With early childhood, in the school setting, when the children come to me, I use Down By the Station (from Songs for Dancing) as the transition to entering the gross motor space and forming a circle.
It sets the stage for imaginative play, reminds children that they have not come to ride the bikes or play on the climbing structure, and ends us in a desirable spatial formation.
From there, we either sit or stand for a welcome activity, followed by our warm up.
After doing this song/activity every week for many weeks, the children were no longer ‘transformed.’ Spirited children were getting into other people’s personal space, etc. It has become one more single file line, and we know there are already plenty of those in the school setting!
I DO know that children like to MOVE, and, once the newness wears off, walking on the beat just won’t cut it.
SO…I told the children we were going to do a special kind of train. First it was a JUMPING train. Then, after we’d pointed out all the different animals and plants we saw on our train trip and returned to the song, we were a HOPPING train.
This changed it up just enough to add interest, it was aerobic and exciting, and accomplished the activity objective (get into the space, end in a circle, sing, move, imagine).
Look for different locomotor movements (stomping, turning, tipping side to side), energy qualities (shaky, sharp), or levels (high and low) to spice things up in your own train….or when leading ANY SINGLE FILE LINE.
Think outside the box (car)!
If you are already doing the Developmental Movement Pattern Sequence found on my CD Brain Bop (also called the “Braindance” developed by Anne Green Gilbert), you might enjoy using these same 8 patterns to develop a technical warm up for your students ages 7 or 8 and up.
I suggest working with one or more colleagues to brainstorm ideas that work for ballet, modern, jazz or hip-hop. Start with one technique only, and develop a progressive warm up that follows the sequence while also teaching elements and principles of the technique.
Then, film or otherwise document the different sequences and keep them handy. They can be used on a rotating basis.
In my Creative Dance for Children seminar, college students divided into groups and created. I videoed and posted, so that whoever was lead-teaching had a point of departure. The warm up was refined and improved upon from one week to the next.
In our ages 8-10 class, we divided our semester into 4 weeks each of modern, ballet and hip hop just for the warm up. The rest of the lesson followed a concept-based approach for technique, improvisation and composition. We did refer back to the “technique of the week” in the across the floor phrases, layering on new technique ideas as they were introduced through the warm up over the course of the semester.
In preparation for our “Informance” (informal, open class), students decided ahead of time which of the three different warm ups they wanted to share. That became the warm up for the demonstration class, shared with parents and friends.
I teach basic dance technique, composition and improvisation to college students.
At the end of the semester, they work in small groups on a composition study that gives them an opportunity to apply everything they’ve been learning.
Improvisation and creating from ideas or prompts may not generate dances that follow a steady beat.
However, learning how to manipulate phrase material generally does produce movement that has a beat or pulse. It also helps students learn how to include variety and contrast in their dances and how to rework a small amount of material many different ways.
You can give this movement assignment to teach contrast and variety and the B.E.S.T. concepts . Some easy-to-access concepts for phrase manipulation are: direction, speed, level and movement quality (energy)
Begin with a phrase of 4-6 eights. My starter phrase was 5 eights:
1st 8 beats:
Side slide step/hop diagonally, with arms doing a full circle in the line of direction (LOD). Travel on a shallow diagonal so as to progress across the floor. Do right and left.
2nd 8 beats:
Turn to the right, traveling 3 steps and wrapping arms around with right arm behind, leading in a clockwise direction and stepping out on your right. Continue in the same LOD, with left foot crossing behind, turning counterclockwise 3 steps, and wrapping arms around with left arm behind.
3rd 8 beats:
Over 4 beats – Un-spiral from the wrap, to face forward and jab your left arm up to the high right diagonal, crossing the mid-line. Repeat the jab with right across to left on high diagonal.
Over 4 beats – Jump forward three times, legs parallel wide/crossing/ parallel wide.
4th 8 beats:
Repeat the 3rd set, but this time reaching across to the LOW diagonal.
5th 8 beats:
Two walks over 4 beats. Shimmey and travel forward over 2 beats. Burst out to a shape on count ‘7’ and hold the freeze.
This phrase include direction, level, energy and speed changes.
My objective was to have the students learn several choreographic devices for phrase manipulation: canon, transposition and repetition.
Having learned the phrase, we did it in a canon, starting every 8 beats.
Then we broke into small groups, so students could see different ways of blocking the canon.
We experimented with 1) doing the phrase as a flank, starting side by side and going one by one. Then 2) as a single file line, still going one by one.
We played with having the last dancers catch up to the first one’s so the canon did not end predictably.
For transposition, we change the arms to legs and legs to arms from the 3rd and 4th 8s.
For repetition, we played with the material as it existed, expanding some parts.
Students then manipulated the material in their own ways. They changed the blocking, speed, size, spatial relationships, as well as playing with direction, level and the devices they’d learned.
This taught them that there are alternatives to unison, and that successive movement and contrast adds interest.
This idea is fun to interject into a study that is already in process. Students can use the phrase you learn together and then grow into manipulating their own phrase material. These strategies also expand the language you can use when communicating ideas to dancers and when teaching them what to look for in other performer’s work.
Some of the outcomes were: putting counts to the movement, playing with size, repetition of one motif from the phrase, and having each dancer do a different part from the phrase simultaneously or successively.
Resting is the last component of my lesson with Head Start (ages 3-5) and the mid-point component of my studio classes in creative dance. There are lots of kinds of music you can play during resting: lullabies (I favor Carol Rosenberger’s Such Stuff As Dreams, James Galway’s Nocturnes, or you can use the last two tracks from my Brain Bop CD, or the Resting music from Songs for Dancing).
Lately, I’ve added some verbal prompts for my Head Start students, since some have a hard time settling.
First, I ask them to find a place with empty space on either side, and to do ‘the 3 S’s’: straight, still and silent. Straight means arms are straight by their sides, and legs are straight. An aligned body, lying face up.
Sometimes I ask for ‘3 P’s’: patient, polite and peaceful. By being still and quiet, they are showing respect to the others.
If you choose to give each child an alignment adjustment, the ‘patient’ word helps them remember to wait their turn.
Finally, when we are done (the duration of a musical selection, 2-4 minutes), I ask students to ‘sit up to the mountain.’
That’s the Mountain Breathing position, a simple yoga seated posture, with hands above the heads, fingers touching, in a mountain shape.
Then, we place our hands on our chest and say, as call and response, “I feel calm…..I feel peaceful….I feel relaxed.”
After that, we float our hands down. If lining up to depart the space, we may float like clouds, balloons or other soft things, with the calm, peaceful, relaxed feeling and moving slowly, smoothly and safely.