When you think about how to boost your child’s academic performance, you might consider hiring a tutor, downloading a new math app for their tablet, or calling their teacher to ask for things to practice at home.
But here’s another thought: dance class.
Natasha C. Rhodes, artistic director of The Dance Conservatory (TDC) at The St. Paul’s Schools, wants parents to look beyond thinking about dance as solely a recreational extracurricular activity. Sure, kids will get exercise, explore their creativity, and develop a greater understanding of the mind-body connection. But dance is also a great brain booster.
“Dance is in everyone’s DNA,” says Natasha. “If you play music, what does a baby do immediately? The baby dances; it’s innate. A large part of a dancer’s education is memory, both muscle and mental. Students are applying mathematics and, more specifically, geometry when learning new patterns in exercises and choreography. Dancers are also constantly using science. Anatomy and physics are applied in every dance class without students even realizing it.”
Dance is more than an art. According to Natasha, “[dance] is one of the most powerful tools for fusing the split between the two functions of the brain – the logical with the intuitive, the analytic perceptions with sensory perceptions, the holistic understanding with step-by-step thinking.”
Scientists are currently studying dancers to demystify how the brain and body work together — and now know that dance activity registers in areas of the brain responsible for cognition. In fact, dance has such beneficial effects on the brain that it is now being used to treat people with Parkinson’s disease.
“Dance is a linguistic, brain-driven art, and also, a fuel for learning, an avenue to thinking, translating, interpreting, communicating, feeling, and creating,” writes Dr. Judith Lynne Hanna, an affiliate research professor at the University of Maryland, in her book Dancing to Learn: Cognition, Emotion, and Movement.
Does the type of dance studied matter? Not really. Movement, and understanding movement as a method of conveying ideas and emotions, does. But, Dr. Hanna writes, “students who learn more than one dance language not only are giving their brains and bodies a workout; they are also increasing their resources for creative dance-making.”
“Imagination is key,” said Natasha when describing TDC’s classes — which range from ballet to contemporary, hip-hop to musical theatre. Although the Conservatory is housed on the St. Paul’s Schools campus, TDC serves students from the entire Greater Baltimore area (33 schools are currently represented among their 200 students!).
In their pre-primary and primary classes, TDC focuses on musicality, flexibility, basic movement, and creativity. The curriculum incorporates games and creative movement exercises while teaching fundamental techniques.
TDC is enrolling students through the end of September for this year’s program! Classes are held weekly, Monday through Friday afternoons, evenings, and Saturdays. So if you’ve been looking for a way to boost your child’s academic performance, maybe tutoring isn’t the only answer. Try a dance class.
Editor’s Note: This article is sponsored by St. Paul’s School for Girls and The Dance Conservatory at The St. Paul’s School. If you’re interested in enrolling your child at The Dance Conservatory, please visit their website or call410-458-9794. Photos by Laura Black.