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  • Writer's pictureZoë Leigh Bishop

Dance: An aspect of Physical Education or an Art Form?

Having experienced two contrasting educational environments within my school-based training as a teacher, I have contemplated the place of dance within the education system. I have experienced teaching dance from a physical education department where dance came within the bracket of PE for KS3 and in contrast within a specialist performing arts school where dance was celebrated as its own entity within the arts.

Dance is an extremely positive element within PE that accesses unique, kinaesthetic forms of learning in ways that are more expressive and creative than other sports and topics typically taught within the PE curriculum. Whilst creativity is definitely developed on some levels within other activities, for example within game-type scenarios in which pupils exercise creativity to make decisions and problem solve, it is not (in my opinion) equal to the level of creativity or the range of creative skills developed through dance as a subject of its own.

I acknowledge and understand to varying degrees the reason it is cited under this bracket as PE should aim to holistically enhance physical literacy and offer a range of varied learning experiences in relation to the physical being as oppose to just an old-school sport type model. However in my experience, the nature of its essence, particularly if taught with a conscious effort to build continuity from KS3 into KS4 and 5 dance, makes it extremely contrasting to other experiences offered within the PE curriculum. Taking the Dance as Art Model (Smith-Autard, 2002) into consideration, in which the development of performance skills, appreciation skills and choreographic skills must be nurtured, I feel that dance at KS3 is therefore much more similar to arts subjects such as drama which follow a much similar process of learning. Categorising dance within a PE context potentially creates an expectation for students in which they assume the patterns they usually experience within physical education will be replicated in dance as it lies within the same context. I believe this is somewhat problematic and can sometimes create further struggle in cultivating the desired culture required for optimum learning in a dance environment.

Nevertheless, I am grateful that dance is included and cited within the PE curriculum, as I recognise the importance of the facilitation of this different learning environment for pupils. However, I believe this importance should be championed and therefore be included as its own entity and not as a singular bullet point of an offering within the wider physical education curriculum.

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