Dance has been a part of the Australian arts curriculum for students from early childhood to adult, and every year key educators get together to talk about developing this area further in schools. So why does it matter?

Part of a whole education

UNESCO states that Arts Education is a human right because it is part of a person’s full development (UNESCO 2006:3 in Caldwell, B. 2013). As an important feature in the arts, Dance creates unique opportunities to learn and suits children with non-traditional learning styles. Why not give a child the opportunity to learn in a new way? Furthermore, all children, regardless of ability, can benefit from participation in a program that allows them to explore and respond to sound, space and ways their bodies can move. Dance transcends culture, language, gender, age, and even mental and physical ability. A dance
program is highly adaptable and its joy and benefits can affect everyone.

Physical benefits

Just as sport offers the opportunity for children to develop physical coordination, balance, fitness and general health, Dance is another way children can reach these important milestones of development. For the child that isn’t naturally sporty, Dance is a great way to explore movement through the joy of music and rhythm. Dance also develops the ear, needed for learning music, languages, literacy and even mathematics.

A way into literacy

As children listen and respond to music and sound, their brains are building connections that will strengthen and shape their ability to learn language. Literacy has long been taught in a holistic way – sound and movement play a part in children’s learning to read and write. Although dance and song are common methods in developing pre-literacy in young children, they also play an important role for older children and students with learning difficulties.

Social and emotional change

In Dance, children are required to practise a variety of skills needed across their lifetime – listening, teamwork, communication, improvisation, problem-solving, critiquing, persistence, patience, risk-taking. While they are moving and having fun they are really working hard to develop many of the skills that will serve them as adults in society and in the workforce.

Self-esteem – the number one ingredient for learning

Most good teachers will tell you that a key part of their job is helping to build a child’s self-esteem. As children grow in confidence they are better able to take risks and become involved in learning. When they believe they can do something, they are open to the lessons in front of them; they are invested and they work harder. A classroom that fosters self-esteem is one in which students are truly reaching their potential.
Dance is one way students can learn to value themselves through self-exploration and enjoyment, because dance is one of the rare things that is accessible in some form to most people. Dance provides a mental ‘breather’ in a stressful day. As children physically move and stretch, oxygen circulates and energy shifts. Pent up frustrations are released and children develop the ability to cope with life’s challenges more effectively.
Dance allows children to express themselves creatively and tap into their feelings, including joy. It allows them to explore and perform, to take small risks in a safe space, building resilience. Dance allows children to expand their idea of what they can do.
Caldwell, Brian, ‘The benefits of Arts in the curriculum’, speech at Ausdance roundtable October 2013 (retrieved November 2013)
U.S. Standards for Dance in Early Childhood (retrieved November 2013)

About the contributor:
Julissa Shrewsbury (B.Ed – Primary, B. Arts – Creative Services) has over 10 years’ experience teaching both primary classroom and dance to children in Kindy through to high school. She worked as a Performing Arts Coordinator and Dance/Drama Teacher in various schools, developing her own curriculum, which focuses on ways all children can explore the elements of Dance. She has now adapted her unique dance program to a workshop format for weekend and afterschool classes.Find out more at or


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