Children in grades K-4 love to move and learn through engagement of the whole self. They need to become literate in the language of dance in order to use this natural facility as a means of communication and self-expression, and as a way of responding to the expression of others. Dancing and creating dances provide them with skills and knowledge necessary for all future learning in dance and give them a way to celebrate their humanity.
Dance education begins with an awareness of the movement of the body and its creative potential. At this level, students become engaged in body awareness and movement exploration that promote a recognition and appreciation of self and others. Students learn basic movement and choreographic skills in musical/rhythmic contexts. The skills and knowledge acquired allow them to begin working independently and with a partner in creating and performing dances.
Experiences in perceiving and responding to dance expand students' vocabularies, enhance their listening and viewing skills, and enable them to begin thinking critically about dance. They investigate questions such as "What is it? How does it work? Why is it important?" Practicing attentive audience behavior for their peers leads to describing movement elements and identifying expressive movement choices. Students learn to compare works in terms of the elements of space, time, and force/energy and to experience the similarities and differences between dance and other disciplines.
Through dance education, students can also come to an understanding of their own culture and begin to respect dance as a part of the heritage of many cultures. As they learn and share dances from around the globe, as well as from their own communities, children gain skills and knowledge that will help them participate in a diverse society.
Through creating, performing, and responding to dance, middle school students can continue to develop skills and knowledge that enhance the important development of self-image and social relationships. Cooperation and collaboration are emphasized at this age, fostering positive interactions.
Dance education can offer a positive, healthy alternative to the many destructive choices available to adolescents. Students are encouraged to take more responsibility for the care, conditioning, and health of their bodies (both within and outside the dance class), thus learning that self-discipline is a prerequisite for achievement in dance.
Students in grades 5-8 develop a sense of themselves in relation to others and in relation to the world. As a result, they are ready to respond more thoughtfully to dance, to perceive details of style and choreographic structure, and to reflect upon what is communicated. The study of dance provides a unique and valuable insight into the culture or period from which it has come. Informed by social and cultural experiences, movement concepts, and dance-making processes, students integrate dance with other art forms.
High school students need to continue to dance and create dances in order to develop more highly their ability to communicate in a way that is different from the written or spoken word, or even from other visual or auditory symbol systems. They also need to respect their bodies and to understand that dance is the product of intentional and intelligent physical actions. Continued development of movement skills and creative and critical thinking skills in dance is important regardless of whether students intend a dance career.
Technical expertise and artistic expression are enhanced through reflective practice, study, and evaluation of their own work and that of others. Because dance involves abstract images, students can develop higher order thinking skills through perceiving, analyzing, and making discriminating judgments about dance. Education in dance, which has been an integral part of human history, is also important if students are to gain a broad cultural and historical perspective. Students examine the role and meaning of dance in diverse social, cultural, and historical contexts through a variety of dance forms. Experience with dance of many cultures helps students to understand the cultural lives of others.