Dance Education in the 21st Century: A Global Perspective. Dance Education around the World Faces Common Challenges: Who Should Teach, Who Should Teach the Teachers, and What They Should Teach?

By Gilbert, Anne Green | JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, May-June 2005 | Go to article overview
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Dance Education in the 21st Century: A Global Perspective. Dance Education around the World Faces Common Challenges: Who Should Teach, Who Should Teach the Teachers, and What They Should Teach?


Gilbert, Anne Green, JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance


How will dance evolve during the 21st century? How does the dance landscape appear in 2005? What will dance look like in 2105? Before addressing these questions, we should perhaps take a brief look at the roots of modern dance education.

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A hundred years ago, a beautiful and intelligent young lady named Margaret H'Doubler was finishing high school in Madison, Wisconsin, and preparing to enter the university. H'Doubler's philosophy and writings about dance influenced educators in dance and physical education throughout the last century. Her formative years were described by Gray and Howe (1985) in a fascinating article in Research Quarterly:

  Margaret H'Doubler believed that dancing represented creative self-
  expression through the medium of movement of the human body. She was
  concerned with a type of dancing that exemplified educational
  activity, rather than an outer acquisition of simulated grace, and was
  convinced that dance as an art belonged in the educational process.
  H'Doubler believed that dance was a vital educational force since it
  was entirely geared toward the total development of the individual.
  She articulated these ideas as early as 1921 in her first book, A
  Manual of Dancing, after having taught dance for only four years at
  the University of Wisconsin.

  H'Doubler remained committed to this philosophy throughout her career
  as a dance educator. To her, teaching was a sharing of knowledge
  through vital experience so that the student would come to understand
  the relationship between the physical-objective and the inner-
  subjective phase of experience. The method used to attain this self-
  knowledge was creative problem solving rather than the imposition of
  stereotyped movement patterns. (p. 93)

Margaret H'Doubler graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1910 with a major in biology and a minor in philosophy. Her studies were to define her teaching for the rest of her career. Her favorite prop was a skeleton. She started classes lying on the floor and believed that certain exercises were fundamental to motor control and that motor control was fundamental to expressive movement. She believed in technique, improvisation, composition, anatomy, and kinesiology. H'Doubler started a student dance group at the University of Wisconsin and named it Orchesis, a name since adopted by many colleges and high schools for their student dance companies. She established the first formal, undergraduate, university dance major--and later master's and doctoral degrees--in America. Her program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison was to become a model for most of the university and college dance departments across the United States.

Margaret H'Doubler brought the magic of modern dance into the university system a century ago. But the revolution in dance education that she initiated is far from complete. Who will bring the magic of dance education into the K-12 school system in the 21st century? I think it will take a village this time rather than one person, because the world is a bigger and more complicated place. I believe the arts in education, and perhaps arts in general, are at a crossroads. We live in conservative times when the arts and freedom to explore them seem less valued than ever before and when advances in technology are occurring at an exponential rate. Daniel Catan, a composer of three modern operas, says,

  No other century has dehumanized people as much as the twentieth. Man
  has become a political animal, a tireless technological wizard or the
  representative of scientifically deduced historical trends; he is seen
  as a member of a social class, a spokesman for the sexual group he
  belongs to, an example of success or a victim of society; a producer,
  a consumer, a number. The individual, the person that feels, that
  smiles, that hurts, has been all but forgotten by a world obsessed
  with statistics. 

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Dance Education in the 21st Century: A Global Perspective. Dance Education around the World Faces Common Challenges: Who Should Teach, Who Should Teach the Teachers, and What They Should Teach?
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