We are currently sending out surveys after our summer camp this week - we had 22 5-12 year olds in our dance studios for lots of fun themed performing arts and crafting days. We had a Teamwork and Cheerleading day where we danced our best moves and made pompoms. We then had an Under The Sea sort of day, moving like sea creatures, and performing songs from The Little Mermaid and Bedknobs & Broomsticks - guess which ones!
We then had a cat-themed day, learning about the cats from the poems of TS Eliot, listening to snippets of the songs from the musical and using our comprehension skills to turn the characters of the cats in the story into little dances or plays. On Thursday we had a Back to Shcool theme, where we talked about rock music, big feelings and Revolting Children! Stick it to the Man! Friday was all about inflatables, face paints and cake, and revisiting our favourite dances and songs from the other 4 days.
So we're sending out a survey to see if our attendees enjoyed the fun times, and to ask if they gained any confidence with their performing arts skills. But to be honest, good singing and dancing skills is actually the very last thing I would wish for them to take away from this week.
A performing arts education, even a condensed, week-long one, supports children in all developmental stages. Motor skills are explored as they learn different ways to use their bodies and really think about how they move. Reading skills are enhanced through the speedy following of scripts and considering the words and rhythm of song lyrics.
Emotionally, children learn to recognise feelings, how to convey them in a healthy way, and how to channel them through play and performing roles. Reading skills are enhanced through the speedy following of scripts and considering the words and rhythm of song lyrics. They discover the importance of clear communication and listening, by working together towards a shared goal - making the performance/production as good as it can be. They learn to always be ready for lines and cues, to be centred and ready for action.
Socially, they learn more about taking turns, and develop patience and tolerance. At one point, 9 out of 10 members of one group LOUDLY complained about me playing Pink Fluffy Unicorns. This truly upset the one person in the crew who actually is a unicorn and was dancing away merrily to it - so we stopped and sat down and talked about how to be a supportive audience. That it's absolutely fine to not like something, but you mustn't make people who DO like it feel bad about it! Then I high-fived my little enthusiastic pink fluffy unicorn because how can you not love that song?!
"Even if somebody is standing on a big stage by themselves and singing and dancing in just their PANTS, I would expect to only see a friendly and supportive audience!"
They learn how to encourage, support and cheer for each other, especially when they are audiences to performances by older children and they get to see how they do it. They might learn that they're not always the 'best' in the room, but they also learn that they have a louder voice than they think they do, and that they can use it if they grab every opportunity that they can. They learn about courage - true bravery is not about NOT being scared, but feeling the fear and doing it anyway!
So, especially since the global pandemic has threatened the livelihood of theatres and performers and other facets of the performing arts world, it's important to talk about how valuable it is to make performing arts available to every child. I hope, with our dance school, that we can be the starting point for future performers who will pass on this message to any future governments who might de-fund and devalue performing arts education and stick it to the Man!