Out of Mind

by beccaborrelli


Ballet Dancers. Edgar Degas. 1899.

Ballet Dancers. Edgar Degas. 1899.

One thing schools fail miserably at it is getting children out of their minds.

In seventh grade, myself and 3 other girls were required to come up with a dance routine for gym class. It was to be performed in front of all our peers, Taylor the cutest boy in school, our PE Instructor, and half of the cheerleading squad who God had placed in my gym class as some sort of cruel joke.

In order to practice, we turned on 80’s synth music at my house one night… “Pump up the Jam” or something awful. Between awkward writhing, mismatched beats, and my friend’s giggles… it became clear that dreams of back up dancer-dom with a Janet Jackson tour were dying a tragic death.

I avoided all forms of public dancing after that. Repressed desires led to an unusual obsession with hard core rap. To my parent’s dismay I began shutting my bedroom door to Bone Thugs and Harmony, and 2 Live Crew. They needn’t have worried, I wasn’t listening to the lyrics… I was mesmerized by the beats.

After college my musical tastes broadened a bit. While I lived in Miami a friend from Venezuela tried to show me how to Salsa. “It’s easy,” he said. “The woman just follows the man.” Even after 3 Coronas with a highly qualified Latin dance partner by my side… I was crossing my feet and knocking us into his card table.

“You really need to let loose,” said my friend. “A woman who can’t dance is… just… missing something.”

Even though he couldn’t pin point it… I knew what he meant, and I was miserable about it.

Sir Ken Robinson– author of the book Out of Our Minds– often speaks about Dance in his speeches. When Public Education was founded, it’s utility was an economic one, which caused a hierarchy of subjects to occur. At the top of school priority pyramids are the Mathematics, Sciences and Languages. Then the Humanities. Then the Arts at the bottom. (We’re at the bottom because we support everyone else… mwah haha!)


However even at the underfunded, under-appreciated bottom… we have another hierarchy. Often Visual Arts (moi!) and Music are at the top of the Arts Pyramid, while Drama and Dance are considered less important. Why is Dance “such a loser, asks Robinson?” Because no one ever saw any economic point in it.

I had the privilege to see Robinson speak in Cleveland a few years ago. During his talk, he spoke about researchers who studied a certain Indigenous African Tribe’s methods of educating children. While speaking with a translator, one of the tribesmen spoke about “educating children’s 7 senses.

“Don’t you mean 5 senses?” replied the researcher.

Well… no. Interestingly, this tribe believed humans have 7 senses. The sixth sense is what we already know as extrasensory perception. However their seventh sense proved to be something new to the researchers… this tribe believed children have a sense of balance and movement within space. One way the tribe taught children about movement and balance was through ritualistic… dance. I’m sure a Professional Dancer would do a better job of explaining why an education of the body is equally important to an education of the mind… but let me have a go at it. My blog… my disjointed stories.

Two weeks ago I went out with my friend Jon. Jon knows about these brazen fears of dancing. If he were British he would say that it’s a “load of rubbish.” On our way home with the windows all the way down Jon and I listened to my new favorite song.

“Listen B, hear the beat… just move to it… one, two, one two…” said Jon. He put his hands out of my sun roof… one, two, one, two… As I awkwardly bopped in my seat Jon gave me a wink.

“Don’t think about it okay? The beat is already in you, just listen to yourself.”

And I got it. For the first time in 16 years I danced without fear and I was on the beat. Granted I was in the driver’s seat of car… baby steps people. I felt like I knew myself better than I had in a long time.

Why is this important for education? Is teaching children to connect to some inexplicable inner source/ spirit/ soul if you will… necessary in a world where China is kicking our ass in Engineering? It’s certainly not economically important. Then the question begs to be asked- is education only meant to get children a job? Or is it poss-i-ble…. that education might… just… be about something… moooore. Like I dunno, holistic well-being, inner peace and happiness?

Silly rabbits. Of course it’s just for a job. Happiness don’t fuel the machine, ya know what I mean?