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Future Proofing with Dance

In a world in which the status quo has been rocked by the COVID-19 pandemic and the effects of climate change loom heavily (actually, it's already here), it brings to question the future of education. We must grapple with the hard questions: what is education for and what are the skills children and young people need in order to thrive now and into the future?

Last year I attended a talk by Professor Pasi Sahlberg, a world renowned Finnish educator, author and academic who now works and resides in Australia. He shared in detail about the education system in Finland in which play is valued and where children are active agents of their learning experience. Pasi explained how the skills children learn through play correlate with the skills that are necessary to navigate and flourish in the 21st Century.

Examples of skills that children learn through unstructured play:

  • Collaboration

  • Problem solving

  • Risk taking

  • Creativity

  • Flexibility

  • Communication

These are the exact skills that are needed for the 21st Century.

I posit here that children can also learn and hone these skills through dance. I have written previously about the importance of play and the case for dance in education settings. It is precisely for the opportunities to engage in these skills that dance in children and young people's lives can be of relevance and benefit.

This is not just a theoretical concept. The need for these 21st Century skills is evidenced in practice. Sue Healey, an internationally recognised choreographer and filmmaker writes in her essay, Capturing the Vanishing: A choreographer and film, how collaboration, problem solving and finding new ways of making her work has allowed her career to thrive.

To choreograph is to work at being curious and to do so collaboratively...
To be a choreographer demands resilience and courage to constantly reinvent oneself.

-Sue Healey, Capturing the Vanishing: A choreographer and film, 2019


How many of us had to pivot, find new ways, learn new skills, problem solve and to do so in collaboration with others, particularly over the past few years?

I end this blog with the words of Ralph Buck, Associate Professor, Dance Studies at the University of Auckland:

We live, however, in an era defined by both great technological advances and urgent political and environmental problems. We may find some responses to these challenges and opportunities within the creative, communicative, cooperative and ever-dynamic practices of dance.

- Ralph Buck, Stepping Back to Step Forward: Reflections on future directions for dance education

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