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Dance in Education

Currently, dance forms a key part of the PE (Physical Education) curriculum in British schools. It is compulsory in some form at Key Stage 1 and 2, and is optional for 3 and 4.

For GCSE and in the sixth form, it becomes a different beast, as is counted as its own, separate, 'vocational' performing arts qualification instead of being under the umbrella of PE. Schools, as well as specialist sports and arts academies, have given a higher profile to dance in recent years, especially as shows like Britain's Got Talent and Strictly Come Dancing enjoy significant viewing figures.

The National Dance Teachers Association maintains that a key component of formal dance education is interfacing with local dance groups and communities. This is partly due to the need to occasionally 'bring in the experts' to teach the finer techniques of a particular dance, and to furnish interested pupils with an extra-curricular environment in which they can practice with like minded people.

Qualifications for dance are provided by the Royal Academy of Dance, and are structured around a 1-8 Grade system like Music, with supplementary Vocational Grades for elder children and adults. Like music, these qualifications count towards UCAS points for university applications. It is worth noting, however, that the RAD Grade exams, and the institution itself, is heavily focussed on ballet. At present, in the UK there exists no formal dance exam children can take which doesn't include some form of ballet.

Like many non-core or non-academic subjects on the national curriculum, some pupils and schools have little or no access to dance. This is due to wider issues with government education policy and de facto underfunding in poorer areas.

As for higher education, there are many universities and academies that offer Performing Arts degrees, of which dance forms a key component.


Dance is so much more than an art form. The fact that it's lumped in with PE in earlier years, yet transitions to something closer to theatre in later education is testament to its multifaceted nature. On a basic level, it's a great form of exercise. But it's also incredibly expressive, in a way that other sports aren't. Even the form of expression varies: more structured dances like ballet express collective movement and classical values, folk dances express local spiritual and cultural ideals, and a lot of contemporary dances express the thoughts and feelings of the individual dancing them.

The fact that dance can be anything from a spectator sport to a collective or personal expression of identity means that it functions as a core method of human communication, albeit one that is not traditionally seen as such. For many people in contemporary western society, it inhabits a peripheral position on the fringes of their consciousness, along with things like music, singing and theatre. This is a shame, because the world of dance is incredibly rich and fulfilling, and is full of edifying forms and traditions which can move even the most closed and entrenched minds.

For children, as with music, there are studies suggesting that appreciation of dance acts as a force multiplier for their intelligence, sociability and communication skills; the latter being especially true for more individually expressive dances, such as contemporary.