by Joan Wolfe, Creative Ballet Curriculum Director
What is creative movement? I get asked this question often. With 30 years of teaching experience I have many thoughts on the subject and I’ll get to those in a minute. But recently I’ve been asking parents what they think creative movement is, and what it does for their child.
Parents mention the physical benefits—coordination, balance, and strength. Some feel classes help their child get a head start on becoming a dancer. But what I hear most often is that they are unsure what creative movement is. They simply know their child loves to move and they love Creative Ballet. And by the look on their faces during class, they do!
To this list add social and emotional benefits, children learn best in groups. They connect, interact, learn to share, respect others and respond to what they see. They experience the boost in confidence that comes with, “What a fun idea—I’ll try that again!” and, “I did it!”
There’s also cognitive development, the relationship of movement to intellectual growth. Movement can provide the connection between an idea or problem, and the outcome or solution. This is often referred to as kinesthetic learning and is being modeled in educational settings around the country.
There is another area of movement research that’s in its infancy—the study of movement on neural patterning or brain-compatible dance. The BrainDance developed by Anne Green Gilbert is one such approach. I have included the BrainDance in my curriculum since I was introduced to Anne several summers ago. Ballet Austin has supported me in attending her workshops where I continue to receive information about the mind/body connection. I’d like to share with you what brain-compatible dance education is and how we use it in your child’s class.
The 8 BrainDance Patterns
- Body Side
- Cross Lateral
The 8 activities in the BrainDance are based on the 8 movement patterns all humans will experience in the first year of life. These movement patterns develop the foundation of all human movement and hardwire the brain for future learning. Moving through these patterns on a daily basis after the first year of life continues to support brain and body development in the areas of:
- Sensory-Motor Development; eye tracking, balance, fine motor skills, gross motor skills, focus, sensory integration, and memory.
- Increased flow of blood and oxygen to the brain.
- Increased core strength, postural strength, and coordination.
At the beginning of each class, we explore each pattern by integrating dance concepts and using a variety of movements, dance games, songs, and props. This allows for a balance of repetition and imagination that keeps children engaged.
How the Patterns Develop
- Babies do their own BrainDance very naturally in the first twelve months of life, especially if placed on their tummies as much as possible during infancy.
- Baby’s first breath starts the wires growing from the brain cells.
- Tactile stimulation begins with the first touch of skin on skin and is essential for promoting appropriate behavior and emotional and social intelligence.
- In the first two months of life, the baby will reach into space in order to connect with her environment and curl back into the womb position, demonstrating the core-distal.
- At two months, the baby has better head control and will lift and turn the head in both directions continuing the head-tail pattern begun at birth.
- Discovering the upper and lower body halves comes next as the baby pushes with the arms and hands and then with feet and knees.
- Between five and seven months, the baby reaches with one side of the body, moving the left half of the body as one unit and then the right half. As the baby crawls on her belly she will develop horizontal eye tracking.
- Between seven and nine months, baby pushes herself up onto hands and knees and begins a cross lateral reach from the upper body. Vertical eye tracking is part of the growth triggered by creeping on hands and knees. The convergence of horizontal and vertical eye tracking is essential for reading. From one year onward cross lateral patterns appear in walking, running and eventually skipping.
- The vestibular system begins developing in utero and continues to be very active through the first fifteen months as baby rolls, crawls, creeps, sits up, and walks. The vestibular system analyzes movements through the whole body, helps us know where we are in space and links up to all forms of sensory information. This very important system is used when we read, hear, speak, touch, balance, and move. Every movement stimulates the vestibular system which stimulates the brain.
I know firsthand the joy children experience when dancing. Now we can explore the fascinating science behind the dance. If you would like to find out more, please visit:
Parent Watch Week
To see the BrainDance in action, as well as all the other amazing things your children do, mark your calendars for our first observation day during your child’s regular class time the week of October 19 – 24. Families welcome.