Understanding the difference between dance education and dance training is a pivotal distinction. In turn, this understanding affords a dance teacher the knowledge to incorporate both (equally important) agendas into a studio’s curriculum; thereby cultivating a cohesive program.

     So what is the difference? In the simplest terms, dance education, most often seen within the K-12 setting, offers a child the opportunity to dance appreciation and a solid arts education; where emphasis lies on the child’s creative process and creation. While technique is offered and incorporated as part of the “Do, Know, Create, Perform” Learning Standards, the goal of public school dance programs are less focused on the idea of creating technical dancers but more on the idea of educating the “whole” child by: introducing dance history, exposing students to various dance genres, teaching them how to identify, look at and critique famous masterworks, how to use dance as a vehicle for interdisciplinary subjects and introducing students to their community and cultural diversity through dance. Most importantly, again, is the emphasis for the child to take this knowledge and develop their own creative works to expand higher order thinking skills, develop aesthetic, find individual artistic voice and encourage peer interaction through collaboration and constructive feedback. Because many public school students will not go on to become professional dancers, what dance education aims to do is create an ongoing knowledge and appreciation for the art-form which may in fact lead to jobs in the art field, future avid theater goers or just more well-rounded, arts educated individuals. Dance education ultimately strives to enrich the overall advancement of a student’s well-being and provides students the outlet to create their own art and release the stresses of their scholastic and private lives. Dance education also provides a special environment where there are no wrong answers. Students can move freely and fall in love with the art form.

     It is important to be mindful of the fact that when your dance students come to you and tell you they receive dance in their schools, that they are most likely receiving (unless attending a performing arts or private school) this type of dance education based curriculum where technique is probably not the main component to their study.  However, I do know plenty of dance educators who do feel as though the technique aspect should be further addressed and make it a point to integrate it as much as they can within their own programs; pending studio space, school mission, curriculum guidelines, etc.

     Conversely, dance training is most often what we see in the studio setting. Essentially, the focus is on dancers’ technical facility, to develop the physical characteristics necessary for them to attain professional dance careers and/or become proper dance technicians and engaging performers for however long their dance career endures.  Traditionally, dance training has involved a more, “do and follow” method, with less emphasis on the self-creating component as training engages in the developmental progression of a dancer’s technique. 

     What is important to take into consideration when building your studio’s curriculum is how the culmination of these two ideas can work together and will support the idea of your students’ becoming “smart” dancers; those who transcend mere accurate execution of choreographed steps by acquiring knowledge and full understanding of the craft.  The basic concept, “5,6,7, 8” is the easy part; but a student’s full potential can be achieved by understanding dance in its entirety: body mechanics, dance history, critique, individual creation, classroom etiquette, performance, musicality, etc. Imagine the significance for those who do, as well as those who don’t go on to professional careers. Integrating dance training and education will inevitably produce technically proficient dancers who understand not only what and how to perform something but why as well. Ultimately, these students will be ahead of the curve by having the advantage of knowing the physical as well as academic and creative aspects of the dance form, whether they are dancing on the stage or viewing it as our future dance aficionados. Food for thought as you continue the season!

Good luck!

See you in the dance studio,

Jessie