"I feel like I'm going to take off!": Young people's experiences of the superordinary in dance.

Bond, K. E., & Stinson, S. W. (2000) "I feel like I'm going to take off!": Young people's experiences of the superordinary in dance. Dance Research Journal 32, 52-87.

Abstract:

This study presents phenomenological research about how dance students describe their experiences with dance. Researchers analyzed interviews, written statements, drawings, and observations from about 600 English-speaking dance students in Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, Saipan, and the United States. The students ranged from three to 18 years old. The researchers found that the dance students described a myriad of positive feelings about dance, which proved relatively consistent across age, culture, and gender. The dance students also described a sense of well-being and spirituality derived from dancing or viewing dance performances.

Key Findings:

This study finds that dance students describe a myriad of positive feelings about dance, including excitement, tranquility, freedom, and authentic-self. These positive feelings were described by dancers across ages, cultures, gender, and country of origin. Students also described a sense of well-being and spirituality derived from dancing or viewing dance performances.

Significance of the Findings:

This is one of a few studies analyzing how dance students from different countries and ages describe how dance affects them. This descriptive study could be used as a basis for further research into the impact of dance on children and adolescents. This study importantly calls attention to dance as a locus of personal development and may be of interest to educators and policymakers concerned with fostering positive youth development.

Methodology:

The researchers analyzed interviews, written statements, drawings, and observations from approximately 600 English-speaking dance students from Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, Saipan, and the United States. They collected these data from their own prior research studies, research data shared by three colleagues, data drawn from nine published and unpublished articles, and data drawn from students participating in two international dance conferences (in 1991 and 2000).

All together for this study, the researchers compiled data from 40 children ages three- to five-years old in an early childhood setting; 26 elementary school children with special needs ages five- to 12-years old, 50 middle school children ages 13- to 14-years old, and 100 students ages 10- to 18-years old. The researchers looked for themes about the experiences and feelings of dance students and present examples for the themes.

Limitations of the Research:

The data were collected through many methods and from multiple studies that are not fully described. Full demographic data were not available for all student participants. The findings are limited by a lack of presented information about the type, intensity, and quality of the dance instruction participating dance students experienced, the settings in which it took place, and analysis of how theses factors may have affected students’ responses.

Questions to Guide New Research:

Did the experiences of the students vary based on age? Were there any differences between the cultures observed? Would similar findings be derived using more rigorous methods of data collection and analysis? How does variation in the quality, type, and intensity of dance instruction students receive affect how they experience and value dance? What methodologies might researchers use to continue to investigate the internal, personal experiences that students have when they dance? What are the qualities of the dance education experience and context that engender the feelings students in this study report?