Dance lessons 'important as English and maths', says Royal Ballet choreographer


Dance education should be considered as important as lessons in maths and English, according to the resident choreographer of the Royal Ballet.

Wayne McGregor, who served as the government's first Youth Dance Champion from 2008 to 2010, said the physical intelligence learned through dance should be seen as of equal value to academic studies.

McGregor, who was the first choreographer to come from a contemporary dance background when he was appointed to the Royal Ballet in 2006, told BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs: "I think we have always done ourselves a bit of a disservice in the arts to say that arts are supplementary to maths and English.

"I think it's really important that actually dance is as important and one of the reasons that some people go to school is to have experiences in drama or in dance, but also that knowledge transfer, the brilliant things dance has to offer education generally - your physical education, yes, but also your mental, creative, innovation education.

"That is why I felt I needed to speak up and try to get more money in to schools for people to have the opportunity to do more and more of that.

"Unfortunately over the last four years that has been eroded and eroded."

Questioned by host Kirsty Young if he was really saying that dance should be regarded with the same importance as academic subjects, McGregor said: "I think I am saying that.

"I think about all of my experiences in work and most of them are about building relationships with people that are inter-personal and about taking the energy of someone and using my energy to be able to convince them to help me develop a project, whatever that is.

"Those transferable skills are about understanding physical intelligence in interesting ways and get you to be able to do things, make things and create things. It's super important to understand that intelligence crosses many domains."

McGregor applauded BBC One show Strictly Come Dancing for helping people get back in touch with the physical abilities they lost after childhood.

He said: "I think Strictly is amazing. You see people who don't normally dance having to go through a process where they put their body through an ordeal in a way.

"They have to activate and re-energise all those things that they have lost in terms of the physical abilities they had as children and they have to find a way of coordinating themselves.

"What I love is the journey for those stars, that you see them dyspraxic almost, not able to move, and over time you see that body have rhythm and flow and that is extraordinary. 

"It's never too late to dance and get back in touch with your body."

Desert Island Discs is on BBC Radio 4 at 11.15am.