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Why This Education Specialist Argues Dance Is Just as Important as Math in School

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When someone tells you dance class isn't as important as say, algebra class, there's now solid evidence to prove he or she wrong. Sir Ken Robinson, an advisor on education in the arts to government, recently made a case on Ted.com that dance education should be treated as equal, if not more important, due to the physical benefits, as other subjects in school.

He made it clear that he wasn't arguing against the importance of mathematics, but rather "the equal importance of dance with the other arts, languages, mathematics, sciences and the humanities in the general education of every child."


The misconceptions of why dance education has been undervalued stems from the notion that the benefits don't hold up to the traditional academic work of mathematics. Au contraire. Robinson points to recent studies by researchers Charlotte Svendler Nielsen and Stephanie Burridge that proved how dance can help people of all ages and from all backgrounds explore a deeper level of intelligence and achievement through movement. "Dance can help restore joy and stability in troubled lives and ease the tensions in schools disrupted by violence and bullying," says Robinson.

This social-building aspect of dance is what makes the curriculum so powerful and unique for young people. Robinson notes the nonprofit organization in New York City, Dancing Classrooms, that brings ballroom dancing and arts education to public schools. He points out an evaluation conducted by the organization that found 95 percent of teachers confirming that "as a result of dancing together, students' abilities to cooperate and collaborate improved."

Robinson points to other studies done by a panel of researchers in kinesiology and pediatrics proving how 30 to 45 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity, three to five days a week, correlates to not only health improvements, but improved overall academic performance among young students. It's no wonder that so many young dancers are able to successfully balance a rigorous schedule of academics, dance class and competition rehearsals.

Here, teacher Tatiana Lingos-Webb talks about how ballroom dancing enhances a child's education offering crucial life skills.

Music
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Securing the correct music licensing for your studio is an important step in creating a financially sound business. "Music licensing is something studio owners seem to either embrace or ignore completely," says Clint Salter, CEO and founder of the Dance Studio Owners Association. While it may seem like it's a situation in which it's easier to ask for forgiveness rather than permission—that is, to wait until you're approached by a music-rights organization before purchasing a license—Salter disagrees, citing Peloton, the exercise company that produces streaming at-home workouts. In February, Peloton settled a music-licensing suit with the National Music Publishers' Association out-of-court for an undisclosed amount. Originally, NMPA had sought $300 million in damages from Peloton. "It can get extremely expensive," says Salter. "It's not worth it for a studio to get caught up in that."

As you continue to explore a hybrid online/in-person version of your class schedule, it's crucial that your music licenses include coverage for livestreamed instruction—which comes with its own particular requirements. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about music licensing—in both normal times and COVID times—as well as some safe music bets that won't pose any issues.

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Teaching Tips
A 2019 Dancewave training. Photo by Effy Grey, courtesy Dancewave

By now, most dance educators hopefully understand that they have a responsibility to address racism in the studio. But knowing that you need to be actively cultivating racial equity isn't the same thing as knowing how to do so.

Of course, there's no easy answer, and no perfect approach. As social justice advocate David King emphasized at a recent interactive webinar, "Cultivating Racial Equity in the Classroom," this work is never-ending. The event, hosted by Dancewave (which just launched a new racial-equity curriculum) was a good starting point, though, and offered some helpful takeaways for dance educators committed to racial justice.

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Higher Ed
The author, Robyn Watson. Photo courtesy Watson

Recently, I posted a thread of tweets elucidating the lack of respect for tap dance in college dance programs, and arguing that it should be a requirement for dance majors.

According to onstageblog.com, out of the 30 top-ranked college dance programs in the U.S., tap dance is offered at 19 of them, but only one school requires majors to take more than a beginner course—Oklahoma City University. Many prestigious dance programs, like the ones at NYU Tisch School of the Arts and SUNY Purchase, don't offer a single course in tap dance.

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