Eagle Rock students show off their moves during a presentation on the link between dance and cognitive functioning.

Eagle Rock students show off their moves during a presentation on the link between dance and cognitive functioning.

Forty students from Eagle Rock Elementary were invited to show off their moves while demonstrating a fun and healthy way to develop their brains at a special presentation on the link between organized dance and cognitive functioning.

The California Dance Institute (CDI) – a nonprofit arts education organization founded by Joffrey Ballet principal Carole Valleskey – conducted a lecture and demonstration of how teaching basic dance steps to students aids brain development and student achievement at the UCLA Semel Institute Auditorium.

Owen Hament, an Eagle Rock fourth-grader, and his father, Oliver, were among the event’s invitees.
“This is such an amazing opportunity for our students,” Oliver Hament said. “They are getting the chance to combine physical education with the arts, while developing hand-eye coordination, creativity, teamwork, and leadership.” He spoke of the expectations for students to come up with their own choreography and work with others to turn their creations into performances for an audience.
Hament also talked about how programs like CDI reinforce the belief that practicing hard and exercising good discipline results in positive outcomes for students. “Owen sees how continually practicing improves his steps, and then this carries over into other areas including his academic studies. It’s really giving him a boost in learning good study habits … all while staying physically fit.”
The CDI offers both in-school and after school programs. Fourth-grade students at Eagle Rock Elementary have the option to swap one day of physical education for dance every Friday with the institute, and then all students are invited to participate in after-school activities if they want to sharpen their dance skills further.
The students learn to dance with live accompaniment from a piano, drums, and vocalist.

The students learn to dance with accompaniment from a piano, drums and vocalist.

An elite group of students known as the Scholarship for the Willing, Achieving and Talented (SWAT) were selected to perform at the UCLA presentation, showing off their well-choreographed moves to live music along with a lecture given by Dr. Adele Diamond, a neuroscientist who studies “executive functions,” which are measurable mental abilities that are linked to academic success.

“Executive functions are more predictive of how well students will do in school from the early elementary grades through university than IQ,” Diamond said.”They are more predictive of how well they do in life, in the job market, and what happens after they graduate.”
The relationship between Eagle Rock Elementary and CDI developed when the school’s principal reached out to the organization. Interested educators and parents can learn more about the programs offered by visiting www.californiadanceinstitute.org.