Dance - American EducationAn art involving bodily movements according to a planned, rhythmic pattern, usually performed to music. A standard part of the college curriculum in precolonial England, dancing was taught with singing “and all games proper for nobles, as those brought up in the king’s household are accustomed to practice.” In the late 18th century, philosopher John Locke’s work Some Thoughts Concerning Education listed dancing, along with music, fencing and horsemanship as important complements to formal education in classical subjects.
Dancing did not, however, find its way into the curricula of schools and colleges in the American colonies, where Puritan ministers in charge of 17th-century education frowned upon and often banned amusements. Formal dancing was, however, taught outside school to the children of the landed gentry by private instructors. At the beginning of the 19th century, when gymnastics was introduced into private academies, dancing, too, was taught. Aside from teaching proper manners, dress and behavior with members of the opposite sex, dancing promoted fitness and helped youngsters develop motor skills, coordination of mind and muscles, and respect for rules.
Dancing remained a standard element of the private elementary school curriculum until the late 1950s, when improvisational dancing to rock-and-roll music replaced formal ballroom dancing.