Educators and dancers came together to explore how dance can facilitate better understanding of academic concepts

Atomic dance? Number jigs? Choreography of hormonal cascades? A dance on gravitational force? Well, mixing dance with academics does sound paradoxical, but a closer look reveals that dance is just a way of drawing from our bodily-kinesthetic sense of understanding concepts, which happens to be one of the multiple intelligences that facilitate academic education.

But then, not every child is fond of dance. So then, how do you bring in involvement? “If you are going to ask a child to repeat a Bharatanatyam sequence, of course, he might want to walk away,” says Tripura Kashyap, Delhi-based dance educator and choreographer, who was here in the city on behalf of NalandaWay to conduct workshops for parents, teachers and students on using dance to reinforce education. Clearly, dance in the classroom does not equate to a dance class.

“Dance has come to be equated with performance, and the other nuances of movement have been relegated to the sidelines, which is a pity,” she adds. Reinforcing education through dance is a concept that has remained largely unexplored in the country. However, dance can help students understand abstract concepts, in finding solutions, in deciphering patterns, and such fine processes in intellectual cognition.

“Perhaps teaching through dance can be a way to overcome issues such as math phobia, which again might be because of the child’s difficulty in coming to terms with abstract concepts. It can be a nice way of getting comfort with numbers,” says Vidya Lakshmi, director and educator, Tatva Preschool, who attended this workshop. And it is not just about acquiring understanding through movement. “Research has shown that movement by itself triggers brain development in young children,” Vidya Lakshmi points out.

Of course there are hurdles which crop up when such a modus operandi is taken — chiefly, the one concerning availability of time, considering the 40-minute period of a normal classroom session. But the exciting scope of this educational exercise demands that, perhaps, educators can at least use dance for exploring tricky and complex concepts. “After all, we all remember and understand demonstrations more vividly than text,” reminds Tripura, and adds, “From geometry to geography, every concept can be addressed by dance”. For instance, at the workshop, Tripura introduced the children to a magnet game (with children moving towards and away from each other in line with the magnetism) and to the water cycle. There was plenty of giggling as the participating children tried the moves. “It is fun,” says Sharanya, stopping for a bit, before running back to link hands with the other children and catch up with the next dance ‘lesson’.

“Using dance in education is beneficial in improving both life skills and academic skills,” sums up critically acclaimed dancer Sangeeta Isvaran, who is currently designing dance-in-education curriculums for after-school tuition centres for slum kids and hearing challenged college students.

Triggering insight

Learning through movement is not for just the lower classes, the slow learners or for academically weak students. “Sometimes, exploring through a different dimension can throw up a new insight,” agrees Prof. R. Sivaraman, founder, Pie Mathematics Association. Not surprisingly then, in institutions such as the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, mathematicians are choreographing dance sequences of university level math, while the Dance Your PhD started by the Science Magazine (based out of the U.S.) calls upon PhD candidates and graduates to create an interpretive dance of their PhD research. Meanwhile, there are books such as Making Kinesthetic Sense which describe how movements can be used to help students learn concepts. There are also dance-in-education videos available on the Internet such as the one introducing molecular biology at http://vimeo.com/14528924

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Workshops & EducationMay 14, 2012