Thoughts on Creative Process

To build awareness of how dance-making works, I asked my college students this week to consider:
How was your dance constructed AND facilitated?  What role does the teacher/leader play when facilitating inside a group?  What questions can you ask from inside the group to generate diversity?

Good places to start are:

  • ask branching questions within the context of the concept (should we make a high shape or a low shape?) or that will generate contrasts in BEST (body, energy, space or time)
  •  encourage the idea-generator to lead that piece of the dance (Sarah suggested that we melt; let’s look at Sarah when we get to that part.  Simone showed a skip, let’s follow Simone for the skip)
  • bring the group back to the ‘top’ for review after adding a couple of new parts (“drop stones, not crumbs”)

Reflect on how another group’s dance was different from your own.  Ask them what they did to make the choice that stood out.

Collaboration is a big topic.  How does every voice get heard that wants to get heard?  Ideas can layer on each other.  Sarah’s shape starting idea could be built upon by Simone’s suggestion for how everyone can connect to make the shape. Model the layering approach.


September 24, 2011. Creating, Kate Kuper on Teaching Creative Dance. Leave a comment.

Great Transitions Tips for Early Childhood

Complied by Brigid Finucane (March, 2011) and used with her permission.


-“Voices turned down to zero!” I love the imagery of turning a volume dial down. -Carole Stephens (Macaroni Soup)
-Say “If you can hear my voice, clap two times.” (“Clap one time.” “Say yeah!” etc.).
Adapt to specific needs. Use normal to soft volume. It defeats the purpose to use a loud voice. –Micki Groper et al
-Sing or chant- “If you can hear me, clap your hands once. If you can hear me, look at the floor.
If you can hear me, look at the ceiling. If you can hear me, look at the door. If you can hear me,
clap your hands once. If you can hear me, look at me.” This works charms and it’s fun.
You can add things to look at until all the students are paying attention. – Amy Lowe
-“Put a bubble in your mouth.” (for quiet!) Shortened to “Bubble!” –Liz Buchanan
-Hocus, pocus. Everybody focus. –Begona Cowen, 2nd grade teacher
-“Give me five.” Everyone holds up their hands and quiets down. –Liz Buchanan
-When the kids want to ask a question or say something, they raise one hand in the air and put the other one over their mouth. This helps them realize that they don’t need to   shout their question while raising their hand. –Jenny Heitler-Klevans
-Clap a short 4- beat rhythm pattern. Students echo exactly. Repeat until everyone is
focused. OR Continue clapping 4 beat rhythm pattern until everyone is clapping the
same pattern. –Sulinha et al
-“Eye’s watching (point to eyes) / Ears listening, (point to ears) / Mouth -sh sh sh (put finger to lips) / Body ready to follow my lead.”(hands quiet at side or folded in laps). – Amy Lowe
– I use a hand gesture when kids are getting too loud. It’s the Quiet Coyote. index and pinky up (ears) and thumb pressed together with two middle fingers like the Coyotes mouth. I teach it to them early in the year and explain that the coyote’s mouth is closed and his ears are open. Then I move all my fingers to demonstrate that when the coyote’s mouth is moving his ears flop and he can’t hear. If kids are too loud, I stop everything and just hold up my quiet coyote. -Jeanie B

-The reality is, my most powerful teaching tool is EYE CONTACT – I make sure I make eye contact with every child in class. Now we’re “in relationship” and I don’t have a lot of need for lots of verbal reminders. –Carole Stephens (Macaroni Soup)
-In classes with really young ones, I have found “Bats Are Sleeping,”

