are watching. When sharing dance with an audience, what the dancer communicates is movement feeling, beyond words.
Creative dance also practices the skill of effective movement communication through group work. In non-verbal leading and following studies, dancers can use movement to communicate directives to their receptive and attentive followers, who respond accordingly. The leader’s movements must be clear for the intended result to occur. These kinds of dance studies teach the importance of sensitive observation on the part of leader and follower. They are interactive, fun, challenging, and powerful in building communication skills. * Creative Dance Builds Literacy
Literacy tops the list of educational goals in the United States, probably because reading, writing and communicating are skills that further education throughout a person’s life. Dance contributes to literacy in many ways, from stimulating the brain to linking with the elements of language and composition. Examples of these are found throughout this book. As discussed in the above section on thinking, movement is important in the development of physical/neurological skills needed for reading, writing and language. An essential neurological connection youngsters make is between movement and sight. Activation of peripheral vision, which occurs during large movements, facilitates tracking and focus of both eyes. The more the body and head move (as they do while dancing) the more the muscles of both eyes work together. Efficient eye teaming enables students to focus, track and concentrate while reading. (Hannaford, 1995) Making letters through positions and pathways in movement supports the physical act of writing.
Hannaford (1995, p 81) also points out that “ease with language requires the words and proper sentence structure from the left [brain] and the image, emotion and dialect from the right. This integration allows ease of reading and writing as well as comprehension and creative access.” Kinesthetic exercises; cross lateral movements; and large motor skills like crawling, walking, running, skipping and leaping use both sides of the body and brain. Creative dance studies engage linguistic intelligence. Some of the many creative dance activities that address literacy skills include: expressing the meaning of vocabulary words and words that exemplify phonetic rules; working with the quality of phonetic sounds and the beat of a word’s syllables; and interpreting the meaning of story characters, plot, setting and mood. Dance also provides memorable experiences that can stimulate creative and descriptive writing. The acts of composing a story, essay, or poem in written language and composing a dance with movement both involve creating a form that communicates meaning. Therefore there are many parallels between written and dance composition. See the section on Linguistic Intelligence, (p.X) in Chapter 10, Engaging Multiple Intelligences for more discussion on promoting literacy through dance. Also, Chapter 8, Linking into the Elements of Dance and the lessons of Part V provide many detailed examples of using creative dance to build literacy.
* Creative Dance Shapes Behavior and Responsibility
When teaching dance words like stability, flexibility, tension, relaxation are used in a physical context. These attributes can be applied in a social context too. Awareness of one’s body, and a knowledge of how to control it provide experience that builds confidence, coordination, and control of the whole self. Knowing that one can control and adapt movement leads one to be able to control social and emotional actions as well. Through creative dance, students learn to trust themselves and others, gaining courage to be individuals and greet the unknown. They learn to take control of their actions and their lives. Confidence mounts and creativity unfolds. From a strengthened personal awareness, individuals build self-esteem and confidence as a strong foundation for interaction with others. They are more able then to offer their full potential to society. Laban and those who extended his work on Effort (Laban and Lawrence, 1974; Lamb, 1965; Bartenieff, 1981) into the field of psychology discovered how different movement qualities express different personal strengths.
A well-balanced personality would be reflected in the ability to manifest many different movement quality combinations. Undeveloped strengths show up with a limited range of movement qualities and in the inability to respond to a given situation with the appropriate behavior. Therefore, providing students a wide variety of movement experiences proves useful for balancing behavioral attitudes and promoting healthy integrated personalities. The aggressive person benefits from practicing gentle uses of force, contained uses of space, and slow paced movements. A timid person is encouraged to open up by use of general space, large movements, and exploration of the stronger aspects of the Force Element. As a teacher, recognizing the needs of a group can guide choices for material to work with in movement. Gentle movements may serve to calm down or focus a class. Strong movements can be appropriately used to provide a group with a release of restrained energy, or to express dramatic feelings.
Creative dance builds life skills and is an excellent avenue for character building. Effort and perseverance go into mastering new skills. Usually a good deal of practice is necessary for the physical control and athletic skill summoned by a finished dance. Students polish a movement study to the point where they are pleased with it and are willing to demonstrate the dance decisions they’ve made. Even if the teacher or their peers are the only audience, performance demands excellence. Making a dance, no matter how short it is, indicates that dancers have chosen what seems to them to be the best way to communicate an idea in the form of movement. Showing dances develops confidence and demonstrates commitment. Dancers make decisions. Dancers stick to it. Dancers perform. All creative dance lessons can affect behavior by developing both self and group awareness. Individual security and self respect found in movement activities bring strength to a group and contribute to interactive relationships. These experiences in creative movement influence attitudes and behavior, helping students to recognize appropriateness of different types of behavior in life situations.
* Creative Dance Builds Community From Diversity
Throughout history, people have come together to dance, and to make art as an expression of their culture–a preservation, perhaps, of their heritage. The power one feels through making group art is personally satisfying and at the same time encourages a community feeling among the participants. Strong communities are made up of strong individuals. Their health depends upon the ability of an individual to bring his or her strengths forward as contribution to the larger group entity, or the ability to receive that from others. Creative dance lessons teach individual and group skills that are needed for community building. Beginning with individual development, creative dance encourages each student to find and express his or her uniqueness. When students feel safe and individual needs are fulfilled, they are more able to accommodate group needs. Group studies in each dance element contribute to gathering a feeling of community.
Dancers learn to form group bodies, they learn to accommodate their use of force in relationship to each other’s needs, they synchronize as a group on a beat pattern, and they move in spatial forms—such as a group circle or line—that create a feeling of unity. Leading and following exercises and unison movements build sensitivity to perceiving group needs and making contributions. Pride and a sense of belonging under ride successful group work. Life skills such as cooperation and caring are developed as students create collaborative artworks with the needs of the group foremost in mind. From dancing together and contributing their own strengths to a larger entity, dancers form bonds that can last a lifetime. This provides a basis of building relationships with others in any area of life. Creative dance experience promotes the ability for working with others harmoniously at school, in the community, and in society at large. * Creative Dance Enriches Life
The desire to create beauty is human nature. The arts satisfy this innate need by touching one’s heart and freeing the spirit. Offering experience in creative dance, or any other art form, fosters an enjoyment of life and lifelong success factors. Art’s insistence on value helps students to value quality in all areas of experience. A sense of wonder, an appreciation of possibilities, and a persistence to finish–these are the hallmarks of art-making. They also constitute the art of living. Creative dance lessons are fun. Enjoyment and enthusiasm are major factors in motivation and inspiration for learning and for staying in school. Like all the arts, creative dance helps prepare a person for the working world, for keeping jobs, for doing a good job. It offers opportunities for open-mindedness to many possibilities. The arts encourage students to “think outside the box” and value the creative process as a means of problem solving, and also as a way of life. It helps students integrate Creativity with thought processes, self-discipline, self-esteem, cooperation, language, communication, and self-motivation. Dance offers experience with putting theory into action to achieve a goal.
It teaches the process of transferring feeling into form and creating form from abstract concepts. It develops personal awareness yet integrates one socially through group relationships and communication. Creative dance can develop a more functional, aware, and responsible human being. The integration of art, physical development, intellectual learning, and social skills make creative dance a cornucopia of fortunate opportunity for all ages, in school or out. School systems are realizing what arts educators have always known… that the arts are basic education, they enrich our lives, and are achievable by all. Creative Dances in Action.