The Relevance of Ballroom Dancing in Texas Schools
Ballroom dance is a set of dance performed by partners and is enjoyed both socially and competitively on stage, film and television. This kind of dance is performed in a specially designed large room referred to as a ballroom. Initially, it was a social dance meant for the upper class members of the society. The lower class enjoyed folk dancing- a rather non-professional dance designed for non-public performance but dominated by an inherent customs and traditions rather than innovation (George & Zona, 2008).
The introduction of ballroom dance can be traced back to the effect of societal changes. Knowles (2009) explains that the shift in the trend of social dances is a manifestation of the interpretation and response to the dynamics of the contemporary society. Gillis (2008) asserts that ballroom dance started during the period of Renaissance (1300-1500 AD) and was popular with kings and queens. Knowles (2009) supports this assertion when he identifies waltz as one of the oldest ballroom dances. The original waltz dance was performed in a ballroom with the man facing outward from the centre of the room and spiraling clockwise with his partner while moving around the ballroom floor counter-clockwise (Knowles, 2009). This dance dominated the Renaissance Period.
On the contrary, George & Zona (2008) asserted that the emergence of waltz was criticized by religious and social leaders for being too sexual in nature. Critics argued then that the dance promoted a very close contact between the dancing partners referred to as couples. Other forms of dances emerged like the polka and due to abolition of slavery waltz became even more popular as people wanted more time “to escape, to celebrate and to dance” (George & Zona, 2008). The modern ballroom dance has been identified as “elegant, restrained and sedate” (Knowles, 2009).
The Mad Hot Ballroom Program
Ballroom dancing has transformed from a dance of the affluent to that which can be performed in either a social situation or at competitive levels. Most institutions of learning have introduced dance education to their curriculum. McCutchen (2006) defined the purpose of an educational dance as to educate learners in dance as an art form in all its dimensions. The intention of such programs has been to educate learners on how to dance and use artistic processes in learning and social interactions. With an interest to pursue more educational outputs, educationists have incorporated numerous dance patterns in educational curriculum, one being the Mad Hot Ballroom program currently being implemented in Texas. This is a detailed ballroom dance program launched by Antonio Dulaine and Yvonne Marceau for New York City public schools. This program involves kids in elementary and high schools exploring their lives in a rather sometimes hilarious perspective.
In order to ascertain the importance of Mad Hot Ballroom Program in the elementary and high schools’ curriculum in Texas, this paper will detail a persuasive interview carried out on three public elementary and high school teachers. Two of the interviewees are dance teachers while the other is a socials and religious studies teacher. Four sets of directional questions formed a basis of the interview as outlined below.
- What is your opinion on the Mad Hot Ballroom phenomenon in educational process?
- Do you support its inclusion in the elementary and high schools curriculum in Texas?
- In what ways will the introduction of the Mad Hot Ballroom in the elementary and high schools in Texas affect our children?
- What are some of the recommendations that the curriculum should adopt while implementing the Mad Hot Ballroom program?
Interview Questions Guide
This interview and primarily the questions were directed by the Antonio and Yvonne assertions on the importance of Mad Hot Ballroom inclusion in the elementary and high schools curriculum. All the interviewees were professionally trained teachers and employees of three different elementary and high schools in Texas. Precisely, two were from different high schools while the other religious and social studies teacher was from a public elementary school.
Findings of the Interview
Physical and Mental Development
The public elementary school teacher argues that though Mad Hot Ballroom promotes physical and mental development in children in her school, there is a concern on its morality as the performance promotes too much partner closeness. She notably argues that the use of visual art in learning is important in that it opens a learner’s potentials and imaginations. Pircat (2006) asserts that the use of visuals in art education emphasizes the potentiality in a learner due to the explicit attention, interrogation and the mental construction of the visual objects and experiences it relays. Thus, the inclusion of art and dance in the curriculum would help promote learning especially in the dimensions of culture, ethnicity, gender and religion.
The teacher however notes that Mad Hot Ballroom program, in order to be successful, should only include socially relevant contents with increased attention on the contemporary society. Knowles (2009) supported the inclusion of socially relevant content arguing that it would enhance exploration in classroom discussions and school assignments. Pircat (2006) summarized the role of art and specifically ballroom dance as reawakening the scholar’s body through the fusion of the intelligent and sensual dimensions “to scholarly representations”.
Building Self Esteem and Confidence
Hot Ballroom Dance is identified by the second interviewee - a high school dance teacher as developing multiple perspectives in an individual. These perspectives develop from the ability to master the codified steps and styles and integrate them to both social and recreational aspects. Picart (2006) explains this aspect through the analysis of the adaptation of the bodies, skills and styles in a Ballroom dance. The teacher describes the adaptation as cohering and motivating to learners hence building the learners self confidence and esteem. Marion (2008) expounds that the learners self confidence blossoms as they learn to fox trot and tango during the dance. In fact, according to the dance teacher Mad Hot Ballroom dance has very challenging steps and the ability to learn something learners never imagined they could perform enhances self confidence in itself.
