Enriching learning with the science of dance
Skidmore faculty and students are partnering with schools, teachers, and PBS Learning Media to help elementary school students learn and grow through an innovative streaming dance program developed at the College.
Sarah DiPasquale, associate professor and chair of the Department of Dance, is the creator of “Dance to Success,” a series that helps elementary school teachers and students use movement to explore topics such as sharing, listening to and accepting others, and expressing and understanding emotions.
The interdisciplinary program is rooted in academic research on how movement activates different areas of the brain and can support socio-emotional learning in the classroom. The program involves collaborators from across the College, including Skidmore's Education Studies Department, Management and Business Department, John B. Moore Documentary Studies Collaborative (MDOCS), and Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery.
According to DiPasquale, who is also a trained physical therapist, mindful movements presented in the series strengthen the mind-body connection and positively influence student achievement, attendance, and behavior.
“Dance is a really wonderful way to activate the brain in various ways. We know certain pieces of movement actually help us to do things academically,” said DiPasquale, who said she was also inspired by her own young children’s experiences in school.
“We know that dance helps kids to focus. We know dance helps kids to achieve. So the more kids are dancing, the better.”
In addition to helping elementary school students, “Dance to Success” provides cross-disciplinary learning experiences and career development opportunities for students at Skidmore. Students from a variety of majors are involved in every stage of the production process, from developing content and performing the dance routines, to producing the videos and supporting community outreach.
From left, Lea Leventhal ’23, Annika Bergofin ’24, Julianna Willis ’22, and Amanda Francis ’25 practice a dance routine for "Dance to Success."
Juliana Willis '22, a sociology major with minors in management and business, arts administration, and dance, recently served as student marketing manager for the program, allowing her to interview elementary school teachers about improvements to the video series, work with musicians, and promote the program to local elementary school teachers and administrators.
“I am looking to go into arts administration, and I think that this experience is something that's really strong on my resume because it integrates everything I'm studying,” Willis said.
Lea Leventhal '23, a dance and social justice studies double major, also took a workshop offered in conjunction with the program and served as an intern. In addition to choreographing a segment based on scholarly research, she served as a film editor.
“For me, it was useful to be working with a program that took dance, which is a thing that I care about, and implement it into education,” Leventhal said.
Dance to Success has partnered with Gloversville Enlarged School District, Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC), and local PBS affiliate WMHT to bring the programming to the community. DiPasquale said she is now looking forward to bringing the program into even more schools across the country though its collaboration with PBS Learning Media.
“This is a free program. We have no intention of ever charging for this work,” added DiPasquale. “It’s physical research, it's educational research, and it's really a community service that we hope to continue for decades to come.”