The value of the arts (and the artist!)
“All you do is put music on and prance around!”
I have been in training my whole life. I started dancing at 2 1/2 and have never stopped; I have dedicated my whole life to learning and growing within this industry. I spent 3 gruelling years studying and training in a professional setting where I did not just “dance around to music” but where I learnt the importance of correct training, where I studied anatomy and physiology, where I was expertly trained in child development, and where I really came to appreciate the impact that dance teaching can have on someone’s social, mental and physical well being.
In an industry where we arts practitioners are constantly undervalued, where anyone ‘thinks they can do it’, where the value of the arts is regularly dismissed or sidelined, I felt compelled to write this.
The creative arts hold so much importance in the development of both a child and an adult! Studies have proven that you can teach and learn so much through the arts; from your ABCs, to public speaking; mathematics, decision making, inventiveness and ingenuity, motor skills, resilience, social skills, language, discipline, coping mechanisms… the list is endless.
Not only do you learn concrete skills, you ignite a student’s creativity and self expression. As a creative arts teacher who has taught within my own dance school setting, SEN and Mainstream education, I see daily the positive impact the arts has on everyone around me.
Knowing that the arts are being scraped from the curriculum in September so that kids can concentrate on maths and English has filled me with dread and fear. I personally found reading and writing really difficult as a child, and dance and art was my way of feeling involved, included, worthy. I was able to balance my academic struggles, with creative achievements.
The school curriculum lacks creativity, and although I know many schools are implementing additional programmes to supplement it for themselves, I’m seriously worried that it is being undermined and forgotten about.
I can’t help but feel that the likes of YouTube and Pinterest (as much as I love them) is slowly destroying our industry and the ability to earn money from it. There is so much free content available online it’s hard to compete, especially now when we’ve been forced to move to an online world during this pandemic.
I am only too aware that people literally stick on a “just dance” YouTube video and call it a dance class at school.
It’s important to understand the difference between this, and what I as a professional do in a class; Each exercise I teach within my lesson plan has a reason, a point; it’s not a case of “just dance around to music” despite how it may look to the untrained eye. It takes weeks, or months to find the right songs and get the right mix; A class is carefully structured and planned. A warmup to ensure that the muscles, mind and body are ready to learn. Improvisation to encourage self expression and build confidence. Corner work that teaches motor skills and balance. A cool down to protect from injury and to relax and stretch the muscles… and soooooo much more.
I’ve spent a lot of time whilst in lockdown thinking about why what I do is so undervalued? Theatres and venues across the UK are shutting permanently because of the lack of support and the inability to reopen safely. Tens of thousands of jobs being lost. Why do we not recognise the value and importance of the arts in this country, despite there being so much evidence to the contrary?