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Apply Dance Learning Strategies to Other Life Situations

This is an excerpt from Experiencing Dance-2nd Edition With Web Resources by Helene Scheff,Marty Sprague & Susan McGreevy-Nichols.

Lesson 4.2

Apply Dance Learning Strategies to Other Life Situations

Move It!

Collaborating with a partner, find a way to communicate simple directions to others in a nonverbal manner. Share and discuss the experience with another set of partners.


  • creative process
  • transfer

Curtain Up

Collaborate and communicate: These are two of the skills considered important to the workforce, according to the business partners involved in the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21). P21 is a national organization that advocates for 21st-century readiness of all students so that they can enter the workforce and continue in their education. In 2010, The 21st Century Skills Map for the Arts was unveiled, which illuminates how certain skills are demonstrated in the arts.

These particular skills are as follows:

  • Critical thinking and problem solving
  • Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Creativity
  • Innovation and information literacy
  • Media literacy
  • Information, communication, and technology literacy
  • Flexibility and adaptability
  • Initiative and self-direction
  • Social and cross-cultural skills
  • Productivity and accountability
  • Leadership and responsibility

Dance projects that integrate these aspects provide a great opportunity to practice lifelong skills.

The creative process is the same no matter what someone is making. Refer to table 4.2, Comparison of Cognitive Processes. Notice the similarities between the creative and artistic processes and the writing, problem-solving, and scientific processes. You can apply what you know, through choreographing, learning dance skills, and performing, to any other life or learning situation. Taking new learning from one situation and applying it to another situation is called transfer. Here are examples:

  • You can use the self-discipline you have learned in technique classes and rehearsals in any training situation. Self-discipline is needed in such diverse activities as playing sports, memorizing facts for a test, and staying on schedule for a project. This self-discipline is an example of your application of initiative and self-direction as well as flexibility and adaptability.
  • The teamwork skills that you have learned in rehearsals, performing, and group work in choreography will be useful in any committee work you do in the future. Listening to all ideas, giving your input, compromising on decisions, and being responsible for your assigned work are all teamwork skills you have learned in dance. This teamwork used in dance reflects the skills of communication, collaboration, and leadership and responsibility.
  • Persistence is necessary for completing research or problem solving. Dancers, detectives, and scientists all have persistence in common.
  • Transfer what you know about rehearsing and performing in dance to any other performance or exhibition situation, whether this situation is a theater production or an oral report given in school.
  • Being an artist has taught you about risk taking (putting yourself and your ideas out before others). The self-esteem and self-confidence you have gained through completing and performing a dance will serve you well when you are confronted with new experiences.
  • Dancers should know how to stop and evaluate their work and abilities. They learn how to take their work apart, decide what is good and poor about it, and make revisions. Evaluation is necessary for all types of work, from writing a term paper to serving on an advisory panel for the government. Without evaluation, improvement is impossible.
  • Creative thinking flows easily for experienced dancers. Some artists have described the creative state of mind as almost like being in a trance. Use creative thinking when rearranging information or making anything original.

Of course, the sense of responsibility and the ability to work hard are traits that all serious dancers share, and you should apply those skills to your employment opportunities. Dancing teaches more than just steps. Bring all that you have learned from dancing and apply it to the rest of your life.

Take the Stage

  1. In small groups, discuss which skills you have used in dance and also have used in other life situations. You may want to use the lists in this lesson's Curtain Up as a discussion starter.
  2. Design a group presentation that supports the value of dance learning. Be sure to use personal testimony and examples that illustrate how skills learned in dance have applied in other life situations.

Take a Bow

To further apply the skills of collaborate and communicate, give this presentation at a faculty meeting, school committee meeting, parent - teacher meeting, or business forum.


Careers Beyond Dancing

When it comes time for dancers to transition into other careers, they can receive help from a nonprofit organization, Career Transition for Dancers, founded in 1985. CTFD provides a variety of transition-related services - all free of charge to any dancer. Only the grants and scholarships have eligibility requirements involving length of time in the profession and amount of money earned. On a new mission, CTFD now urges dancers to start planning for, and in some cases even embarking on, a second career while they are still working as performers. No matter why or when you want or need to find another career, your dance training and the skills you learned during that training will help you find a new passion by problem solving, creative thinking, and being motivated. An interesting note is that a survey indicates that 50 percent of professional dancers become teachers after their performing careers end, but with guidance from CTFD there can be many more choices.

Did You Know?

Contacts in the Dance Field

The United States Department of Labor has a page in their online Occupational Outlook Handbook dedicated to dancers and choreographers. The tabs on the page are summary, what they do, work environment, pay, job outlook, similar occupations, and contact for more information. The more you know about future possibilities, the more capable you are of directing your own future.

More Excerpts From Experiencing Dance 2nd Edition With Web Resources



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