Good Morning America co-host, Lara Spencer, made headlines last month about Britain’s young Prince George and his love of ballet.
As an arts practitioner and arts advocate, I was disheartened and angered by the insensitivity of her comment about boys participating in ballet. During a segment she said, "Prince William said Prince George absolutely loves ballet...I have news for you Prince William, we’ll see how long that lasts."
I have a son who danced, and I have taught many male dancers. These are some of the bravest and strongest individuals I have encountered. Even as we make strides towards acceptance and inclusion, it’s a stigma still facing men in the fine and performing arts, particularly dance.
As a mom of sons, I was encouraged by the way the dance community and their supporters turned out to show love and discuss the importance of performing arts. Many dancers, including Broadway stars and ballet principals, talked about the benefit of their arts upbringing, and I couldn’t agree more.
Here are nine benefits of incorporating performing arts into kids’ lives:
1. Human experience. Practicing art is critical in the human experience. The performing arts nurture compassion and kindness toward others, and allow us to reflect on the human condition.
2. Creativity. Performing arts encourage creative thinking and creative problem-solving. Kids learn to look at the world in new and creative ways.
3. Non-verbal communication. Dance and theater in particular aid in the development of non-verbal communication skills, including gestures, facial expressions, tone of voice, eye contact, body language, posture and more.
4. Dedication. The performing arts require regular dedicated practice commitment and practice. Kids will learn to balance a schedule and develop healthy work habits.
5. Constructive feedback. It teaches kids that feedback is part of the learning process. The understanding that through training and practice, mistakes will be made, but it is the only way to learn and grow in your craft. Kids will apply this same principle to other areas in their life.
6. Collaboration. Performing arts are collaborative by nature. They teach kids how to work as an ensemble or team and share responsibility. In these fields, individuals work together toward a common goals. Performers work with directors, designers, teachers, choreographers and each other to produce a final product.
7. Confidence. Performing arts build confidence — and not just on-stage, but in other arenas of life, too. It teaches kids to take command of a space, to make their voice heard and improves interpersonal communication. All of this gives them the confidence later in life when they're required to speak in front of a group or interview for a job.
8. Community. The arts connect kids to the larger world and gives them a sense of belonging.
9. Self-expression. The arts allow children to explore their feelings both verbally and non-verbally, and to transfer those feeling to the stage. The essence of art is expressing oneself.
Thank you to Lara for owning the mistake and taking the time to educate herself and others about the power of the performing arts. The passion and ferocity this community has is unrivaled. The lessons my kids have learned from incorporating arts into their lives make them well-rounded individuals — and for that I am thankful.
Shea Saladee lives in Papillion with her husband, Brent, and their three children. She works as an instructor at the University of Nebraska Omaha.