By Deborah Cardoso
For most children, physical education is the highlight of their day in elementary school. Most people can remember the adrenaline that came with being the last person standing during an intense game of dodgeball or trying to hold in your giggles during a game of freeze tag. While most have vivid memories of these games, dance is increasingly as important to physical education classes nationwide.
In a room of about 15 physical education master students at Manhattanville College, physical education and dance teacher Cindi Parise is watching students Luna Siracusa and Mitchell Cohen, perform the polka, a Czech dance from the mid-19th century, which they will be graded on.
While the main focus of physical education is to encourage exercise, the activities during physical education can help in many different aspects of child’s life.
“It can build interpersonal relationships,” said Mitchell Cohen, who hopes to be an elementary physical education teacher. “People who aren’t close to each other and who aren’t friends with each other, it can help them make more friends and get more comfortable.”
Cindi Parise, a physical education and dance teacher at the graduate level at Manhattanville College has been involved in dance almost her whole life.
From performing in a Broadway show when she was pregnant to now teaching aspiring physical education teachers, Parise is a strong believer in the use of music to better people’s lives.
Incorporating dance into physical education has the ability to help children form better relationships.
“I always say ‘grab a partner’ and I let them find a partner and what happens?” said Parise, “there’s always someone who doesn’t have one.”
When that one student is left without a partner, Parise tells them to dance with her. But to encourage different students to dance with each other she said “every 3 times we do a step, I have them rotate to their right or their left. Then they get to know more kids in the class and they become more comfortable,” said Parise.
(Mitchell Cohen and Luna Siracusa dancing The Polka)
While incorporating dance into physical education can help in many different aspects of a child’s life, “dancing is a good way to get your heart rate up,” said Cohen.
Dr. Rhonda Clements, the physical education, and sports pedagogy master’s program director at Manhattanville College also agreed on the importance of dance in physical education, saying, “music was the first form of physical activity and recreation.”
“We consider music to be really important because it sparks movement,” said Dr. Clements.
Everyone agreed that the use of music and dance can be beneficial to people of all ages, “but little children, in particular, they love music,” said Dr. Clements.