As a lover of dance and a dance teacher, it’s natural for me to want to put my children into dance classes. However, people become a bit skeptical about this now that I have two boys. It’s just not a popular choice among little boys. Granted, we have tried out a couple of dance schools that have been over the top with pink, fairies and glitter, but I don’t think I would choose those schools even if I had girls. Dance is not about flitting about like a glittery, pink fairy and it has many great advantages for both girls AND boys.
My youngest son is a bundle of energy and activity, dance is perfect for him and we have found a class that he loves and is all about having fun, learning basic dance concepts, listening to the music and listening to instructions. He revels in his role as token boy in the class and I hope he continues as he gets older, when there will be more opportunity to dance with boys. (My eldest son, after a few horrible trial classes, decided that dance isn’t for him and has settled on gymnastics, which is also fine.)
So what can dance teach boys?
Dance is great for physical development in toddlers and preschoolers
A good dance class aimed at toddlers and preschoolers encourages a variety of movement and allows them to practice and develop their basic movement skills, such as jumping, hopping, skipping, crawling and balancing. These are really pre-dance skills essential not only for dancing but also for other movement-based activities. These skills do not develop without practice and it’s best to practice them at the right age.
Dance is great for developing the brain
Dance involves movement which stimulates the vestibular and proprioceptive systems. These systems are vital for spacial awareness, balance, coordination and fine motor skills. Movements such as spinning, reaching, crawling, tumbling, moving side to side, swaying and jumping provide vestibular and proprioceptive input. Dancing with others also helps develop spacial awareness. Also, many dance movements involve crossing the midline. This is important for left/right coordination; children who lack practice crossing the midline may have difficult tracking a line of text across a page when they begin reading, or may not be able to write in a straight line.
Dance develops the ability to listen, remember and apply instructions
Whether the rules of a game or choreographic steps, having to listen to, remember and apply instructions helps to improve a child’s attention-span and memory. The ability to remember choreography takes practice.
Dance is non-competitive
According to Alfie Kohn, expert on human behaviour, competition is “a recipe for hostility“. In a competitive environment, “each child comes to regard others as obstacles to his or her own success” (Kohn).Dance teaches self-discipline, self-motivation and self-awareness in a non-competitive environment (unless, of course, the children enter dance competitions and there are other good reasons to avoid these).
Dance helps develop muscles and can prevent sports injuries
A strong core helps children move through life with stability and a sense of grounding. Some professional sports have players study ballet for better footwork, more flexibility and more strength in order to both improve their performance and prevent injury.
Dance teaches musicality
Outside of music classes, dance is a great way of developing an ear for music and an appreciation for rhythm, intonation and different styles of music.
Dance can allow boys to be bigger than they are
Boys can channel their energy and power into something that is also artistic. Jumps are particularly good for boys in ballet, but they can also find satisfaction in tap, hip-hop, jazz and other styles.
Dance is cross-cultural
All cultures have a tradition of dance, dance is global and crosses the barrier of language.
Dance can help develop a child’s empathy
Performing choreography puts dancers in another person’s skin and helps children to see things from another point of view. This is a great way to encourage empathy.
So there you go. Some great reasons for boys to dance and no tutus or tiaras in sight. If you need more proof, there are plenty of YouTube videos of amazing, powerful and masculine male dancers in all genres.
Watch out for my future post on selecting a good dance class.