This article is presented in partnership with CA Lottery.
The joy of movement can set both body and brain free, removing tension and worry far behind and freeing the mind up to focus and concentrate more efficiently. Nothing accomplishes this greater than dance. Toward this end, the California State Board of Education adopted a Visual and Performing Arts Framework for California Public Schools from Kindergarten through Grade Twelve, which incorporates dance into the curriculum, both during school hours and as part of extra-curricular activities.
Dancing All The Way To Better Grades
Determining that dance supports children’s ability to learn and absorb educational content, the Framework has auspicious goals which include the following:
- Enable students to apply what they learn in dance class to broad-based educational acquisition throughout all subject areas.
- Create and perform movements that reflect personal experiences and emotion.
- Acquire knowledge and the ability to perform historical dances, both folk and traditional, of U.S. and other origins.
- Develop competency and creative skill in areas like time management, problem solving and communication.
Dancing Through The School Day
In Los Angeles, the California Dance Institute (CDI) brings dance education to a large population of school children, 87 percent of which receive free lunch. A nonprofit arts education organization, CDI provides both class and after-school time for kids with a strong focus on teaching life and learning skills. Dance moves are athletic and high energy so as to appeal to both boys and girls of all age groups.
An affiliate arm of the National Dance Institute, CDI’s founder and director is Carole Valleskey, a former principal dancer with the Joffrey Ballet. CDI’s schools pepper the Los Angeles area and include Jefferson Elementary in Hawthorne, Eagle Rock Elementary in Los Angeles and Wild Rose Elementary in Monrovia.
Eleven schools throughout the area feature in-school programs during class time as part of the holistic academic curriculum. These focus on movement fundamentals and include live musical accompaniment. CDI Lead Teachers work with classroom teachers on specific lesson topics and skill-building as it pertains to the subjects being taught. Students also get to perform for an audience that includes friends and family members.
Dancing After School
After-school programs are geared toward more advanced dance choreography and steps. Many children who participate in the after-school program go on to perform at community events with kids from other schools.
Each spring, students come together from all of the participating schools in the Los Angeles area to perform in professional theater settings. These feature close to 300 students, completing with costumes, live music and projected backdrops. The performances have traditionally been held in Santa Monica’s Moss Theater and in Monrovia’s Louise K. Taylor Theater.
Dance programs within the schools support physical and mental health, provide children a context within which to excel and promote heightened levels of self-esteem and socialization. Children who dance within a structured, school environment also achieve higher levels of self-discipline, patience and outperform students who do not receive any form of artistic instruction on math and science tests.
Corey Whelan is a freelance writer in New York. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.