Working with instrumental only tracks

Thinking about what is biorhythmically appropriate for children…

I like tracks that suggest skipping, galloping and side sliding as ways to locomote, as opposed to running or walking.

When we do Travelers and the Magic Forest (from AlphaBeat) it just feels so good for locomotion with the swing-feel of skip, gallop and side slide. It’s uplifting.

From the new version of Step on the Beat:

I’ve been playing Clap Along Song and Apples and Oranges (Instrumental Only = IO) for Shape Museums.

Shape Maker/Shape Explorer (IO) for resting, for blind mirror, sculptor and clay.

Other resting tracks….

Brain Bop tracks 13 and 14.

Eric Chappelle’s Contrast and Continuum Volume 3 #17

Carol Rosenberger “Such Stuff as Dreams…

James Galway Nocturne

Warm Ups for older students

Peter Jones Gradual Motion

All the IO tracks on Brain Bop

Also really love….

Deep Forest Comparsa

…GREAT for choreography

May 28, 2011. Favorite Music, What to do with..... Leave a comment.

Favorite books for dance making with younger students

My all time favorite is Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell because you can interact with the text (it’s a flip book; the children have to guess the animals) and they can travel through the space as different animals.  I tend to stop after each animal so the children can dance them, then call them back to the book for the next page.

Another fun interactive book, that gives sound and footprint hint to help children guess the next animal is Animal Tracks by Dee Dee Duffy.  Fun for moving more specifically like animals: bounding, pacing, diagonal walking, etc. (Google that!)

Everyone likes to dance We’re going on a bear hunt.  We like the one illustrated by Helen Oxenbury.

I just found a book called The Magic Hat by Mem Fox that looks like a winner.

The Mitten, illustrated by Jan Brett, is fun for relationship lessons.  Everyone gets very near in the mitten, which we design on the floor with yarn (or with people on the boundaries).

There’s a cool one for pathways called The Squiggle by Carole Lexa Schaefer that I learned about from Beth Melin-Nelson at the Level I training for American Orff Schulwerk last summer in Dallas.

For older students (7 and up)

Diane Siebert’s books: Mojave, Truck Song, Heartland –are rhythmic poem books that lend themselves to choreography and can used with older children too.

Ditto for Thomas Locker’s book Water Dance.

What are you dancing?


Below are some great dance books that I recommend for the the dancer(s) in your lives.

1.  I am a Dancer – by Pat Lowery Collins (ages 3-8) – A wonderful imaginative story about how we are dancers wherever we go! Really nice illustrations as well.

2.  The Animal Boogie – by Debbie Harter (ages 3-6) – A rhyming text presents animals as they dance their way around the jungles. This books also includes a sing-a-long CD!

3.  Giraffes Can’t Dance – by Giles Andrede (ages 3-8) – A wonderful story set in the jungle! This book has a great message for all of us!

4.  Let’s Dance – by George Ancona (ages 4-8) – This book shows the joy of dance with children and adults from many countries who leap, turn, and boogie. Stunning photographs!

5.  Marie in Fourth Position – by Amy Littlesugar (ages 6-10) – This is the story of Degas’s little dancer.  After Marie models for the artist and sculptor Edgar Degas, Marie feels transformed into a butterfly and becomes known all over the world as “The Little Dancer”.

6.  Tanya and Emily in a Dance for Two – by Patricia Lee Gauch (ages 4-8) – When Tanya, the smallest and wiggliest girl in her ballet class, makes friends with a talented newcomer, they both learn something.  A wonderful book with ballet terminology.

7. Ailey Spirit – The Journal of an American Dance Company – (ages 12+) – An incredible book with eye-opening photographs illuminates the performance and artistic quality of this well known dance company.

8.  Basic Principles of Classical Ballet – (ages 12+) – This is the one book I carried around with me throughout college. A nice little book for serious ballet students that has stood the test of time!  A real nice reference book.

9.  Modern Tap Dictionary – by Glenn Shipley (ages 10+) – A wonderful little book for tap students. Great explanation of steps and terminology. Another oldie, but goodie!

These books can be found on and/or at Barnes & Noble.

Books that are fun for summer and swimming. 

