Why dance matters

Anyone can dance. Dance can improve mental health, creating a wonderful feeling of happiness, and provides an opportunity to engage in a low impact cardio workout. Dancing can reduce feelings of isolation, is social, helps with coordination and balance, increases stamina and fitness, reduces stress levels, and above all it is great fun and highly enjoyable. One of the other major benefits of dance is that it can help boost self-worth and confidence for people of all ages. Dance can also be competitive, exciting, involve enormous skill, talent and discipline and be both a career and hobby. Like a number of sports it is an activity that is there for us all, but can equally be a specialism for those who choose it.

One form of dance, breaking, a type of street dance, has been provisionally added to the Paris 2024 Olympics schedule. Whether or not dance is classed as being a sport is perhaps merely a technicality as it is, afterall, an activity “involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.” Agreed not all dance is competitive, and you might be hard pushed to find schools holding dance fixtures against each other but dance competitions are on the increase, including The Great British Dance Off, as well as other national and local dance competitions aimed at schools. The reality is that dance is an activity involving physical exertion and skill, and is sometimes even more physically demanding than other sports. For young people today it is a highly accessible and enjoyable activity which carries with it huge benefits for the individual.

Every year the Girls’ Day School Trust, the UK’s leading group of girls’ schools, organises though it Sports Matters Committee a Day of Dance at the prestigious Pineapple Dance Studios. Girls from across the 25 schools come together for an incredible and memorable event which celebrates and embraces all that dance has to offer girls today. Dance is an important feature in our schools and most of our schools deliver dance through the PE curriculum or through clubs outside the school day run by professional dancers, offering street, contemporary, ballet, tap and a whole range of genres. We hold dance shows and incorporate the opportunity to dance in a range of school events, and we recognise the huge potential dance has for helping our girls with their wellbeing, as well as offering a physical activity for those who might not choose a more traditional sport.

With the rise in popularity of shows such as Strictly Come Dancing breaking boundaries as well as stereotypes, dance is here to stay and certainly in our schools is one of the most popular co-curricular offerings we have. Dance is all encompassing and at the same time utterly liberating and is a sport that has no limits and is open to one and all. Above all else, dance offers an opportunity to be creative and individual, helps with our girls self worth and allows girls to be at ease with themselves and be in touch with their inner self. For teenagers grappling with the many pressures upon them, it is a welcome form of release and a key opportunity to remain active. For young people today whose world is dominated, and at times overshadowed by social media and the online world, dance affords them those crucially important physical human interactions. Dance is not just an activity helping with physical fitness but is also a key facilitator of mental fitness. Many of our girls will choose dance because it is first and foremost fun, enjoyable and takes them into a whole new dimension of self-expression. Dance is an art form but it is also a means of disrupting the modern stream of consciousness, allowing girls to write their own rules for how they express themselves, having fun, keeping fit along the way. It is individual and collaborative, a means of connecting people who might not ordinarily connect or come together. Dance is social, personal and meaningful and perhaps of all the sports on offer to young people it is maybe, just maybe, the only one which really ticks all those boxes of fitness, well-being, confidence building, risk taking and above all generating a real sense of joy in movement.

Amongst the age group of 13-16 only 10% of girls achieve the Chief Medical Officer’s recommended levels of 60 minutes of physical activity every day, compared to 16% of boys. Allowing dance to become accessible to all in schools is one of many ways to improve this statistic and ensure that our girls continue to value both their physical and mental fitness and open their minds to the range of sports and activities available to them in order to achieve this.