Learning About the World Through Dance

Learning About the World Through Dance

by Molly Hodgson

This week of Dance Education Laboratory, “Planet Dance” awakened me to the ideas of knowing yourself, curiosity about one’s own culture, the ability to learn about the world through dance, and the power of education.

Knowing your own culture was a concept sparked right within our first activity as we mapped a webbing that included characteristics of ourselves. It was interesting to investigate my interests and habits and to be curious about the history of where it has come from. Our activity of mapping out details of ourselves and our interests emphasized a unique part of my life that I am currently experiencing. This uniqueness and curiosity carried along with me throughout the week as we delved into other cultures. Delving into other cultures, studying their movement and their traditions intensified this self-curiosity and made me hungry to know my own culture and has me wanting to talk to my family and search into my own unique cultural history. Having better knowledge of my own culture will solidify my roots and allow me to be empowered by them to share and extend that knowledge in the future.

Another activity we did this week was a research assignment looking into the many different intentions for dance performances in different traditions and cultures. We found dances representing work, rite of passage, changes of season, survival, acts of protest, climate justice, global issues, and many other reasons and motivations for dance making. After this particular research, it brought great curiosity about the intention of dances in other traditions, cultures, and environments.This stirred up thoughts later in the week of how dance can be a study of history. Studying dance and making dances can be a lens in which we understand the history of many parts of the world including our own. Through studying dance we can find the expression of West African traditions, the meaning of detailed hand gestures in Indian dances, Natives’ relationships to animals and the weather alongside many other discoveries of the world through dance. Ultimately dance provides a fruitful platform to learn about the world. It gives me so much pride and excitement to be practicing, learning, and growing as a dancer knowing it can teach valuable lessons about the world.

Throughout the week we also developed example activities that could be a part of a larger unit plan for an age group of our choice. I was inspired and motivated by my groups energy as we developed a lesson plan for fourth graders that utilized a “trickster”children’s story that has its traditions from Ghana, Africa. Through this one lesson we have the chance to teach the students about traditional Ghana dance movement, their culture, geography, as well as the elements of storytelling. The content of the children’s book pertains to their interests based on the appropriate developmental stage characteristics my group researched. Witnessing the other groups presentations emphasized the power of knowing where students are at developmentally and being confident in presenting content that can reach them physically, mentally, and emotionally, but challenges them to see through a new lens. Experiencing the variety of lesson plans and topics explored this week such as social dance, storytelling bias, meaning behind cultural dances, and other riveting topics proved the flexibility of educating and the power it has to open our eyes to new lenses and ways of being human. Witnessing and being a part of the developmental process of lesson planning for the good of students solidified my desire to pursue education. Our students are the future and providing them information becomes a two way street of learning, growing, and becoming an actively compassionate person in the world.