Used this one today with Head Start (3 to 5 year olds) and then played “C’mon and Swim” recorded by Bobby Freeman to do the moves from the book.  Totally fun!

Froggy Learns to Swim by Jonathan London (ISBN 0-670-8551-0)

May 26, 2011. Favorite Books. 1 comment.

Working with special needs students

Last year we had a few students (between the ages of 4 – 10) who were on the autism spectrum and needed a little something more. We learned about The Autism Program here at UIUC which is housed in the Human and Community Development program. We got some good ideas for helping students adjust.  Here are highlights:

1) Provide a “social story.” We made a powerpoint that showed, step by step, what it would be like to come to class. Every page had a photo and a caption. This included exterior shots of the building and basics of the interior (dressing room, where to leave shoes).  Inside, each lead teacher stood by her room waving hello.  Then we showed a chart of the daily schedule and some caveats like “there may be some college students in the class dancing with you and the other children.”

We sent the “social story” ahead to help with the transition into the program for incoming 4s and 5s. They could read it with their parents ahead of time.  We also had a copy at the studio in case someone needed a little additional emotional scaffolding on site.

As it turned out, we didn’t have any kids this year who were neurologically atypical BUT we found that the social story ELIMINATED the tears and separation anxiety that usually afflicts new, young students on their first day! We are going to continue doing this in the future with all new students.

2) Put a stop sign on your door.  It helps keep kids from running out.

3) Have a daily schedule poster so children can follow the sequence of the class.  With the 4s and 5s, ours is:

Creative Dance Daily Schedule

4) Children on the autism spectrum need to know there is recourse if they are starting to melt down.  We have a ‘I need to take a break’ card that we can hand to a child who looks like he/she needs it.  On the flip side of the card are some ideas (in pictures) she can look at  for how to unwind: Mountain Breathing, Resting, Spinning, Watching.  There is a place in the room designated for taking a break. We didn’t need to use that this year, but I believe it will be effective in the future.

May 25, 2011. Special Needs. Leave a comment.

Questions about Studio Teaching

A question that came up lately is: What are the best days and times to have a studio program in creative dance for children?

What days of the week seem to conflict least with other things, and what time of day can you get kids into the studio?

What age groups seem to be most excited about creative dance (modern dance)?  Can you get 11-12 year olds into the studio for modern if they’ve never done creative as younger children?

What’s the youngest you teach?

How long are your creative classes for the different ages, how do you break them up (age? ability? gender? special needs?) and what do you call them?

Anyone who wants to share, please do.

May 21, 2011. Studio Teaching. 1 comment.

Favorite Early Childhood Music

Here are my favorites for early childhood:

by Me!

Songs for Dancing: Down by the Station, Welcome, Shape Song, Little Birdies, Goodbye Song
AlphaBeat: Sodeo, Drumtalk, Show Your Feelings!, Action Dance, Little Seed
Step on the Beat: Apples and Oranges, Clap Along and Stick Together
Brain Bop: Early Childhood Warm Up, Haunted House, Brain Bop

Jim Gill
I won’t list the specific tracks.  His music is fun and funny for the younger set.

Children’s Dances Volume I (we dance to this a lot before class starts)

Eric Chappelle’s Contrast and Continuum Series (Vol 1-4)
Specifically, all the skippy tracks for across the floor, Vol 2 #11 for leaping, Vol 4 #17 for Resting, and Giants and Babies (Vol 1 #14)

Except for Jim Gill, who has his own website, all the rest are available from West Music or directly from the artists.

How about your favorites?

May 17, 2011. Favorite Music. 3 comments.

Creative Dance “Recitals”

Kaitlin  asked: How do you think a creative dance class could lend its self to a recital?  To me a class for parents to observe is enough but I’m not sure how the studio where I teach would feel. At the same time I don’t know how I feel about creating a set dance for a recital in a creative dance class as I feel that it is not what creative dance is really “about.” Any ideas?

Kate says:

Here’s the Youtube link to a recent informance where parents and children danced together.  Children were 6 and 7 year olds.

One of the things that we love about creative dance is that  it strikes such a nice balance between organization and freedom.  We want the ‘freedom’ to shine through. For all activities, don’t over rehearse.  Keep a light touch.

