The Entire School Dances! The project was conducted in Vantaa, Finland in 2009–2013. The project was funded by the Finnish Ministry of Education and the City of Vantaa and carried out in collaboration with the Performing Arts Research Centre of the Theatre Academy Helsinki. A peer-reviewed research monograph was published by the Theatre Academy in Finnish in December 2013 (Anttila 2013). The monograph includes the following abstract in English, which highlights the main idea and findings of the project.

The Entire School Dances! The project took place at Kartanonkoski School, Vantaa in 2009–2013 as a part of ‘Aladdin’s Lamp’, a national arts education network. A fulltime dance teacher was hired for four years to teach dance to all pupils at the school, and dance was integrated in the curriculum. Professional development days were arranged for the teachers, and several performances, artists’ visits and events took place in the school. A broad study accompanied the project. This publication presents the theoretical and philosophical background, pedagogical principles and practical procedures of the project, as well as the methodological framework and outcomes of the study. The main focus is the significance of dance and embodied learning in schools.

The pedagogical and methodological premises of the Entire School Dances! project are intertwined, concentrating on the question of the embodied origin of learning. Thus, embodied learning is the pedagogical basis and scholarly focus of the project. A deeper understanding of embodied learning advances a conception of learning as a comprehensive phenomenon that takes into account the human being as a whole. The notion of embodied learning entails that learning takes place within the entire human being and between human beings, within the social and physical reality. It also means that embodied activity is a fundamental element in learning. Embodied activity refers to both actual movement and inner bodily sensations, experiences and physiological changes. This view of learning is wider than traditional conceptions and is connected to an epistemological shift, that is, the embodied or corporeal turn. This shift rejects Cartesian dualism as the explanatory model of human existence and endorses a holistic view where distinct forms of human existence are interdependent.

Probing embodied learning in practice may lead to further articulation of the significance of embodiment in learning. The purpose of the study is to articulate what embodied learning is and what it means in the reality of school life. Methodologically, the study leans on collaborative action research and communicative evaluation research. It has generated continuous feedback for developing the project. The starting point has been the participation of the entire school community. The study has supported the pedagogical aims of the study, namely the development of the school community, teachers’ professional skills and pedagogical thinking, as well as the generation of new pedagogical practices. The study also aims to elucidate how embodied learning works in practice, and how is it experienced by the students and teachers.

A particular school community is the context, and thus the focus, of the study. However, the main focus is on the researcher, as well as on her values and beliefs concerning the significance of dance and art in learning. The wider aim of the study is to evoke discussion about the significance of dance and art in society and about the meaning of embodiment in learning and holistic development. Thus, the personal and contextual may generate relevant issues for discussion on a wider–even political–level.


Based on this study, it seems that dance may trigger a positive cycle where individuals’ bodily experiences become intertwined with the pleasure of collaboration. An essential element in this process seems to be the awareness of everyone’s participation in dance instruction. This enhances a communal experience which everyone shares. It seems to reduce embarrassment, prejudices and fear concerning one’s own bodily expression and performing.

Performing seems to be an important path towards bodily awareness and self-confidence. It seems to connect self-confidence and a sense of community. Performing becomes possible when self-confidence develops, and performing strengthens self-confidence further. Witnessing each other performing seems to create a sense of being recognised and being seen, and this creates a common experience which builds the sense of community. In this project, the sense of community has developed primarily within specific classrooms, but it has also extended and affected the entire school community through common events and performances.

There were many obstacles for dance instruction in the school, including lack of time, packed and subject-driven curricula and teachers’ professional autonomy. Based on this study, it seems that teachers should collaborate more with each other. In this way, the teachers could give models for collaboration, interaction and bodily expressivity to their pupils.

When the project ended in May 2013, it was evident that dance was a part of everyday life at Kartanonkoski School. Pupils and teachers had become used to dance being part of the curriculum, and most of them had also accepted it. Dance was not mere recreation and deviation from routine; rather, it had affected the way of being in school, as well as the energy and atmosphere within the school. From this viewpoint, it is possible to see school life as social choreography, where interaction is enacted as embodied events and performative acts, and the school can be seen as the stage of life.

Dance and embodied learning have generated versatile learning experiences within the school community. These experiences are reflected in a sense of comfort in relating to one’s own embodiment, bodily expressivity, interaction, and performing. Dance has not necessarily generated visible, measurable outcomes in motor skills or conceptual thinking. However, there are no indications that integrating dance in the curriculum has generated weaker learning outcomes in academic subjects. This observation is concurrent with the results of studies where the amount of physical education within school curricula has been increased.

The skills generated by dance and embodied learning extend beyond subject areas and possibly beyond the school world. These skills are related to being together and living together, to accepting oneself and others, to creativity and collaboration. The aim of this publication is to ignite discussion about how these skills are appreciated in the school world.


Anttila, Eeva. 2013. «Koko koulu tanssii! Kehollisen oppimisen mahdollisuuksia kouluyhteisössä» [The Entire School Dances! The Possibilities of Embodied Learning in a School Context]. Acta Scenica 37. (Accessed July 21, 2015)



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