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Why dance?

Dance is only accorded a sub-section of the National Curriculum, being part of the PE Curriculum. There are strong arguments for suggesting that it ought to have a much higher profile within the SLD Curriculum.

All writers on dance education recognise the significance of Rudolph Laban's development of dance as an educational tool in the 1930s and 40s (Laban, 1948). These ideas were further progressed by Veronica Sherborne, with her dual concepts of awareness of self and the awareness of others (Sherborne, 1990).

Developing awareness and self-esteem

Sherborne argued that an improved awareness of self is gained through movement experiences that help the person physically concentrate on what is happening to their body. 'Listening via touch' through 'feelings of inner physical sensation' contrasts with our usual way of looking and thinking. This method tempers self-criticism and allows those with learning difficulties to develop their self-esteem and confidence on a physical and emotional level.

The next step (she argues) is to develop an awareness of others by learning to move around and interact with others in ways that encourage the further development of trust and the building of positive relationships. These movement experiences enable the person to be appropriately supported and encourage them to explore their unique creativity through shared movement activities (Sherborne, 1990).

Developing the whole person (1)

There are real benefits and opportunities to be gained from using dance creatively with pupils with learning difficulties. The legacy of these early pioneers in educational dance (such as Laban and Sherborne) is an emphasis on the development of the whole person through movement. Compared to gymnastics, physical ability is of a lesser consideration in educational dance. Rather, it is the way an individual lends subjective significance and meaning to movement in dance that is esteemed. The point is that movement work in educational dance is not competitive, it is not concerned with performing objective skills as an end in themselves. Rather, they are harnessed in dance education as a means to an end....

Peter, 1997

Developing the whole person (2)

....This is not to imply that the development of children's physical skill is left as a matter of chance. It is the responsibility of the teachers of dance to foster the development of their pupils' movement repertoire, from which they may then select and choose more purposefully and sensitively in order to create meanings in dance. Thus they may be enabled to order and lend significance to their movements, and learn that dance may have a communicative impact. A case of 'learning how to dance whilst doing it'!

Peter, 1997

A real impact on each pupil

In this clip, a dance teacher establishes the routine and structure within a dance lesson, with a particular focus on each pupil's physical development. The next stage will be to extend each learner's own creative and choreographic skills so that they can design their own dances and movement and learn from each other.


In what ways does the dance teacher believe that children benefit from dance?

Click for the answer

  • Poster
Find out more

Laban, R. (1948) Modern Educational Dance, Plymouth: Macdonald and Evans.

Peter, M. (1997) Making Dance Special, London: David Fulton.

Sherborne, V. (1990) Developmental Movement for Children, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.