We have a lot of discussions on this blog about how dance teaches life-long lessons and starts a journey to confidence and self esteem. It’s one thing in the classroom to accomplish a technical skill or to push yourself to pick up choreography faster and more cleanly. It’s a whole different conversation when we approach the idea of pushing past the technical skills and into the artistry of dance. What makes a dancer a performing artist? It isn’t perfect technique, yet the technique becomes the toolbox for a dancer to pull from as they start to tell stories with their bodies and emotions.
After an interesting conversation with my mom, who is a music teacher, about this topic she suggested I do some research into how learning in the dance studio can relate to a hierarchy of needs. I did a search, and I pulled up this article about reframing the classroom to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which I remember learning about in college. While the article is geared towards teachers and the goal of getting more people dancing, I did love this excerpt that is more applicable to everyone.
“Maslow developed a hierarchy of needs to explain basic motivations behind human behavior. The idea is simple: You start at the bottom with the basic needs of food, water and air to survive. Once one level of needs is satisfied you become more concerned with the next, and you move up.
Physiological – the basic human needs of food water and air
Safety – of yourself, your family, your employment
Love and Belonging – the need for family, friends, intimacy
Esteem – the need to feel recognized and master skills
Self actualization – the desire to reach your full potential
So how does this help us understand how we learn to dance?
All it needs is a new lens:
Physical – Get people moving. It’s the golden rule of dance. People learn best through connecting with music and their bodies, not listening to your voice.
Safety – assuming your physical safety is not at risk, this is about emotional safety. Judgement from yourself and others is the death of dance.
Social – people want to interact and feel connected to each other and their teacher. The stronger these bonds, the more safe and supported people feel.
Learning – consuming movement and information about dance to progress and master skills. At this point, what looks good to others and feels good to you are usually quite far off.
Artistry – you are a creator, not just a consumer of dance, working towards unrestrained self-expression. You start performing, teaching or choreographing. What looks good to others and feels good to you starts becoming one and the same.”
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