Dancing is also a form of infotainment. The dance teacher indicates that dance has a tendency to refine the manners and behaviors of young ones in a rather entertaining manner. Aldrich (1991) regards dancing as a utility describing it as the most enchanting of all human amusements. Thus, the introduction of mad hot ballroom program in learning institutions in Texas would make learning enjoyable and cheerful. The dance teacher remarks that its introduction in the curriculum would banish grief resulting from daylong studies among learners and cheer their evening hours with delightful sensations.
Development of Learners Potentials
The third interviewee says that Mad Hot Ballroom develops learner’s potentials. When such abilities are identified at elementary and high school level then they can be nurtured to greater levels. Ballroom dancing has been already referred to as a highly competitive dance. Gillis (2008) refers to the competitive dancing as Dance Sport and identifies it as common on television shows. Thus encouraging the teenagers to dance while still in schools enhances creativity and specialization.
Development in Physical Education
Gillis (2008) further argues that this kind of program may increase physical activity for teenagers while they are in school. The roles of physical education in a child development are numerous. For instance, according to McCutchen (2006) it offers an effective content for the development and appreciation of aesthetic values. Dance in itself offers aesthetic education which is valuable for an individual’s cultural and beauty appreciation. Secondly, the interviewee attests that dance would also serve the purpose of offering artistic values. This argument is supported by McCutchen (2006) when she indicates that among all physical activities it is only dance that is symbolized by the ability to make symbolic statements to create meaning.
Finally, Mad Hot Dance would enable the learners to acquire control, coordination and versatility in use of the body to maintain flexibility and to develop strength. This would provide an opening in health education and consequently reduce obesity and other ailments caused by lack of physical education. The involvement of physical education instructors, teachers and teenagers increases the physical activity and interest in the learners who may later perform the dance at home with their parents and siblings. The dance teacher reported a more concentration level among the learners after the implementation of the dance program.
Recognition and Appreciation of Gender Roles
Another aspect of ballroom dance is its appreciation for gender and learning of gender roles. The fact that this dance is performed by a couple gives it a vantage for teenagers to appreciate the role of gender in their development. It provides an opportunity to filter studio cultures from social orientations especially with regards to gender and to infuse these cultures in their normal lives. Marion (2008) explains that learners are given opportunity to perform as both same sex and mix sex couples thus enabling them to reflect the impact of gender in educational activities. She further illustrate this argument through the manner in which boys are instructed to hold or lead their girl partners while girls are taught to be passive and submissive as some of the gendered identities ballroom dances relay. Picart (2006) expounds this aspect through the argument that ballroom dance enables children to communicate clear bodily cues and to explore both the traditional masculine and feminine roles.
Recognition and Appreciation of Aesthetic Values
Another impact of this program is the fact that it recognizes aesthetics and behavior as both cultural sources and products. Marion (2008) indicates that this program addresses the role of culture in mediating the interconnection between bodily practices and aesthetic values. In retrospect, it analyses how culture work through the mind and how it is translated to the body. In deed, the Mad Hot Ballroom presents a clear illustration on how cultural practices can determine both the “intended and unintended consequences” through dance (Marion, 2008). The inclusion of this program in the elementary and high school in Texas would, according to one of my interviewees, instill a spirit of cultural awareness and appreciation. The kids would transform from urban-state life to a life of cultural awareness, appreciation and diversity.
Elimination of Cultural Stereotypes
One of the high school drama teachers acknowledges that there are cultural stereotypes among students and teachers in Texas. He asserts that Mad Hot Ballroom film is rich of visual culture with contents to inspire meaningful learning experiences for students. Aldrich (1991) explains that dances are not complete unless they take into account culture as a whole. Another writer, McCutchen (2006) explains that dance is not an entity in itself but rather belongs to the wider cultural context. Hence, a deeper understanding on ones culture and those of others through dance would counteract biases and stereotypes that may have been formed.
With regards to the above views of three teachers considered in this paper on the introduction of Ballroom dance program in elementary and high school curriculum, it is noteworthy that a few policies be put in place. It has noted that dance is one of the major arts forms which children require to develop their cognitive, physical and manipulative skills. It has also discussed the role of Mad Hot Ballroom with regards to cultural and aesthetic preservations. However, there is a few of morality aspects especially with regards to the couple’s closeness during the performance of ballroom dance which should be addressed. Consequently, this paper highlights a few recommendations which an effective school curriculum should adopt.
First, the curriculum should ensure that the program is mandatory and taught during the schools regular hours. That is to say, it should not be relegated to an afterschool activity or reserved for a few (McCutchen, 2006). Secondly; the program should be modeled to promote essential skills as well as critical thinking. In this regards, the program should not only be for fun but must be effectively objective. Thirdly, the curriculum should set guiding principles on the program. The set standards should cohere with the general school curriculum and should give equal opportunity for achievement to all learners. Finally, it is recommended that the program integrate aesthetic and kinesthetic aspects to enable children learn ballroom dance as an expressive language with which to communicate.
In light of the above recommendations, this paper concludes that ballroom dancing should be introduced in elementary and high schools in Texas. It recognizes the multi dimensional roles played by dancing. Educational dance has been presented as an educational tool that increases aesthetic value and affecting the total cognitive and manipulative abilities of children. It stretches not only the body but also the mind hence an integral part in the educational pursuit of an individual.