Famed Choreographer Shiamak Davar on How Dance Education Can Transform Learning in Indian Schools
One of India's most well-known contemporary dancers and instructors, Shiamak elucidates the benefits of including dance and performing arts in the school curriculum.
When I decided to make dance my career, my primary aim was to set up a dance academy that furthers dance as education. My goal from then on has been to provide quality dance education in India through a well-structured syllabus, inculcating correct technique and providing wholesome training to students of all ages.
We’ve been doing dance workshops in school from the time I established the Dance Academy. Whether it is in my regular, progressive, hobby dance classes or workshops in schools, I train my faculty to teach children of all age groups, to understand their individual requirements and ensure that they learn in a fun and friendly environment. Dance education being at the forefront of my priorities, I wanted to create a structured grade-wise syllabus for schools with a progressive development for students.
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In 2010, we officially launched the SDE (SHIAMAK Dance Education) programme with a curriculum-based approach.
Children are more receptive to learning in schools, and we aim to incorporate dance as a medium of physical activity and creative medium. Our objective is to make dance a part of regular school curricula with a specially-designed syllabus that enables children to develop skills, knowledge and understanding that goes beyond the classroom.
SDE is created as a formal dance education programme for students all the way from kindergarten to high school. It is a 10-year syllabus and works in tandem with the school’s annual plan—just like other subjects, dance too has a yearly syllabus that my faculty covers with regular assessments so parents can track their child’s growth and progress.
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The focus is on teaching the fundamentals and techniques of various dance styles selected for each grade. Each class incorporates dance-based exercises, personality development activities, choreography and cool-downs. Dance forms for each grade vary from contemporary, hip hop, jazz, salsa, afro jazz, broadway/theatre jazz and more.
Students who benefit from the programme starting right from kindergarten are equipped with enough knowledge and technical know-how in dance to be able to then select whether they would like to take up dance as a full time career. They are taught not only dance but also stage performance aspects with their Annual Day recitals each year.
Teaching students the various aspects of musical theatre and stage performance can be empowering for them.
As they gain in technical knowledge, spatial awareness and performance guidelines, the experience can help students overcome stage fright, become more confident, learn to work in teams and feel a great sense of achievement.
Going beyond the periphery of dance movement and incorporating our knowledge from other performing arts, such as jazz techniques, ballet exercises, yoga and theatre arts can help to enhance overall knowledge and creativity too.
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Dance is a great way to release energy, shed inhibitions and vent emotions. When you dance you sweat, and you release ‘feel good’ endorphins that make you happy. Dance helps improve overall fitness, endurance and muscle toning and strengthening.
In times where kids are constantly on their mobile devices, dance is a great hobby where they learn, enjoy and work out at the same time. Our aim is to improve fitness levels, confidence, focus, concentration, team spirit, positive thinking, discipline, posture and body language, all the aspects for an individual’s all round-development.
In five years, the programme has reached out to over 500 schools across the country.
The scale of the programme varies on the basis of the school’s requirement and curriculum integration.Schools that have incorporated the programme includes Dhirubai Ambani School, DPS, CP Goenka School, Schools of the Universal Trust, American School of Bombay, GEMS, Periwal School, Terna School, Strawberry International School, Mainadevi Bajaj International School and Tagore International School.
The response from school principals and teachers has been great. A lot of students have improved in their academics because of the dance classes. The reason behind this is primarily that their focus increases, they have something to look forward to and they get to do what they like.
Also, many students who were introverts find a platform to express themselves and their personality shines after attending these classes. Not only do they learn dance, engage in a physical activity but also experience something that highlights their spirit. This is the main essence of “Dance Education.”
It is important to follow a curriculum that includes all aspects of the performing arts, to successfully pass on the knowledge that enables students to become professional dancers.
Even my professional One Year Dance Certification Program (OYP), which I actively teach every day, encompasses all aspects of dance—from theory to practice—and other disciplines.
Belonging to a family of educationists, I’ve always understood the importance of education. Though I always found comfort and a sense of belonging in performing arts, I always knew the importance of having a strong academic background. Only on completing my graduation did my parents allow me to pursue my passion.
I brought both dance and academics onto a common platform with this where art is not only effective but it is structured to assess progress and create a positive impact of the students, helping them in every sphere of their life.
(Written by Shiamak Davar)
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