By Emma Castleberry
Most people can recognize that the performing arts – dance, gymnastics, theater, and more — are fun to both watch and participate in. But Jon Leise, owner and technical director at Dance Dimensions, says it might be easy to miss a number of other developmental and educational benefits offered by a performing arts education.
“People who are not involved with the arts, they don’t look at it as being of value, or something uplifting, or something that changes the world,” he says. “It’s just fun.”
Leise has a long list of the benefits of a performing arts education: development of imagination, concentration, memory, spacial awareness, and synchronization, to name a few. Many, if not all, of these skills – especially teamwork and socialization – will serve children throughout their lives.
“They start to learn in a non-competitive team atmosphere that is collaborative, which is one of the primary things that is wanted in new age work environments,” he says.
Sara Calabrese, Dance Director at Airborne Dance, says dance offers undeniably positive effects for mental and emotional development, in addition to the obvious physical benefits.
“Aside from the health benefits, being in shape and that sort of thing, it’s been proven that dance helps improve moods and helps with mental clarity,” she says. “The performing arts do so much for students.”
Calabrese says it is imperative to offer children a break from the pressure of the formal classroom.
“Some kids have a hard life now,” she says. “There is so much more pressure from school and testing. Kids need an art, especially to escape from that sometimes.”
Calabrese and Leise both listed increased confidence as one of the most tangible benefits of a performing arts education.
“Once they start that tide of relationship with themselves and other people — their teachers, the other students — they have a tremendous advantage,” Leise of Dance Dimensions says. “They get this self assertiveness, self-worth, and self-value because they are being successful without being pandered to.”
Kimberleigh Spencer, owner and artistic director at Broadway Performing Arts Academy, says that this confidence is built by offering a haven for students during their most formative years.
“It’s a safe place,” she says of her studio. “They can be themselves. They can make mistakes and feel like it’s okay.”
Although a nurturing environment is a key part of any performing arts education, Spencer is careful to include that this is balanced with clear expectations to teach responsibility.
“The performing arts, or any kind of art, it’s very disciplined,” she says. “You are expected to be at certain rehearsals on time. That gives them responsibility and makes them follow through.That works into their life skills for a job, too. They can’t just quit when it’s not easy.”
Spencer says that, despite all the evidence supporting the performing arts as important to whole-child development, many school arts programs are suffering from budget cuts.
“The schools are taking out the performing arts because of funds, which is very sad,” she says. “Kids are better students when they perform, whether it’s in band, a performing arts studio, or dance.”
Leise of Dance Dimensions says, in order to see an increased appreciation for the performing arts in education, the culture needs to change.
“We are inside of the system of a culture that we need to work on,” Leise says. “It’s not a matter of whether you can afford it or not, it’s a matter of whether you want to do it. Money shouldn’t be the driving force behind values.”
These educators prioritize the performing arts as an important part of educating the whole child. Spencer of Broadway Performing Arts Academy says schools need to follow suit.
“Kids would be better students if they put in the performing arts and made it a huge part of school,” she says.
Published in Longmont Times-Call Back To School on August 10, 2016.