Training physical skills
In this 4-part series I explain the main benefits of learning Flamenco dance at primary school: training important physical skills, understanding the power of practice and ownership, negotiating team work and individual practice, and dealing constructively with emotions.
In this first blog, I look in detail at the benefits of training physical skills:
Obesity epidemic in the UK
I’m starting this blog and entire series with this point, because it affects every other aspect I will write about in this series. According to the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), at least 20-30% of children in the UK are obese and “obese children are much more likely to be obese adults, causing significant health risks as well as low self-esteem and body image”. Furthermore, obesity “increases your risk of a range of health conditions, including heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes and some cancers, and prematurely doubles the risk of dying”.
“Obesity is one of the biggest public health threats facing the UK and the biggest human-generated burden on the economy after smoking.”Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health
Many factors have a bearing on children’s health and weight, and I’m not an expert on them. I know that learning to dance Flamenco at primary school isn’t the answer to all of them. But the RCPCH makes it clear that early intervention and physical activities are essential factors in tackling the issue.
Why Flamenco dance should be a tool in the fight against childhood obesity
As much as the issue seems huge – the RCPCH calls it an obesity epidemic – I believe it doesn’t have to be this way. Broken down to the simplest points, children need to eat a balanced diet and move plenty to be healthy. Movement shouldn’t be a chore, it should be enjoyable, challenging and social. It should give space for individual and team work, and allow loud and quiet children to feel confident. No one activity is for everyone. Therefore, children should be exposed to a variety of activities.
I’m writing this series and will do my best to bring Flamenco to primary schools in my borough, Tower Hamlets in East London, because learning Flamenco dance is quite different from other physical activities and I believe giving children even a taster will widen their outlook and offer them new opportunities.
Many adults feel shy and inhibited on the dance floor. They struggle to unlock the social and physical benefits of social dancing, which is a pity as dancing is a wonderful pastime with numerous health benefits including improved
- cardiovascular health,
- coordination, balance and strength,
- cognitive capacities and mental functioning, and
- mood and psychological well-being.
Exposing children to rhythmic activities, helps them overcome that inhibition and allows them to enjoy themselves on the dance floor with confidence in later life.
They will also gain access to the beauty and variety of music. Practising rhythmic activities opens the door to learning to appreciate music from a variety of cultures other than pop music. This widens the horizon in a playful and accessible way and offers context to theoretical subjects.
Composure and control
The human body is a marvel. If we learn to manage it well, it will support our physical and mental health and well-being up until a very old age. This needs to start when we’re young.
Understanding the body’s signals and managing them, for example when feeling nervous, shy, angry or excited, is helpful in all walks of life: from mastering exams and job interviews to dealing with relationships.
The tension between abandon and discipline that you pick up when learning to dance Flamenco is extremely helpful for this. It helps us be in touch with our emotions, but also feel composed and be in control of them when necessary. In the fourth blog post in this series, I will write about this in more detail.
Discipline is one of the most important skills to learn in life. It is more powerful than motivation, a positive driving force, or pressure, a negative driving force, in achieving success in life, whatever this will mean for the children when they grow up. Discipline is the key to delivering your best work at school and beyond and to life-long personal and professional development.
In dance, no matter how naturally talented you are, only practise will help you improve and fulfil your potential. With discipline, practise and studying will become a habit for children rather than a chore. It’ll become second nature. In my second post in this series, I will write more in-depth about this.
Posture, grace and pride
Self-esteem and confidence are complex mental skills that need nourishing in many different ways. Good posture and an open body language physically support a healthy mind. Gaining knowledge of your physical impact on the people around you supports your people skills and helps you adapt to situations effectively. This in turn will be an advantage when dealing with interviews and other social situations.
Learning Flamenco dance teaches a proud yet humble posture and helps students distinguish between when to take the lead in a situation and when to step back. The third post in this series will go into more depth about this.
Next week, I will write about understanding the power of practice and ownership. In the meantime, read my blog about introducing Flamenco dance to the 250 children at Caldicotes Primary School in February 2020.
Book Flamenco lessons for your primary school
Do you teach Spanish or would you like to expose your students to a new type of physical activity? I would like to help you introduce Flamenco dance at your school.
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