"During the last two years both myself and colleagues from other dance schools have noticed a pattern of parents cutting out fun after school activities like dance, in favour of extra tuition to pass the new SATS exams," says Jennifer Siegeris of The Siegeris School of Dance in Wimbledon.
"I find this really sad. And I don't think it helps either. Dance not only releases stress and refreshes the body, it also refreshes and reboots the mind."
What the experts say...
You might think that as the owner of a dance school, Jennifer would be bound to say something like that. But there is evidence to suggest that dancing can actually improve neural functioning in the brain. A long term study of senior citizens led by The Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York found that frequent dancing dramatically outperformed all other physical and cognitive activities (such as crosswords, reading, cycling, golf and swimming) in helping prevent dementia.
A Harvard Medical School psychiatrist, Dr Joseph Coyle, commented on this study, explaining that: "The cerebral cortex and hippocampus, which are critical to these activities, are remarkably plastic, and they rewire themselves based upon their use." The process of the brain rewiring itself when learning new activity is called neuroplasticity. Not only does dance get the body physically fit, it helps the brain build mental muscle and dexterity too.
There are so many benefits of dance. Children learn patience, listening and discipline in class; it improves co-ordination, posture, self-esteem and confidence; helps children with self-motivation, teamwork and expressing emotion; and then, of course, there are the group performances. Children love being part of a big show that starts from scratch and seeing how it all comes together at the end. A real excitement builds up as they help create the sets and learn how it works backstage. They make new friends and then, finally, get to perform for proud family and friends. It really is the stuff of magical memories.
And if that's not enough to convince you that dancing is good for your child's academic success and long term wellbeing, then you might like to know that vocational dance exam results can be translated into UCAS points and therefore boost your child's chances of getting a good place at university.
Find a dance class in your area
The Siegeris School of Dance is just one of many dance schools in the UK. Qualified Dance Instructors teaching dance styles ranging from street dance to ballet are recruiting for new students ahead of the new term in September.
If you are interested yourself, or want to get your kids into a class, then head to the Dance Near You homepage and search using your postcode. You can use the drop down menus to search for a specific class, such as a children's ballet class.
Once you find a suitable class, leave an enquiry with the instructor, or book yourself a place online!