Written by Shanna Kirkpatrick, Chara Founder
Developing Strong Mental Skills Through Dance and Music
Along with May flowers, Mother’s Day, and the excitement of summer around the corner, this month ushers in awareness of an essential topic: mental health. Back in 1949, Mental Health America (then known as the National Association for Mental Health) declared May as Mental Health Awareness Month in the U.S. While mental health is always an important subject to discuss, it’s this key time of year that brings it into the limelight.
For me, it couldn’t be better timing as we gear up for recital season and look forward to so many wonderful performances for Chara’s young dancers and musicians. Mental Health Awareness Month reminds me of just how important it is that we are developing strong mental skills in our students; that we are encouraging our youth to build self-confidence and offering the opportunity for them to explore their creativity, grow their resilience, and develop a healthy outlet for stress relief—all within the safe boundaries and high standards of our care at the studio.
I’ve written before about the positive impact of an arts education, and when you consider that impact specifically on kids’ cognitive and emotional development—it’s huge! With every class, rehearsal, lesson, and performance, our students are growing their mental fortitude. These are just a few ways we’re seeing Chara dancers and musicians develop mental strength:
- By learning new skills from our experienced faculty, our students are being cognitively challenged in developmentally appropriate ways. They practice and persevere in order to achieve a specific outcome, whether that is to master a certain dance step or a new song on the guitar.
- Because the arts offer a form of self-expression, dance and music lessons and performances give our students the chance to identify, manage, and channel their emotions—a sometimes-overlooked skill that is key to self-management.
- Social skills, like teamwork and communication, are developed in our students as they work together in classes and cheer each other on at performances. Just as adults do in a workplace, young artists learn to navigate each others’ different personalities.
- Even life as a child can be stressful, and dance and music both allow opportunities for our kids to release that stress in a healthy way. A bad day can easily be turned around after a fulfilling dance rehearsal or music lesson!
- Confidence grows every time a Chara student performs, whether it’s a dance recital or music recital—and whether it goes “perfectly” or not. Children learn how to bravely take their place on stage and give their best effort, resulting in an impactful self-esteem boost.
It is in all these ways that the Chara team helps our students help themselves—setting them up with the lifelong character qualities of resilience, grit, confidence, and self-management.
Mental health awareness begins with understanding its importance, and knowing it’s not just about illness but about wellness. In arts education, the heart of this awareness is the development of mental fortitude; it matters just as much as the development of dance steps or musical dexterity. At Chara, we couldn’t be more proud of the way our students continue to learn and adapt their mental skills, leaning into their best efforts and as a result, becoming strong, compassionate, faith-filled young artists.