Knowing Bodies, Moving Minds

Volume 3 of the series Landscapes: the Arts, Aesthetics, and Education pp 127-151

Dancing the Curriculum: Exploring the Body and Movement in Elementary Schools

  • Liora Bresler

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School disciplines, academic or those aspiring to be academic, target the mind and cognition, ignoring the body at best and subduing it at worst. A moving body in school is typically regarded as disruptive.1 Yet, there is considerable movement even in the most restrictive classes. Under a certain choreography pupils raise their hands, walk to the board, help the teacher distribute materials, sharpen pencils, go to the bathroom. Such instrumental choreography is in marked contrast to the role of the body in the art worlds of dance and drama. There, the body is cultivated towards highly sophisticated movement for expressive purposes. The dialectic between these contrasting sets of expectations for the body and movement shapes the school discipline of dance. Based on a multiple-year2 qualitative study of three elementary (K-5) dance/drama teachers, I examine the learning opportunities for the body in the operational curriculum with a focus on school dance.