If you have a child that someday wants to go to college, enrolling him or her in dance classes at a young age can make all the difference in the world. Dance develops some of the most interesting, talented, healthy (mentally and physically), and socially aware people on earth. College admissions folks know this.
Tiffany and I have owned Tiffany’s Dance Academy (TDA) for 21 years. We create well-rounded dancers that perform ballet, tap, jazz, contemporary, modern and even hip-hop. This strategy has resulted in dozens of our students landing positions in dance programs all over the U.S.A. and Canada. Dance is the type of activity that universities love to see on college applications world-wide.
Our high school juniors apply to colleges and get accepted everywhere – like Duke, UNC, UCSB, UC Irvine, Chapman, Cal Poly, USC, Arizona, St. Mary’s, Berkeley, NYU and dozens more. We even have one graduate attending UCSF Medical School right now.
So, what’s going on here? Something magical happens to the brains of dancers who begin learning dance and choreography from a young age. They have an uncanny ability to learn quickly and to remember what they’ve learned for long periods of time. This makes them better students in all of their studies at school. They’re diagnosing and solving complicated spatial problems in real time…all the time. This equates to better grades and a higher GPA in AP or IB classes in high school.
When a dancer learns 3 minutes of choreography, they’re learning anywhere from 300-500 “movements” or “counts”. Advanced dancers at TDA perfect at least 10 dances a season, each with about 400 counts. This means they remember 4,000 counts; under pressure, on stage in front of an audience, squinting into bright-hot lights, and with not much difficulty at all, really.
In fact, they love it!
How is this possible? Memorizing choreography while moving to music and while “thinking” about where other people are in relation to yourself in time and space is exercise for the brain. Skills they pick up are spatial awareness, pattern recognition, musicality, emotional expression, interpretation, listening, visualization, memory, recall, problem-solving, and adaptability. Nothing else requires this type of concentration, entire-body athleticism, flexibility and emotional maturity.
In photographing performances over the years (www.tdapics.com), I’ve observed that the better children become at dance, the better they are at everything life throws at them. During the pandemic, for example, our dancers adapted quickly to online classes and masks. They experienced less anxiety and depression than their non-dancer peers because they have a social group and a purpose.
Their problem solving skills and adaptability are other-worldly. When a dancer can’t attend a performance for one reason or another, everyone in the dance must adjust to a choreography change immediately. If they already knew 4,000 counts, they might have to do something different for counts 3,100 thru counts 3,600. Now they know 4500 counts.
Dancers are able to think on their feet (and in the air) to ensure they’re in the right place at the right time. Like a large school of fish, they’re aware of each other in time and space at all times. They’ve learned how to think, memorize and adapt. They’re part of a group of friends and instructors that fulfills their responsibilities to each other.
So, if you want to raise smart, athletic, emotionally intelligent, problem solving children, consider enrolling them in dance classes. If they love it, you’ll love the predicament of deciding which college to attend.
*Facts found in Harvard Study – “Dancing and the Brain” (https://hms.harvard.edu/news-events/publications-archive/brain/dancing-brain)
By Paul and Tiffany Henderson, Owners at Tiffany’s Dance Academy