Some “Explore” Activities that have a dynamic beginning-middle-end make for a great recital activity.  Depending on the age, and example is “Water and Ice.” Music: Eric Chappelle, Contrast and Continuum, Vol 1 #4     It has a thematic shape to it, with room for both improvisation and some ‘set’ movement if you choose.  Do it on a day when you are teaching “Free and Bound Flow” that falls close to the recital deadline.

Other good recital choices are the story-type dances. Examples are Little Seed, Snowflake  from AlphaBeat.  Or Haunted House from Brain Bop.  Or a story of your own that you love to show.

Younger children love Two Lands dances: like Giants and Babies (Eric Chappelle, Contrast and Continuum Vol. 1 #14)


What about Natural Disaster dances?  Assign small groups different disasters to choreograph. Props are optional. Tsunami, forest fire, earthquake, volcano.

Invented folk dances, with children designing their own movement ideas.

Notice how all these ideas are COMMUNAL and group oriented.  Not about frontal presentation but relating to and supporting one another.

The philosophy behind this is “dance feeds the body, mind and spirit.”  The ‘skill’ we are showing is how to express joy, creative and critical thinking and our humanity.

May 16, 2011. Recitals. 3 comments.

Front Loading and “I see”

One of the hardest things to do well is to get the pace of a class right and keep it moving.

Everyone knows that it’s important to overplan a lesson.

But how do you know if you’ve planned and paced the right lesson for your group?

Instant feedback teaches you alot.

A too-easy activity or a too-hard activity = you’ve lost them.

Imbalanced ratio of instruction time:moving time = same thing!

FRONT LOADING = Giving instruction at the top of the activity that will bring everyone up to speed on the same knowledge base.

So….how you front-load the lesson is crucial.

#1 Choose the fewest, most essential instructions for the front load.

#2 Layer on the details as they move.

#3 Use “I see” to provide instruction and feedback as they move. It also serves as an ‘indirect command.’

‘I SEE’ = You say what you see or what you WANT to see as they move, providing many options for movement choices within the parameters of the activity.  Example: You front-load for an activity about SPATIAL RELATIONSHIPS.  As the students move, you say “I see arms moving around heads, I see people moving through the empty spacesI see people going over and under the empty spaces made by other dancers….”

No matter if you see these things or not, students will react and begin to make these choices.  That’s an ‘indirect command.’

Of course, if you are already getting diverse choices, you can say “I see (insert name of student here) moving between other people in the empty spaces….”

May 16, 2011. Kate Kuper on Teaching Creative Dance. Leave a comment.

Talk about movement and learning with Kate Kuper

I have been wanting to start a blog ever since Kerry Bevens (NY) started writing and asking me specific questions about her teaching.

Seems like lots of us need to stay in touch and share our ideas about teach and learning.

Since I  train present and future teachers — from pre-school on up — and I also continue to work with children, there’s lots to talk about.

In this blog, I’ll be sharing things I’m observing and thinking about in our field.

I encourage you to respond with your comments and observations.

Together, we can continue to improve as teachers and learners.

By the way, when I say ‘we’ in my posts, I’m talking about the students that work with me in my Creative Dance for Children program at the University of Illinois.

Let’s get started!


Kids really enjoy resting.  I mean constructive resting.  Letting your bones and muscles just GO.
We adjust and lengthening the sacrum by holding at the ankles and releasing the lower body.  Then we walk up the body to the wrists, holding and lengthening through the arms to release the scapula (shoulderblades).  Finally, we walk around to the head side.  Looking down the length of the body, we align nose to sternum to pubic arch and we lengthen the cranium at the base of the occipital lobe (back of the head).

To the children, we say: “Fake sleep, like you pretend when you want to be carried to bed.”

Music is gentle.  I use Brain Bop tracks #13 and #14, or lullaby music.  Also Eric Chappelle’s CD Contrast and Continuum Vol IV # 17.  Actually, there’s lots of nice gentle wordless stuff out there.

As to when we rest….we do it after leaping across the floor and before our final creating activity.  It takes max. 3 minutes.

May 14, 2011. Kate Kuper on Teaching Creative Dance. 3 comments.