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DancePedia Articles - Early Ballroom Lessons are beneficial to children's social development

by Denis Kojinov

 

Children are our future. Their well being is very important for us all. Starting ballroom dance lessons before age ten leads children to have better relationships with the opposite gender later in life. Participating in dance allows children to develop essential social skills. Recent advances in technology such as phones, emails, texts, and Facebook have altered the way people communicate with each other. Modern communication involves less and less direct human contact. Lack of direct physical and emotional interaction, especially at a young age, creates serious problems. By the time children reach adolescence, they lack knowledge of how to approach, interact with and communicate with a person of the opposite gender.

Some people express concern that if boys start dancing at a young age, they will not develop the physical strength needed to defend themselves later in life. This argument fails, since ballroom dancing actually helps boys develop endurance, speed, dexterity, discipline, and focus. Those skills lead to improving boys' ability to protect themselves. In addition, learning how to control their developing strength and emotions will result in reduced instances of domestic violence. In the following pages, I will demonstrate how starting dancing at a young age develops skills necessary for success with interpersonal relationships later in life. These skills include etiquette, controlling one's emotions and actions, and improving management of physical contact and interpersonal problems.

Etiquette, or “being nice to people,” is essential to relationships for anyone, regardless of gender. Unfortunately, many children are not born with knowing how to treat others. Often, parents are too busy working and do not have time to teach their child basic etiquette. Schools expect children to learn to behave at home. Therefore, by the time kids reach the onset of adolescence, they have limited knowledge of how to interact with people in a nice manner. Ballroom dance classes provide an excellent environment where children can learn the basics of etiquette. Dance teachers normally explain that students need to be nice and courteous to each other. This may include instruction such as how to use calm voice when talking, being gentle when dancing, and being considerate of your partner's concerns. Ballroom dancing is a physically demanding activity; thus teachers inform kids that they need to be careful when dancing on the dance floor, especially when it is crowded. Children learn that negligent behavior can cause injuries to their friends. Thus, while learning to dance, children also gain knowledge of the proper way to deal with other people. This knowledge will help them when entering a relationship with a person of the opposite gender, because they will already know the basics of appropriate social behavior.

Controlling ones emotions, thoughts and actions is very important for having successful relationships. Emotions and thoughts often interfere with rational thinking and acting. It is necessary to be able to analyze them and make reasonable decisions, not just “what feels right”. For example, if a person is angry at someone they may feel tempted to resort to physical aggression. However, responding to this emotion is not the most reasonable action to take. The problem is that controlling thoughts and actions requires training that is not readily available. Ballroom dancing is an excellent tool for children to learn how to master control over their mind and body. During dance class, children learn how to memorize routines, execute proper technique and perform in front of an audience. These tasks require good coordination of brain and muscles. In addition, distractions make it more difficult to focus. Noise, other people, feelings of performance anxiety and fast music are all examples of factors that may affect focus. In dance class children learn how to, in spite of numerous distractions, regain focus and concentrate on performance. Focusing may take kids a while to learn, but this skill will help them in their future relationships. In real life there are many everyday stressful situations that affect our ability to function. For example, a difficult day at work may result in a spouse coming home angry and provoking a conflict with their significant other. If this spouse had been ballroom dancing since he was a child, he would have been able, upon getting home, to calm down and act rationally. Thus, starting ballroom dancing at a young age teaches children how to control their mind and body, ultimately helping them to cope with difficulties they encounter in their relationships with the opposite gender.

The ability to manage physical contact is important for having successful relationships. For example, many teenagers are single parents or are married to someone they barely know. They felt a physical attraction to a new person and acted on it, resulting in an unwanted pregnancy or other undesirable results. If they could manage their physical attraction, they could have avoided undesirable consequences. Therefore, it is important to teach younger children, before they turn teenagers, how to be in physical proximity of the opposite gender. Unfortunately, our society does not provide a way of achieving it. Ballroom dancing provides an excellent atmosphere for children at an early age to learn how to handle physical contact with the opposite gender. In dance classes, kids dance with each other in a very close hold. Initially they feel uncomfortable and awkward in this situation. However, as they learn to dance, having a person of a different gender right in front of them becomes the norm. Thus, in dance classes, children learn how to be in close proximity with the opposite gender without sexual context. As boys and girls grow and start feeling attraction to each other, their prior training leads to better management of their feelings and responses. Therefore, starting ballroom dancing early in life teaches children how to handle physical contact with the opposite gender, eventually helping them to create healthier relationships.

Knowing how to resolve problems is very important for having successful relationships. Two people will always have differences in tastes, opinions, ideas etc. Some differences can be obvious while others are hidden. For example, arguing which restaurant to go to for dinner is an obvious difference. In this scenario, food preference is the cause of the conflict. However some differences are not that obvious. A husband may book a surprise dinner at a restaurant on the top of downtown building. However, once he and his wife get there, his wife suddenly decides to cancel. He is angry, because he does not understand what the problem is. Perhaps, his wife may have a fear of height, which she does not want to reveal. Unless the husband finds out about this fear or his wife tells him, the conflict will remain unresolved. Unfortunately, schools do not teach students how to resolve personal conflicts and come up with agreements. However, ballroom dancing is a great way to learn how to understand your partner better and how to solve problems that occur between partners. While preparing for competitions or performances, children will encounter a multitude of problems. One partner may not like the routine; another does not like the timing. Partners may be able to dance their parts separately, but everything falls apart when they try it together. Like in life, ballroom dancing has many obvious and hidden reasons for conflicts. Therefore, while practicing, children learn, with the help of coach or parent, how to figure out what is wrong, and how to compromise and come up with mutually agreeable solution. This knowledge of interpersonal problem-solving will greatly help them later in life when they decide to start their own relationships with the opposite gender.

Therefore, starting ballroom dancing before age ten leads children to have better relationships with the opposite gender later in life because while learning to dance children also acquire valuable personal skills. Children learn etiquette, controlling one's emotions and actions, and improving management of physical contact and interpersonal problems. Skills learned in dance class are instrumental when children enter their relationships because problems that people encounter in relationships are very similar to those found in dance couples.

While ballroom dancing is a great activity for young children, not everybody believes that this is the case. It is widely accepted for girls to start dancing at a young age, however, some people think that boys should not dance. Their argument is that dancing will not help boys develop their strength and aggressiveness required in real world as other sports do. This is not the case, since ballroom dancing allows boys to develop endurance, speed, dexterity, discipline and focus. Those skills lead to improving boys' ability to protect themselves. In addition, learning how to control their developing strength and emotions will result in reduced instances of domestic violence. Moreover, since ballroom dancing is a competitive sport, boys can develop competitive skills necessary in real life.

Even though dancing is a socially acceptable activity for females, some parents feel that ballroom dancing is not a desirable style for girls. Because ballroom dancing involves boy partners, parents think that boys can take advantage of little girls, being in close proximity. This is not the case with young children, since lessons and practices are supervised either by an instructor or parents or both. Therefore, a scenario is created where safe, guided interaction is practiced first. In addition, dance studios are normally well lit, spacious spaces filled with other dancers and instructors. Therefore, parents' fears are illusory at best since there is a very small opportunity that children are left completely alone in a dance studio.

From my personal experience, our society, families and schools often do not teach children how behave and communicate well with persons of opposite gender. Public education focuses primarily on teaching academic knowledge and very little on social interaction and communication among students. This lack of early social education can lead to problems later in life when kids decide to have their own relationships. However, children that start ballroom dancing before the age of ten, learn the basics of social behavior in a fun and unthreatening manner, and, as a result, tend to have better relationships with opposite gender later in life.

 
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