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Essay/Term paper: Dance in public school curricular

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DANCE IN PUBLIC SCHOOL CURRICULA



Dancing is a form of art that allows many children to express themselves through body motion while developing many skills. Children throughout the world have been dancing since the day they began walking. When a child to take their first steps and puts together the simplest combination of movements, that would be considered as dancing. Music also plays a major role in the development of children understanding dance, because it is can be used as an accompaniment, and can help children get a better feel for the rhythm in dances. Over the past century educators have come to the conclusion that dance serves as a form of art, and should be taught in public schools and colleges to help the growth in children of all ages both physically, mentally, and academically.

The development in dance in education, during the 19th century in the United States, was linked to the sudden increase of elementary schools, secondary programs, colleges, as well as the establishment of private dance academies throughout the nation. Dance had always been thought as being just a form of socializing and not as a form of art. Private academies introduced dance as an art form before public schools. The private academies felt that through dance children would benefit greater academically, and physically, than those children who did not have the luxury of taking dance. Enrollment increased in private academies, while throughout the United States the enrollment in public schools steadily decreased. This was when educators decided to begin including dance in public school curricula.

Kraus (1969) found that " a major influence in helping to bring dance into public schools and colleges was the work of the French dramatic teacher, Francois Delsante " (p.127). By the beginning of the 20th century, dance had become accepted by public schools throughout the United States and was now a required class. The only negative part about dance being taught in public schools, was that not all teachers who taught the dance classes were certified because there main objectives were to teach core classes. Throughout the United States, dance classes provided a form of exercise for children, but the dance were so basic it was not until public schools adopted the concept of modern dance, that children began exploring. According to Kraus (1969), there were three educators who provided a spark that eventually led to the adoption of modern dance in public schools; they were " Gertrude Colby, Bird Larson, and Margaret H'Doubler " (p.131). Gertrude Colby developed a method of dance, which allowed a dancer to move freely through space, creating as many shapes, using different body parts, and different movements. This method of dance was known as natural dance. Bird Larson developed a system of movement, which would have its origin in the torso of the body, which would in effect represent a scientific movement. Margaret H'Doubler probably had the greatest impact in public school of the three. H'Doubler developed a dance program which was based on a scientific understanding of the nature of physical movement as well as a sound philosophy of creative expression. She also founded Orchesis, a dance club which served as a model for future clubs that followed.

Throughout the study of dance, people began realizing that dance was not a form of entertainment, but it also served as a great form exercise. When dance was first introduced into public schools, some educators embraced the new class, while others wanted nothing to do with dance in physical education. This meant that in some schools that did not have enough teachers to teach dance, the dance class was given to football coaches who did not believe in dance in school. Educators were not the only people that objected to dance in public schools, some community members felt that a boy and girl dancing in school would be inappropriate. Community members also argued that dance may go against some religions. Those community members, who had embraced the idea of dance in public schools, quickly began exploring new cultures, while getting great exercise. Physical educators believed that through creative dance children would be allowed to develop their bodies for expressive uses, to supplement other ways of learning, and receive satisfaction their dance experiences. Parents also began feeling more comfortable with their children dancing in school, so some started sending their children to private dance studios. Attending private dance studios allowed children to learn different dances away from school. Ballet, tap, clog, and character dance were among some of the dances that were taught in private dance studios during the 1930s. Children who attended these lessons were at a huge advantage over their classmates who in most instances didn't have the financial backing to attend these lessons. Therefore, public schools were the only place that poverty-stricken children had the opportunity to express themselves through dance. Dancing was always a delight for elementary students, because dancing was a form of rhythmic exercise, they could also have dance games, or just perform simple form dances. Public schools also noticed a decline in dance participation by males once they were in the secondary level of school. Boys began switching their attention to sports, and in most public schools only one elective was allowed. Girls continued to dance in school, and some also danced in private studios after school. This trend occurred all over public schools in the United States, and eventually led to the downfall of dance in secondary level, but dance still plays a major role in the development of young children in the elementary level.

Throughout the early decades of the 20th century, male physical educators mostly taught dance in education. During the early 1930s a new form of dance evolved, which became known as modern dance in education, and by this time women physical educators had a considerable interest in dance. Throughout the 1930s dance became greatly popular not only in the elementary level, but dance had a tremendous impact on public colleges throughout the United States. According to Kraus (1969) "Gradually, dance emerged as a distinct and important focus of educational concern on the campuses of a number of colleges around the country. The first to give full recognition to it both as an art form and as the basis for a degree program was the University of Wisconsin" (p.254-255).

During the 1940s, dance in public schools was basically put on hold, due to World War II. The government decided that they needed people to be in physical shape, and they began emphasizing body conditioning, in secondary schools and colleges. After the war dance education continued, but dance educators began wondering what objectives they were suppose to be teaching. During the late 1940s dance education was beginning to lose many dance educators. It was safe to say that dance education, was now headed on a decline going into the 1950s.

During the early 1950s, dance in public schools was almost nonexistent. According to Kraus (1969) "During the 1950s, much of American physical education embarked your crash programs of conditioning, and on comprehensive testing programs with support of national and state governments" (p.261). While this was going on, dance separate from physical education, and be put in an area where it was essentially an act form. During the late 1950s and early 1960s, the growth in dance education increased, and now the dance educators could teach dance in public schools, the way they felt dance should be taught. During the 1960s public colleges noticed an increase in the number of students taking dance classes, than the previous decade. This trend carried on into the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. Dance has become a major tool in the development of young children, and is also a way in which people of all ages could express themselves.

If dance education is to continue growing throughout public schools and colleges in the United States, students, parents, and the rest of the community will need to stand behind their dance educators. Dance has always served a form of great exercise that allows people to express themselves through movement, and will continue to do so into the future. Dance education in the elementary level is a place that may need some help in child development, and the way to solve this problem is by getting classroom teachers who are skilled in dance and creative movement instruction. Dance education in the secondary level also needs to get highly skilled teachers who are also certified in dance themselves. It would also help attract more students if dance was presented in a different department other than physical education. Dance education in the college level is taught by certified dance instructors, therefore dancers in this level are able to explore movements, while being critiqued by someone who knows what is happening. Dance education has played a major role in the development of children of all ages, and will continue to do so, as long as dance educators and dancers have the proper support.

 

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