“Here’s a Little Bird,”
“All of the Terradactyls,” and “See the Little Bunnies Sleeping” to be extremely helpful in
focusing attention. –Susan Salidor
-One I often hear: 1-2-3 eyes on me. Kids (answer): 1-2 eyes on you. –Martha Leader
-Teacher says “Students, say ‘yes’ if you can hear me.” Children respond “Yes.”
If they don’t respond then the teacher repeats “Students say ‘Yes yes’ if you can hear me.” Children respond “Yes Yes.”
It must be something about the actual letter sound of “s” but it worked beautifully every time and only 3 repeats were required at the most unruly moments. I also liked its simplicity and the fact that is was a positive three letter word. –Katherine Dines
-A teacher I worked with used to softly sing “hey hey” (5-3 or sol – mi) and have the kids sing back “ho ho” – it was amazing how well it worked. –Martha Leader
-Teacher says “Peanut Butter’, students say “Jelly.” –Liz Buchanan
-Other Duet ideas from teacher websites:
T: Sponge Bob / S: Square pants! OR
T: Who lives in a pineapple under the sea? / S: Sponge Bob Square Pants!
T: Lis / S: ten. T: Everybody / S: Listen.
T: And a hush fell over the crowd. / S: (in a whisper) hushhhhh.
T: Hands up top / S: That means stop (students put hand on head and freeze)
T: Da, dada, da, da / S: Da da. (Tune: Shave and a hair cut – two bits!)
-“Ah-goh”/ “ah-me”, an African call and response (language unconfirmed)
Teacher “Ah-goh”, Kids answer “Ah Me” (pronounced “may”). Set -up : “When I say ( or, when you hear ) “Ah-goh” it means “are you ready to pay attention (listen)?
You (kids) answer ‘Ah-me’ which means ” I am”. We’ll start when everyone says ‘ah-me’.”
Note: Most effective when teacher speaks below the ambient noise volume. Yelling “Ah-go!” seems oxymoronic and drives me nuts when people do it. – Leslie Zak
-“AHHH-go; AHHH-may” (Phonetic). “AHHH—go” means “May I have your attention please?”
The teacher calls that out, and the kids answer back: “AHHH-may” and that means, “Yes. You’ve got my attention.”
This can go back and forth once or twice, but if the teacher has to ask for the students’ attention 3 times, that means the students are really not ready to refocus. Therefore, after the students’ 3rd response of “Ame”, everybody must clap 3 times, pad 3 times on shoulders with arms crossed, pop collar 3 times, and draw a circle with two palms moving outwards and reuniting in front of the heart while saying “Umoja” (unity). This signifies everyone is now ready to pay attention again!
-When I see examples of good behavior, I sing “Good manners are a very nice touch – cha, cha, cha” from ‘Please Pass the Peas’ by Terri Mathis. The kids love it. –Tara Trudel
-“Pat yourself on the back. Shake your own hand. Congratulate yourself.” – Book: The First Days of School by Harry & Rosemary Wong.
-“Let’s all do an action dance -We’re going to move alot. But we won’t go from place to place. We’re going to move right on our spot.” – Kate Kuper, Alphabeat.
-Show me your best dance moves…now freeze! –Kate Kuper
-Yoga poses or breathing help to refocus fast: “Take a deep breath and hiss like a snake”
or “growl like a lion.” –Gari Stein
-For getting your ‘sillies’ out while waiting in line,do a silent roar. Start with your face and hands scrunched up tight and slowly open them……when they are as big as they can be SHAKE THEM!…..then slowly close everything up again. –Kate Kuper, dancer
-Yogic Breathing!!! After a big moment or a very active song, we ask the children to take a big breath in through their nose and let it out slowly and quietly. We do this 3-4 times. It ‘s a great way to let them settle and re-focus. –Beth Bierko
-My favorite is the pre-K class where the teacher has a child tap a triangle one time to announce it’s time to clean up. You would think this would be too quiet, but the kids can hear the sound through the hubbub. It is so nice to have something so quiet to call attention rather than yelling over everyone! –Liz Buchanan
-Use a drum pattern that means start, and another that means freeze. Works better than a voice, (and children) think it’s more fun than clapping. –Greta Pedersen
-You get what you get and you don’t get upset – Brigid Finucane
-When passing out eggs of different colors, I ask students to hold out their hands and close their eyes and when they feel an egg it’ll be a surprise. I tell them I don’t even know what color egg they’ll get. That usually helps cut down on the complaints or requests about specific colors. -Jenny Heitler-Klevans
-In getting instruments or scarves back from young children, one teacher we work with asked the kids to “Feed the Bag” and I pretend the bag has a big, hungry mouth and is grateful for the “treat” offered. It eliminates many of the reluctant returners. -Beth Bierko
-For dancing barefoot: “Put your socks inside your shoes / then your socks you will not lose!” –Kate Kuper, dancer
– Eyes are open, mouth is not! – Kate Kuper, dancer
–3 eyes on me, 2 mouths closed, 1 listen for what’s next. –Teacher website
-SALAMI (stop and look at me immediately) –Teacher website
-“Make a better choice” or variations “You need to make a better choice” or
“Are you making a good choice?” is a phrase I often hear. It puts the responsibility for following the rules, working hard, playing well together on the individual, rather than the teacher. -Margaret Hooton
-If there is talking while I am giving directions, I say “When I am talking to you what are you doing?” They say “Listening.” And I say, “Show me.” And they sit quietly. –Pam Donkin
-I designate ‘student teachers’ to help others ‘find’ the perimeter of the rug, demonstrate the correct way to put hold rhythm sticks or put them in rest position, help pass out and collect scarves, etc. I choose engaged, participating students, and everyone is a candidate – a powerful motivator. –Brigid Finucane
-At my very first class I teach the signal for a cut-off. After that I just use it to stop (disruptive) behavior. I may say, “Did you see my signal for a cut-off” or “Do you remember what this means?” or “Good job, you saw the signal for the cut-off.” –Liz Hannan
-Time to quiet down, clean up and switch
-“I’d like to invite my friends to sit on the rug (get ready for lunch, line up, etc.). It makes for friendlier transitions. –Brian Puerling, Pre-K
-An owl sat alone on the branch of a tree (raise one arm level w/ body and rest two fingers of the other hand on the arm.)
And he was as quiet as quiet could be.
Two brownies crept up on the branch of the tree, (Now the fingers are brownies
and they walk up the “branch.”)
And they were as quiet as quiet could be. (Quiet voice)
Said the wise old owl, tooo hooo, tooo hoo. (Kids love to make the owl sound.)
Up jumped the brownies and away they flew. (The 2 brownie fingers fly away.)
An owl sat alone on the branch of a tree (2 “owl” fingers back on the branch)
And he was as quiet as quiet could be. (very quiet voice)

