Dance curriculum and pedagogies for justice: potential and possibilities

Year: 2013

Author: Meiners, Jeff, Garrett, Robyne

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Dance in many schools has been noted for its transformative potential to motivate and encourage the participation of marginalised young people who struggle to engage with longstanding traditional curricula. So too projects demonstrating participation in dance as part of the school curriculum show how dance may counter the production of inequalities driven by poverty, racism and cultural difference.
However, in insidious cultures of neo-liberal consumerist and capitalist democracy where individual rights are championed it is those privileged by higher cultural capital as well as dance curricula and pedagogies of privilege that dominate. We are conscious that body practices and pedagogies around dance are shaped by social constructs including class, gender, ability and race, and that not all young people interested in dance benefit equally, nor realise their potential even when offered a dance curriculum in school.
Such dance curricula and pedagogies advantage those who most usually access dance classes outside public schools using entrenched approaches to develop skills from narrow pedagogies and particular forms of dance. These traditional dance pedagogies draw such privileged young people into teaching practices that reinforce long-established gender positions, understandings of difference, desirable bodies and ability. Dance as a cultural activity is recognised in supporting young people's learning about what is expected of and valued by different bodies, including size and shape, gendered behaviour, how they move, and what is possible or desirable.
In this paper, we consider curriculum as a policy text in the context of Australian politics. We argue for the development of socially-just pedagogies for dance that disrupt common sense and dominant readings of desirable bodies and desirable dance.  We conclude by considering how, with increasing cultural diversity, the school curriculum might become more inclusive of students whose life experiences may marginalise them in schools and how educators might cultivate dance pedagogies that value the different life experiences of all learners.