For five years now I have had the huge pleasure of working at the Histon Early Years Centre. Once a fortnight I spend a full Wednesday doing dance with all the children, ages ranging from 2 and a half to four. It is a great privilege and joy to explore dance with these youngest of dancers. It is a delight to accompany them as they develop and journey along their understanding of their bodies, in relation to their peers, their teachers, and their environment, and in response to me, their teacher.
Last year, the centre built a new studio space – enlightened management ! – and now the children have a huge, uncluttered arts space in which to explore movement, music and dance in all its richness.
A beautifully sunny day in late November, with the childrens’ long winter shadows filling the dance space, intensifying their delight in their rolling, striding, jumping, and spinning.
Dance is a unique and direct form of communication, rooted deep in our physical and emotional selves. Dance provides opportunity for children to be active in both a structured and creative way. Through dance children explore what their body is, what their body can do, and how it absorbs information about themselves and their environment. Dance is inclusive – we all have bodies, we can all dance – we all have individual movement patterns, sequences and ranges.
Dance is fundamental to creative play and imagination, and is part of the development of language, and expression. Dancing in a fun and safe environment allows very young children the crucial experiences needed for fundamental physiological development of the proprioceptive and vestibular systems. It helps them develop the neurological patterning needed to create healthy and strong brain maps of the body – helping coordination, balance, motor skill, flexibility, dexterity – vital skills for life.
20 minutes of dancing acts as neurological tonic – with huge health promoting effects.
And it is SO much fun! And, certainly at a young age, effortless. Children are dancing all the time – whether skipping to school, or climbing trees, or pretending to be a curled up hedgehog. They are natural dancers, and we want to encourage them to remain so for as long as possible. The aim for every child is to be able to respond fully and richly to the world around them – this happens through experience, and dance certainly contributes to that all important experience.
Dancing helps to “do” and to “be”.