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Learning History Through Dance

The notion of learning history through dance may seem odd. And perhaps it is. But at arts-integrated schools, it’s merely part of the curriculum.

For many young folks, history feels like drudgery – memorizing dates and events without any real-world application. But educators at arts-integrated schools know the power of using the arts to teach history and other subjects. 

And it’s important to learn history. After all, it’s often said that “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.” 

The Importance of Knowing History

School House Rock taught us that knowledge is power. And history is knowledge. 

Having awareness of what others have done and their reasons for doing it will influence how we go about both current and future events. It broadens our views and enables us to look at the influences in our lives. In learning history through dance, the objective is the same. It’s just through a different lens. 

Dance can help students better understand the far-reaching impact of historical events and how nations and cultures influence one another. For example, rather than just learning the dates and locations of foreign invasions, students look at how the melding of such cultures was reflected in dance.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. (Speaking of which, there’s probably even a way to connect dance with the sinking of the Titanic.) 

Learning History Through Dance

There are myriad ways that arts-integration teachers use dance as a key resource in teaching history. 

For example, early American dance styles reflect the cultural, ethnic, social, and political diversity and pluralism that continues to define the country. And the migration of slaves from the South to the North after the Civil War brought important dance movements that would impact the Harlem Renaissance and infuse them into the larger theatrical and social dance scene.

A little farther afield, when the Suez Canal opened in 1869, the Western world was introduced to the countries and cultures of Asian countries in the Eastern world. This would have a huge impact on early Modern Dance movements. 

Continued diversity in dance blossomed with the arrival of German, Irish, Italian, and Eastern European immigrants in the 1890s. This melting pot of new dance styles brought yet another layer of diversity to American culture.

There are many Modern Dance choreographies that are literally built off of historical events. One such production, Appalachian Spring, portrays the hopes of a young couple settling in the early American West. 

Similarly, Frontier is a celebration of the perseverance and determination of the pioneers as they worked to settle such an expansive and untamed mass of land. The choreography also showcases how preachers and evangelical movements found their footing on the frontier.

Arts-integration educators may also have students investigate dance styles of different eras to see how they shaped the events of that time. For instance, the theatrical dance performances at USO shows or the importance of USO dances in keeping up morale.

Then There Is the History of Dance Itself

The history of dance is its own fascinating subject. Since dance doesn’t leave behind actual artifacts, it’s rather difficult to pinpoint exactly when it began. But there is evidence that it’s been a pivotal part of celebration, ritual, ceremony, and entertainment since ancient civilizations. 

Dance has been found in Egyptian and Indian paintings that date 3300 BC. And it was how stories and feelings were told long before language existed.

Learning about dance can also connect students with the religions they often represent. Ritualistic dance is rife in Chinese, African, Indian, and Tibetan cultures. And danses macabres were even performed in Medieval Europe to ward off disease and protect the vulnerable. 

Dance has for a long time been a tool for social interaction and has played a role between genders and within castes and social hierarchies. But at its core, dance is a beautiful method for expressing oneself. 

And when it teaches some history along the way, all the better.

Would Your Child Benefit From An Arts Integrated Curriculum?

If the notion of learning history through dance, math through music, or science through visual arts is appealing to you, contact us today to take a tour of our school.

We understand that children who are creatively driven are more inspired to learn when the subject matter is presented in an interesting way. 

By providing a fully rounded curriculum in this way, we ensure that creative students are fully prepared to head into the world. So come and see what we have to offer.



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