Two new exciting developments at PMPA

Why dance at Port Macquarie Performing Arts is benefitting your child in more ways than one…

Vertical integration and Primitive Reflexes

I want to fill you in on a few things we have been doing at PMPA based on some cool research we have been equipping ourselves with over the past few years.

The first is the notion of Vertical Integration. In October I attended a Dance Teacher conference during the holidays (Port Eisteddfod time) that opened my mind to a concept that I had always been interested in and that we had been doing on some levels.

Kaitlin Hague, a masters graduate and fellow studio owner presented a topic based on the research portion of her masters that centred around creating high performing dancers.

The results of the study were fascinating. Participants in the research were all professional dancers whom Kaitlin had studied over a number of years and tracked their progress from dance student to professional dancer.

Basically the participants found that studying at a higher level than they were currently training at, highly valued the experience and what it gave to their training. The most positive of these, the exposure to more advanced concepts and dancers that this style of training gave them. Not only did it give them an increase in exposure to new movements and technique bit also for the inspiration it gave them. It acted as a “turn key” for boosting them to the next level of expertise.

With this in mind, we have been giving our IPP and JPP more of an opportunity to work together this term, using the vertical integration model. But the research found that it doesn’t just serve the younger students in the class. It also has benefits for the big kids – by teaching or working with younger kids in their class, it enables metacognition, this is where our older dancers have to demonstrate or teach something to someone else. What happens then is that this process basically anchors the information differently in their brains and deepens their understanding of the concepts.

So with these benefits in mind and the research under our belts, we will continue to explore other options for vertical integration in our curriculum as we are already seeing the benefits with our dancers.

The second program we have been implementing is the introduction of primitive reflex work with our junior performance students. Our youngest performers in Petite Performers along with our 8 years performance students who are also in the studio on a Tuesday night have been working hard on their control with local Occupational Therapist and our Dance As Therapy head teacher Amy Vallentine.

We have long known that the things that your dancer learns in the dance studio go far beyond pirouettes and plies. The brain requires external stimuli in order to develop and movement is the primary type of early external stimuli that a child’s brain needs to develop efficiently.

We have been working with our junior performers to expose their bodies and brains to the correct movement patterns, in the natural sequence, to mimic the first 12 months of their life.

Some of our objectives in this work include: Maximising our dancers visual motor coordination so that they can perform their routines and technique with ease. Developing coordinated gross motor and fine motor movements essential for successful participation in their academic learning through movement and specific exercises. The outcomes from this work should also include an increase for our dancers in their functional balance and postural control, improved sensory regulation and sleep patterns and decreased anxiety related to high pressure situations such as eisteddfod or examination performances.

Whilst the exercises look easy, the students have found that they have been leaving the lesson exhausted, using muscles and neural pathways not yet before utilised. We hope to increase our use of this highly scientific curriculum in more of our classes to continue working beyond the dance studio and into the daily lives of our dancers.

If you want to speak with us about either of these new initiatives, we would love to get in touch with you. Happy moving!