So you're not a dance Mom? .... neither are we!!

So you’re not a Dance Mom?? Neither are we… !!!

The US popular show Dance Moms is a deeply disturbing phenomenon for those of us who have spent our lives in the dance industry. What is most distressing (apart from the apparent borderline child abuse that happens within the show) is the knock-on affect here in Australia from families that are new to dance and think potentially this is a reflection of our industry and what enrolling in a dance school looks like! I can tell some parents I know outside of the ‘dance world’ realise it’s not a completely accurate descriptor of what goes on. However they can’t help but believe a small portion of what takes place, must go on in our dance studios here.

The professional dance industry is a tough industry and like any industry has had its darker times but in the current day and age new knowledge, new sports science involvement, and an ethical understanding of how we treat young people has thankfully become the norm in dance studios in Australia. There is however a more subtle entrenchment that can still remain in places-  a lack of inclusivity, of acceptance of difference and dancers having a unique and individual voice within a class and creative process. It comes from a misplaced sense of why we dance

I spent my younger years first as a gymnast then a dancer, followed by a long career as a professional contemporary dancer and finally a contemporary choreographer and director. I am fortunate that the contemporary dance industry values uniqueness, diversity and strong creative collaboration. It has made me reflect after opening my own school on what are the values behind what I want to see as a quality arts education experience for young people? At the Studio our values are –

INDIVIDUALITY              COMMUNITY                 CREATIVITY                   ARTISTRY

These are all so important for a life-long experience of dance whether as a performer an audience member or weekend social dancer! It has made me reflect most importantly on why children come to us to dance and how can we do everything in our power to make that the most incredible, rewarding experience for them.

We all know regular movement experiences help children to develop movement control, coordination and strength. When a child dances, they learn about how their body can move, using different muscles than simply standing and walking does, which builds strength. Through dance, children learn to coordinate and control their bodies and the movement helps them develop spatial awareness and nurtures imagination, thinking and motor skills.

Yet from the very beginning this isn’t why we are drawn to dance… why children innately are drawn to movement and music. What is it about moving our bodies to a song or melody we love that is so joyfully Pavlovian?

There is something glorious about dance that is so intangible, so primordial, we can’t quite explain it and yet we tap our feet and children move and dance before they can talk.

 I have so many parents that come to me and say “they just dance around the house all the time”… it is in all of us and only gets pushed down as we grow up and learn to grow out of creativity (if you haven’t seen Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talk on this it is very much worth a few minutes -

So at The Studio we believe in the joy of movement.

Yes we teach alignment, safe dance principles, technique, musicality, rhythm, co-ordination, spatial and kinaesthetic awareness, and much more…. but we understand the joy, the trigger, the feeling of why we are moved to dance in the first place. Our students will know this is a form of self-expression and individuality, not an art form to copy or imitate what they may see somewhere else.

Dance is often described as the way to express ourselves when words are insufficient; a translator of the heart. We hope our students will always know they are wonderfully unique, with layers of personality and talents only they can bring to any class we teach. It isn’t our job to shape them into an external image of what dance should be, just to show them it is, and has always been, inside of them.

Lisa Wilson