One of the great joys of working with dance in schools, and particularly in primary schools, is seeing the young people we work with do things physically and creatively that they and their teachers had never thought possible.
We are currently fortunate to work in a number of fantastic primary schools in Plymouth and Cornwall. Through working in these schools in the past year or so I have realized that in our current education system there are little to no structures that really challenge our young people to discover and explore the breadth of their physical potential. This won’t be news to a lot of you….
There is PE in school, although much less than you might think in a lot of schools, and there are sports coaches who come in to teach sport specific skills and games, but these experiences are limited in the actions of the body, obviously limited to the sport being explored.
The work we do in Primary Schools is essentially creating improvisational structures through which the young people dancing with us explore the breadth of their physical limits, their creative possibilities, their stamina, fitness and strength and, possibly most importantly, their tenacity to keep exploring new ideas.
And what we are discovering is that in these sessions our young dancers are creating movement and dance of a complexity and quality that I would be happy to receive from dancers who are 10 years older than them. The other interesting part about these sessions are that the participants make up what is easily described as a ‘normal’ class in that there is a wide range of abilities across the whole class. These aren’t classes of ‘Gifted and Talented’ young people showing extraordinary skill in their movement creation and execution.
We have been playing with, refining and exploring our methodology of working with primary school children for a number of years now, and I will never forget the moment of seeing when this process supported these young dancers to do the extraordinary dance they found. I will also never forget when a couple of my team came to a performance and sat for the whole time with their jaws open and with astonished faces at what these young people were doing.
But I will also never forget the feeling of frustration at seeing these young people dancing in this most extraordinary of ways, and all of it explored and made by them, and thinking that this experience is denied most young people, most people in fact, and that the vast majority of the population will go through their lives having explored a small percentage of what their body is capable of.
Because the reality is that this increase in physical skill, this pushing to the edges of creative and physical ability, has an impact on learning. There are countless research papers and books available in the public domain that demonstrate this, yet it is still not a fundamental part of life and learning in schools. The development of your young people’s physical skills and abilities will markedly change their futures in more ways than you can imagine. Bring dance in to school in a permanent way and see your young people blossom.