When I was a little girl, my mum took me to the ballet. I had never set foot in a theatre before. And somewhere during the show I found some glimmer of a truth I had never known before. I was in love. The roll-back seats, and the hush of the crowd. The swell of music and the careful, plodding steps of the ballerinas, legs strong and taut beneath layers of spandex and wide pluming skirts. I was in love with ballet. And over the years, that love wrapped itself around performance in all of its forms, from hip-hop to classical baroque, to TedTalks and Cirque du Soleil. Dance. Music. Opera. Poetry. Theatre. Spoken word. Acrobatics. Storytelling. Magic. These are the things that give shape to life.
“Nothing can reproduce the sonic and emotional power of live performance” – Leon Botstein
When a child taps into the world of performance art, whether as a spectator or as an active participant, the experience is nothing short of life-changing.
Igniting the imagination
Children are often stifled by a largely structured routine that allows minimal time for play. And no, unfortunately 17 rounds of Fruit Ninja doesn’t count! In fact, children spend an average of six hours or more per day staring passively at a screen, which does little to nurture creativity and imagination, both important factors in child cognitive and social development. The performing arts are all about imagination, taking children to new heights and allowing them to investigate the world around them, and their place in it, without constraint.
Promoting creative expression
Performance arts are a living, breathing testament to the unbridled creative potential of human beings. And children who are introduced to the arts early will learn how to harness the power of ‘thinking outside of the box’ from a young age. When a child engages with their own creativity, they will also learn how to make unique connections between seemingly different ideas and, in doing so, turn the world as they know it on its head. The ability for children to exercise creativity, to be able to express themselves openly and without judgement, is not only deeply fulfilling, but also attributed to healthy emotional development.
Fostering appreciation for arts and culture
With the advent of technology and the burgeoning value placed on science-based curriculum like STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), it’s all the more important to foster an appreciation for arts and cultural participation among children. Performance art, like dancing, teaches children about the richness and depth of human expression in all of its forms.
Children involved in the arts learn to value diversity and creative expression, while also gaining a cultural and societal understanding of why the arts are important.
In addition to the benefits listed above, many researchers go so far as to link involvement in performing arts to higher academic achievement, renewed confidence and self-presentation skills, a newly developed aptitude for problem solving, and increased perseverance. How’s that for a package deal!