Whether they are twirling in the aisle of the supermarket, bobbing their heads while sitting in a car seat or jumping around the room, many children love to express themselves through dance.
Dance is almost like the doorway to everything else creative,” says Mallory Coombs, director of the Musical Theater Factory at 24-7 Dance Studio in Frederick. “When you have a really young kids— even as young as toddler age—those kids are such free spirits.”
“When you get them in dance class, it is automatically catering to exactly what those kids want to do,” she explains. “They want to move their bodies. There are no inhibitions. There are no insecurities. They are just free to move, and to play and to see what their bodies can do. From there, they find a love for anything creative.”
Coombs notes that dance can be a doorway to other creative options kids want to take on as a way to grow.
“Most of the time, I find that once they get the taste of dance, then they immediately snowball into anything else creative,” she says. “The younger I find you start kids in that, the more confident in that part of their brain they become.”
There are a number of genres within the world of dance, and Coombs says they all teach students different ways to move their bodies.
Appreciation for the Arts
Jennifer Ringer, owner of Fusion Fitness and Dance, says dance education builds an appreciation for the arts.
Besides their annual recital, and regional competitions, her Walkersville-based studio does a number of community performances including the Kris Kringle Parade and Frederick Keys games.
These shows offer children who might not have an opportunity to be exposed to the arts that chance. The community performances are “sharing the joy of dance,” Coombs says.
“It brings so much joy to everybody,” she says.
When the children are in the classroom, they are learning to express themselves—and understanding how their bodies can be a form of expression through movement and dance.
“I really think that when you start dancing, and you feel that movement and that connection, it really does give you that appreciation of other ways to express your emotions,” Ringer says.
Opportunities for All
Center Stage Performing Arts Academy is the only dance studio in Mount Airy.
“We do performances locally throughout the year that not only give our students who are in dance classes the opportunity to perform more, but (also give) children in our community who aren’t (necessarily) a part of the arts the opportunity to see our kids performing so they can see what it is about,” says Lauren Belskey, owner and artistic director.
“We specifically go into a lot of the preschools in (the) area to show young students what it is like—to give them a little performance,” she continues. “I do think it is a way not only for our kids who are taking classes to get out there and perform more (but also a way to) show our community a little bit of dance.”
While dance in the past has been dominated by girls, more boys are taking the stage recently.
Coombs believes some of the increased enrollment is because of shows like “America’s Got Talent,” “Dancing with the Stars” and “So You Think You Can Dance?” which often showcase males dancing. Last dance season, 24-7 had nearly an entire hip-hop class filled with just boys.
The COVID-19 pandemic also might have played a role in increased interest from boys because dance studios were one of the few activities operating for children.
“We ended up being a place where people who had never even thought of walking into our studio came in, and now they (enjoy) it,” Coombs says.
Belskey notes hip-hop, “mommy and me” and preschool classes are favorites among boys.
“We do have quite a growing number of boys joining our program,” she says. “I think the more boys that join, it makes it more inclusive for new boys coming in to join.”
Social and Emotional Benefits
Many parents tell administrators they see the benefits to a dance education.
Coombs says some parents have said their child was very quiet and insecure before taking a dance class. But since the classes, they have received emails from their child’s teachers saying their students are talkative and participate more.
Ringer has had parents discuss with her the social, emotional and physical benefits they see with dance.
“Parents come to me and say their children have gained more confidence,” she says. “They are more creative. They are better at problem solving and teamwork. They are more respectful and have accountability.”
Children with disabilities can also highly benefit from dance, as the art form is nonverbal and allows them to communicate in a different way.
When speaking with parents, Belskey constantly hears that her studio is providing a positive environment for children to not only be learning about the arts and dance but also about a lot of other values.
The younger ones learn socialization, classroom interaction and how to work with others, while the older children comprehend commitment and dedication, as well as time management and team building, she says.
“(Parents) appreciate everything that the kids are learning—not just dance here,” Belskey says.