Ridgewood High School has a great dance program. The high school provides students with a studio primarily dedicated to dance, which is offered as an elective. Unlike many other high schools, dancing can also be an alternative to gym. This privilege, however, is only extended to seniors. Exclusively limiting dance as a gym class to seniors may be preventing underclassmen from getting a sufficient workout. Run days and lift days are very beneficial, but may not be for everyone. A student of any age is very capable of receiving a better workout in a dance class, over a gym class, especially if a student is interested in the art of dance over weightlifting. This increased incentive will also boost the students’ workout.
Dancing is often written off as “girly” or dainty, causing many people to overlook the benefits that it has. Though dance is not commonly considered a sport, it is an excellent form of exercise. It is valuable for maintaining good health and helps build a healthy heart and lungs. Dancing can also help to prevent cardiovascular disease, increase stamina, and strengthen bones and muscles. Dancing is also a fun alternative to stay in shape without the stress of running or working out. Since dancing provides similar results as the sports and workouts done in gym class, many feel that it should be extended as an option to underclassmen as well.
At the same time, offering dance as an alternative to the gym in each grade could bring with it some negative effects. The stereotype dance holds of being a female-only activity will be dragged into the high school. As a result, it would be likely that an immense amount of females would take dance, while the males continue with general physical education. This division may make students feel obligated to take a particular class based on their gender, even if they do not want to. Also, only taking dance or gym would also lack some of the benefits each program offers. Dancing may improve stamina, but gym classes like personal fitness strengthen particular muscle groups. A third problem that arises when deciding whether or not Ridgewood should expand dance courses is studio space. Since the high school has three gyms and a fitness center, four different gym classes can occur during one period. There would not be enough space for multiple dance classes to happen in the same way due to pre-existing elective periods and the high number of students who would want to participate. It would be nearly impossible to schedule enough classes for four different grades with only one studio and one teacher.
Instead of offering dance as a gym class, one interesting solution is that it should be provided as one gym unit. This way, the curriculum can incorporate essential dance exercises for the students that are more comfortable with dancing, while still having the advantages from fitness intensive classes. The combination of both activities would maximize the benefits from each student’s workouts. This way, every student at Ridgewood High School could feel comfortable in each class. Body image is an everyday struggle amongst teens, which can make gym class dreadful. The larger the variety of activities, however, the more enjoyable gym will be to students.
Jackie Schmidt and Jules Einemer
Graphic: Amelia Chen