NOTE: These days it is usually necessary to explain (or better yet, show a picture)
what brownies are—i.e. not chocolate cookies. –Beth Nord
-My current favorite non-verbal is ‘the magic flute.’ I play a motif on my recorder and that signals clean up – just a simple B-A-G motif. I even have a 1,2,3 transition signaled by ‘the magic flute.’ 1 = pick up your supplies. 2 = put them away 3 = line up. –Kate Kuper, dancer
-Are you ready to switch? I get (students) to stand up and stretch way up over their heads on their tip toes, reach up to the light fixture and “switch” on/off a light. Or— chug their arms like a train with sound effects whooo hoooo! For 15+ seconds and “switch tracks.” They can be seated or standing. –
Katherine Dines
-From standing to sitting:
Two litte hands go clap clap clap / Two little feet go tap tap tap
One little body turns around / Everyone here sits right down. – Brigid Finucane, traditional
-If I want them to sit down, I sing “Come on everyone and sit in the circle”
using my “Clap your hands now” song. –Pam Donkin
-Teacher: “Circle sitting (or standing) on the floor by the time I get to four! Count with me … one (clapping rhythm), two — etc.. For the laggers, teacher/kids can count in ” 3 1/2, 3 3/4 (don’t be late!)
FOUR! –Leslie Zak
-“Please be my echo and copy what I do.”
Hands on your waist.
Hands on your knees. (Sometimes I walk my fingers down my legs to my knees)
Touch the floor.
Sit down please.
Cross your legs.
Reach for the sky.
Wiggle your ears. (You can change this to whatever works)
Blink your eyes. – Liz Hannan
– Clap your hands….tap your legs…
Turn yourselves around….
Clap your hands… tap you legs…
Jump up from the ground…
Clap your hands….tap your legs…
And please sit down….
(Give children time to do each movement). –Gari Stein
-From sitting to standing:
Tall as a tree / wide as a house / thin as a pin / small as a mouse. – traditional
For children in line, do movements with chant, then whisper “Quiet as a mouse.” -Allison Ashley

