I was reminded at last week's Halloween Pep Rally of the power of the Arts, specifically dance and movement, in building community and creating much needed rituals in our otherwise chaotic, somewhat disconnected, fast-paced lives.
Our teens have a hunger to experience the world not just through their minds but also through their bodies and spirits.
As I watched our cheerleaders perform and observed the reaction of the crowd, with the unexpected, added element of their teachers jumping in to create some drama and fun, I was struck by just how important and life-affirming that act was for both the performers and the audience.
Not only did the dance, rally and related events connect teachers, students and staff in a very real way, those activities also allowed us individually and collectively to take a momentary pause from the stress of our normal routines.
Through these lively celebrations and rituals, our young people are guided toward a deeper sense of self and a healthy understanding of their place within the community.
Professional dancer and dance educator Aubrey Griffith-Zill states, "Whether you use your body for day-to-day tasks or to achieve great athleticism, the entire body, mind and spirit are in motion, which then translates into positive energy."
As I witnessed at the rally, that energy is contagious. Moreover, it can have a lasting impact on school climate.
Research shows that dance, movement and other community-building activities are great stress relievers. They help promote healthy, positive behavior and teamwork skills, and encourage self-expression, emotional balance and self-confidence.
Whether it's dance, cheerleading, marching band or fencing that we're talking about, students are also learning discipline, patience, flexibility and adaptability.
We have a tendency here in the Northeast to get stuck in our heads at the expense of our bodies. Both are necessary! As Griffith-Zill states so eloquently, "Dance (movement) is a form of communication within itself, a universal language that allows kids to express emotions and feelings that don't have to be explained."