Dance and Ice Cream

My consistently very healthy husband recently had some necessary surgery. Reporting back to friends and family about how he was doing I said one his approaches to recovery included eating plenty of ice cream. My sister replied, “Perfect, I mean, when doesn’t ice cream help?”

In thinking about the impact dance can have on learning and community I have the same response. When it comes to learning, when doesn’t dance help? In the hands of engaged, thoughtful facilitators, artists, and teachers dance experiences can deepen and extend understanding.   We  can make and appreciate the arts while learning about ideas, ourselves, and others. Dance has to do with embodying and presenting images and ideas. It is based on critical and creative inquiry. It helps build empathy as we put ourselves in the positions of others. It encourages us to build a reflective practice,to connect and collaborate with others. As a bonus it helps us be fit and well.

The conversations I have with professional dancers and performing artists are the same kinds of conversations I have with the elementary aged through Masters level University students I teach, with the teachers I work with who are engaged in professional development, and with participants in my Parkinsons Dance classes. We consider ideas, problems, solutions and conclusions. The conversations include some kind of reflection around the questions: Where are (we) headed?, Where are (we) now?, Where to next? We identify the questions that intrigue us and explore our research and response through dance.

Need to understand how sound waves travel or how photosynthesis works? Build a dance about the sequence and timing in your elementary science class. Investigating literary or musical form? Make a dance in the form of call and response, theme and variation, or rondo form. Need to practice balance, cross lateral movements, and movement flow in skillful and beautiful ways? Any dance technique class, including a Parkinsons Dance class, will include that.

Dance is an artistic process based on perceiving,analyzing, and reflecting. Rehearsing for performance or working with a group of classmates to show an idea requires inventing and presenting images, drafting and revising patterns and phrases, collaborating with others. The artistic process is how we learn and the arts provide the mediums by which we show what we think. Of course, the artistic process is not limited to the arts. Acts of analysis, idea testing and reflection are critical in math and the sciences as well. The reach of the arts extends beyond the arts themselves.

Alison Marshall

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