-For making a circle or gathering:
– For making a circle, I sing Let’s make a circle. –Gari Stein
Let’s Make A Cir cle
G E A G E (teasing melody) na-na-na-na -na
2 1 1 2 2 Counts
-“Make a Circle Like the Sun”—–Barb Tilsen
Tune: Skip to My Lou
Make a circle like the sun
Holding hands everyone
Make a circle like the sun
Circle like the sun.
-Dividing groups and taking turns:
-Of all the ways groups of children can be divided in two, by gender wins hands down. … (but there are) creative ways that don’t divide by gender, race, class. Maybe for Ks you could do January to June birthdays and July to December, what else? If it’s for the moment, you can do “this side of the room.”
With older kids you can do “Odds and evens (birthday dates).” -The odd/even (idea) came from some New Games article, and when (children are) playing the game the evens could say “The odds are against us!”–Nancy Schimmel
-Have (students) count one/two, then have ones go together and twos. Have
them line up by height, then divide the line, or take from each end. Divide by
first letter of first name, or what color they are wearing that day, sneakers and boots, or sandals, jeans or camo, until the numbers work out. –Kim Wallach
-Set your own groups – someone wearing gray, or purple, or pink, or who has shoelaces on shoes… -Greta Pedersen
-Lining up and getting ready to go:
–Teacher puts arms parallel in front of her while facing the group and says:
“I want to see you between my arms.”
Next time: “Stand between my arms and show me all your charms.” –Kate Kuper, dancer
-See which table (or group) can move most quietly. –Greta Pedersen
–After children have lined up and are waiting to exit the classroom, I rhythmically chant or sing “Are you ready” (4-1-m2-1) and children sing back “Yes I am” or “Yes we are”. –Annaliese
Katek, 1st grade teacher
-Waiting in line:
-Shake your hands in the air, put your hands on your head, put your hands on your shoulders, flap your elbows instead.
-Wiggle your fingers, wiggle your toes, blink your eyes, wiggle your nose.

-Tilt your head from side to side, now stretch up straight and tall
Shake your hips from side to side now FREEZE, don’t move at all!
-Nod your head, shake it “no”, bend your knees and touch your toe.
– Obey the previous command (start a pattern, students begin as you move to the next thing)
-Arm gestures: different levels, speeds, qualities, “preposition places” (spatial relationships)
– Finger play (Here is the Church, Here is the Steeple, etc.)
– Emotion game (Show me a sad face, a mad face, a scared face, a happy face)
-Moving from one spot to another:
-Have students ‘swim’ to the new spot. (This) seems to make them go more slowly, i.e. not run.
-Greta Petersen.
-We’re following the leader, the leader, the leader.
We’re following the leader wherever, she (he) may go.
We’re following the leader, the leader, the leader.
We’re following the leader, we STOP and make a pose.
(Everyone copies leader’s pose). Tune from Peter Pan. –Gari Stein
-Be a Train! – Kate Kuper

September 15, 2011. Transition Magic. Leave a comment.

How do you interest 5 to 7 year olds in technique?

This is a request for advice:
I’m teaching ballet and jazz at a local studio to kids between the ages of about 5 and 7. Naturally, they’re not so interested in taking a full ballet barre so I am trying to figure out some other ways to make it more interesting for them. Maybe mirroring a partner while doing tendues or something of that sort. Anyway, I was just hoping you would have some advice on how to structure my class because not only are they not interested but they have a very hard time doing most of the complicated ballet and jazz movements. Of course when I let them play freeze dance they love it and go crazy. I would love to hear your feedback.

September 10, 2011. Studio Teaching. 1 comment.