The Robert Cohan Lecture: What Matters?

Readers may have noticed our tweets from the lunchtime lecture at The Place yesterday – the inaugural annual Cohan Lecture which was given by Robert Cohan himself. After a brief opening address Mr Cohan took part in a conversation with Sir Ken Robinson, who is a patron of The Place and a strong advocate of dance in schools, as well as the arts in general.

Our thanks go to Kenneth Tharp and his team at The Place for organising this event.

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The Place:

Robert Cohan:

Guardian review – Cohan at 90:

The Last Guru:

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Ken Robinson has not only been a strong advocate of teaching children to dance – he’s suggested children should be able to dance every day as part of their education. And why not? Without suggesting dance should be compulsory it’s clear all children can benefit from taking part in dance sessions. Play some rhythmic music and most children will move their bodies in time to the music.

Why does this happen? Why do so many (if not most) of us have an urge to dance and feel pleasure when we dance? The same can be said of singing. The benefits are clear – physically, socially, emotionally, spiritually and mentally. So why deny children those benefits? We should all dance for the sheer joy of the experience, to enjoy the wellbeing that arises from taking part. Millions of us watch Strictly Come Dancing – but why do so few actually dance? All credit to Ann Widdecombe for taking part, and if she can do it then so can the vast majority of us.


Children should also be taken to watch professional dancers performing in various venues. Very few children have parents who see the need for this (or are able to afford it) and so schools should make provision within their annual budgets. (Again – this should be an option, not compulsory.) Do schools even have budgets for dance? Maybe the PSHE budget could meet the cost. A PSHE budget? we hear you ask.

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The Cohan Lecture posed the question “What Matters?”

Whilst this is patently a difficult, philosophical question to answer, Robert Cohan – through reminiscing on his life, prompted by Ken Robinson, made some pertinent comments.

He said that we should live inside our own world – “It’s inside yourself that matters”.

This resonates with what Ken Robinson says in his latest book – that our education system educates about the world around a child, not the world within, ignoring important facets (or as we would say, the various intelligences) of that inner world.

“We only know the world around us through the world within us, through the senses by which we perceive it and the ideas by which we make sense of it”.

He went on to say,

“How we think about the world around us can be deeply affected by the feelings within us, and how we feel may be critically shaped by our knowledge, perceptions, and personal experiences. Our lives are formed by the constant interaction between these two worlds, each affecting how we see and act in the other. . . . .The conventional academic curriculum is focused almost entirely on the world around us and pays little attention to the inner world. We see the results of that every day in boredom, disengagement, stress, bullying, anxiety, depression and dropping out. These are human issues and they call for human responses.”

For some, like Robert Cohan, those two worlds have combined in dance.


His willingness to learn, his ability to teach what he has learned to others, his recognition of the physical and spiritual wellbeing of dance demonstrates both an understanding of the inner and outer worlds but also of the capacity of human intelligences – it’s not all about IQ.

This is what dance and music can do, offering children and adults alike a discovery of both the world around and the world within. Ensuring that we discover both is what matters.

We look forward to the video of this Cohan lecture when it’s posted on the website of The Place.

About 3D Eye

Gary Foskett and Clare Blackhall are educationalists, writers and consultants. We work with schools and other organisations who share our vision of how schools, businesses, etc should work in the 21st Century. We also run courses and contribute to conferences - speaking about our three dimensional model of intelligences and how schools, colleges and universities can develop the full potential of all their staff and students. We also offer consultancy for businesses and public sector organisations to support staff training and organisational change and development. For more detailed information read our blog at or see our website at
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