Children learn hip hop at Emirates School of Dance, Abu Dhabi.
“If you have young children, you’ve probably got your hands full right now getting them ready to start school again, juggling uniforms, books, supplies, tutors, and making sure they have all the right classes on their schedules to help them succeed academically this year.
“But what about building in activities that help them manage stress and anxiety, boost brain activity, collaborate with others, and develop healthy life-long fitness habits?’’ asks Lisé Whitfield, dance director, Emirates School of Dance, Abu Dhabi, during an interview with Panorama.What are your thoughts about traditional sports versus dancing as a fitness regimen?
Traditional team sports are a good way to keep children physically active, but they may not be right for all. Dance classes are a great alternative with myriads of benefits for children of all ages. Dance embodies one of our most fundamental relationships to the universe and is innate in children before they can even speak. It is one of the most accessible forms of self-expression, providing children a constructive outlet for creativity, improved physical and emotional health, and development of discipline.
Furthermore, dance is a form of creative self-expression that allows children to share their emotional experiences in ways that may not be accessible via traditional academic settings or sports. Often students find that participating in dance helps them reduce and manage anxiety, and restore a sense of joy and creative freedom to their daily lives.
What are the other known benefits of dance?
Dance can also support children’s social and emotional health. As children practise and begin to master a variety of more challenging dance steps and styles, their self-esteem and sense of accomplishment grow. They begin to feel more self-assured and see the feel-good results of discipline and perseverance. Many dance classes also encourage students to collaborate to create and/or perform group routines, which cultivates trust and teamwork. Forging new friendships and overcoming shyness in the safe atmosphere of a small dance class can help reduce social anxiety.
What are the physical benefits of dance?
Over time it will improve a child’s flexibility, range of motion, stamina, strength, posture, balance, coordination and cardiovascular health. Children who take dance develop important body awareness and control that carries over into general posture and habits such as while sitting or walking, but also into other physical activities such as sports. The focus on control and development of many different muscle sets is unique to dance.
What does Emirates School of Dance offer?
Emirates School of Dance at Bodytree in Abu Dhabi employs a group of highly trained former professional dancers with training from some of the world’s most prestigious dance schools including The School of American Ballet and the Ailey School. We offer classes for ages 2-18 in jazz, tap, ballet, pointe, hip hop, contemporary, Irish dance, Latin dance, and even children’s yoga at two different locations, Al Khalidiyah and Saadiyat Island.
Tell us about the ‘Mommy & Me’ classes?
For the youngest students at age 2, ESD’s Mommy & Me class offers a chance for parents or caregivers to join their toddler to participate in simple, guided movement, clapping, and songs in a short half-hour play-based movement class. For students aged 3-6, the Dance Prep series of classes offers fun and imaginative classes using playful props such as scarves and feathers.
What about the older students?
For older students, ESD offers some unique classes such as coed LA-style hip hop taught by a world-renowned choreographer, a boys-only hip hop and break dance class with an award-winning competitive dance coach, where students get to develop some of their own choreography. Broadway-style tap classes, traditional Irish dance, Russian classical ballet in the Vaganova style, and a joyful Latin Rhythms class where pre-teens get to groove to a wide variety of Latin music such Jamaican dancehall and samba reggae are other dance forms taught to older kids.
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