Social Emotional Learning & The Magic of Dance – Part IV

Social Emotional Learning & The Magic of Dance – Part IV


SEL is an important intervention that contributes to a person’s cognitive development and mental health from childhood into adulthood.  In this 4-part series, we have defined Social Emotional Learning (see Part I), examined the importance of developing emotional skills from childhood into adulthood (see Part II),  and explored the importance of developing pro-social skills alongside emotional skills (see Part III). In this post, we conclude by revealing why dance is one of the most powerful tools for learning and practicing SEL skills at any age.


SEL meets dancing meets Dancing with Class

Dancing with Class is a program for K-12 students in which they develop social emotional skills through partner dancing.  Dancing with Class is able to teach SEL skills effectively and effortlessly because dancing is innately the embodiment of learning to communicate and express oneself.

Believe it or not, for all human beings, the predominant means of communication is actually body language.  Dance is comprised of body language, expression, science, and play.  Because of this, dance can naturally lead to informal or formal learning.


Dancing with Class:

  • Encourages individual and group identities (relational prosocial skills): Students perform dances as a group, and there is also room in the curriculum for individuals to add their own self-expression.


  • Encourages community spirit (relational prosocial skills): Students from the same school look forward to going to the dance-off and showing everybody what their school is all about.


  • Encourages students to communicate verbally and physically (relational prosocial skills): In addition to verbal communication that happens within the class, partner dancing is full of non-verbal cues that students have to pay attention to in order for the dance to work.


  • Encourages students to express feelings (emotional competency): Feelings are not solely expressed verbally. Feelings can be expressed through different channels.  Therefore, dances and their accompanied music express different feelings.  Students learn how to channel those different feelings in a safe environment.


  • Encourages students to regulate emotions (emotional competency): Students learn how to regulate their emotions that might have developed earlier in the day by not taking it out on their dance partners later.  Partner dancing helps them focus on the dancing itself and how to work with their partners.



  • Encourages the increase of respect for others (relational/prosocial skill and emotional competency): When partner dancing, learning about boundaries is natural.  Students learn to ask for permission to dance with each partner, and they learn how to have physical contact with the partner appropriately.


The wrap up

As you can see, Social Emotional Learning is more than a buzz phrase that programs like Dancing with Class include in their brochures.  Components of SEL travel with children into adulthood. Consequently, social emotional learning is one of the beginning steps in aiding a child’s cognitive development and empowered mental health.

Partner dancing intuitively teaches social emotional learning skills, and it’s fun too!

For classrooms anywhere: check out EduMotion: SEL Journeys , an experiential learning for  classrooms around the world.

Other Resources:


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