Parenting: newborns to toddlers

Dancing helps develop a child's imagination

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 18 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 April, 2015, 1:01pm

My little boy Tom has started to dance - well, if you can call it that. It's more bouncing up and down accompanied with a bit of arm waving and clapping, plus the occasional maniacal twirl.

He started with bobbing up and down to our nursery rhyme DVD, progressed to dancing along to CDs and - best yet - started dancing along to the rock 'n' roll music an elderly gentleman plays on his radio in a Mui Wo public square every day.

I'm keen to enrol Tom in some sort of music and dance class, so I approach Chu Sui-ming, a musician who teaches Dalcroze Eurhythmic music and movement lessons every Saturday in our local sports centre. The trouble is, her classes are for three-year-olds and above. My little groover is only 16 months old.

But within five minutes of our meeting, she's suggested running a baby class for us. Rock and roll, as they say! Except it's not. Chu uses classical music to encourage rhythm and movement because of its "long history, packed full of treasure".

"The body is a very special instrument to a human being," says Chu. "Through listening to music and then responding to it, the body and brain are connected. We tend to concentrate on training the brain, especially in Hong Kong, and we forget the importance of the body in terms of human development. The language of music provides a lot of nutrition to our human expression."

Chu gives an example of how she teaches children the concept of time through long and short notes: she gets the children to walk like elephants for the long notes and mice for the short notes.

"Children need to develop their creative potential and imagination. If you give them these skills now, they will stay with them for life," Chu says. But she reckons music and movement classes like hers are best for children who have already developed muscle control, and have attained a level of independence from their parents.

For another musical experience, we went to a dance event put on by the local Filipino community recently. As the band played, the main contingent on the dance floor was made up of under-sixes. The adults watched while the kids danced freestyle to Hotel California.

It's later on in life that some of us develop inhibitions, and start to skirt round the edge of a dance floor.

Tom has no such inhibitions yet and will even bop merrily to a mobile phone ringing. I want him to maintain this insouciance for as long as possible before he becomes a teenager, and is embarrassed to be seen dancing anywhere near his ageing parents.

Chu says dance is more than just a bit of fun: "These movements help develop balance and gait, co-ordination, improvisation and creativity," she says.

All these qualities are very useful. But for me, the greatest aspect of dancing is the joy it brings. To quote the Swedish pop group Abba, a band from my own youth, "Without a song or a dance, what are we? So I say, thank you for the music, for giving it to me."