Dance4Peace: How Teaching Kids to Dance Can Reduce Bullying in Schools

In 2010, Sara Potler initiated Dance4Peace (D4P) in five U.S. cities to teach empathy and conflict management to American youths to fight bulling. Now Potler wants to make D4P a mandatory requirement in all education systems. Potler's program has raised questions as to whether this program could actually lessen the number of cases of bullying among youths.

D4P began when Potler witnessed students in Colombia not understanding the concepts of empathy and conflict management they were being taught for years, which was heavily reliant on book- knowledge, and not knowledge they could put into practice. To help students use this knowledge in a practical way, Potler thought of incorporating dance since it's such a huge part of Latin American culture. But it turns out, that this program is applicable to every culture because of dance's universal techniques that teach empathy and conflict management.

She wanted children to better understand these abstract and knew Latin Americans understood concepts through dance as a part of their culture, so she integrated the theories of dance into the teachings of peace anti-bullying ideologies.  

This integration makes D4P a universal education program against bullying. D4P did not just work for the Latin American culture. It was universal because the dance of each culture teaches the same basic techniques.

D4P uses the techniques of dance and movement to explain in concrete movements the ideas of confidence, empathy, and conflict management. According to D4P, emotional and social competency is needed to build confidence, empathy, and conflict management -- three traits needed to fight the drive for winning, power, and violence. Students begin with confidence and graduate to empathy and conflict management classes.

Children, then, learn empathy through dance. After mastering the art of expression through dance, children learn the opposing action of expression -- listening, a key component of empathy. Through dance, children are better able to decode the musical aspects (such as rhythm, stress, and intonation) of speech to better identify the emotions of others and tones of speech. In turn, children’s ability to communicates improves.