We just had our Informance – ‘informal performance’ – which we also call ‘Stay Day’ or ‘Open Class.’ We invite parents, family members, and friends to come, watch, take pictures or video, and best of all – PARTICIPATE! This is the only class where parents can see what a typical class looks like. Otherwise, we are closed to observation.
In the fall, Creative Dance is a mentoring program for college students learning to teach, so we have several people sharing leadership during the lesson. My role is to narrate the rationale behind each section and to lead the final closure activities. In the spring, I teach with one assistant only, and we trade leadership throughout. I continue to narrate before each lesson component.
I asked my students to come up with a “To Do” list that would help them plan future open classes.
HERE IT IS!
Informance/Open Class “To Do” List
At the beginning of the semester, include information about the Open Class. Two weeks before, remind parents about the upcoming informance/open class. The week before, post signs and send out an email reminder.
Print out business cards or flier promoting the class for the next semester and for referrals.
Throughout the semester, track favorites activities from the lesson for Exploring the Concept, Developing Skills, and Creating.
Select from among those favorites to write lesson plans, keeping in mind the possibility of parent participation. Make sure the lesson plan is very complete. Divide up lesson sections among teachers and assistants. Practice parts thoroughly so as to be competent and relaxed in front of the parents.
Have a prepared introduction. This includes introducing all teachers and assistants and a brief summary of the concepts that we’ve worked on during the semester.
Have a prepared short description of the whole lesson structure, with specifics presented before each activity (including the rationale for each component). Integrate remarks into the lesson plan so all teachers and assistants know what’s coming, to help with class flow and a sense of community.
THE DAY BEFORE:
Set up seating for “audience.”
Have a sign when the parents walk in saying “Welcome Dancers and Families” as one last reminder, and to welcome them into our classroom.
Clean/sweep the floor.
Have props and materials all ready set to the side, easy to find.
Have the concept on the board written clear and large so all can see.
Have music on a playlist, organized, easy to find.
THE DAY OF:
Keep the before class-activity really simple, so anyone can join in. (We put out scarves)
Watch the clock or have a timekeeper to keep us on track.
Keep inviting parents and family members to participate throughout the class.
Make closing remarks, at which time you can get promo into parents’ hands.
Follow that with a fun, communal closing activity that includes everyone, and ends with the children and teachers organized for a group photo.
Be prepared for ‘hugs, hand shakes and high fives.”
Have parents help clean up.
Note: A few activities (from Kate’ material) that work well for parent/child involvement in an open class:
Explore: Stick Together Game from Step on the Beat
Developing Skills (or Creating) for All: Apples and Oranges from Step on the Beat
Resting: Resting from Songs for Dancing
Creating (or Explore): Shape Maker/Shape Explorer from Step on the Beat
Closure: The Goodbye Song from Songs for Dancing
What to do with….
Apples and Oranges (from Step on the Beat)
I’ve talked about Apples and Oranges in other blog posts, connected to teaching galloping, for example.
(If you don’t already have it, you can purchase Step on the Beat through my website, katekuper.com, or from West Music.)
The children asked to include this dance as a favorite activity for our Informance (Open House, informal presentation of a lesson).
We identified “Body Parts and Energy” as the conceptual through-line for the 4 & 5 year olds’ Informance.
For 6-7 year olds, the concept focus was “Body Parts and Shape.”
Here’s how we adapted Apples and Oranges for each age group, conceptual focus, and lesson plan component:
1) For 4-5s, as a Creating activity
Creating includes invention and/or improvisation. We decided to make the A section focus “Body Parts.”
After learning the clapping pattern A section, we asked the children to suggest using a different body part other than the knees for the ‘slap.’ What should it be? We performed that part in the section, with the ‘circle round’ that we do in place with younger children (or when we want to go quickly through the dance), where we just turn around on our spot .
After practicing, we chose ANOTHER body part for the second ‘slap.’
Then we put it all together: slap/clap/slap/clap/ And turned the other way for ‘circle round’//
Time for the B section focusing on “Energy.”
Next, we designated half the group as Apples, half as Oranges. (Since parents were dancing with the children, we had people choose by raise of hands, rather than half and half or every other one).
Leader modeled how Apples would ‘dance away’ and ‘dance back home’ WITH A SPECIFIC ENERGY while Oranges would stay and clap on the pulse. We chose swinging movement away, and shaky movement home.
But wait! Why should the travelers have all the fun? Those who stayed had to keep the pulse tapping on A SPECIFIC BODY PART.
Everyone practiced. Then MUSIC GO!
2) For 6-7s as a Developing Skills activity
Developing Skills is about hard-wiring technical abilities and challenging memory within sequence.
First, we focused on Body Parts. We practiced the B section traveling movement in scattered space: side slide with head going up toward the ceiling and center (area of the belly button) drawing a letter “U” with every slide. Skip with knees lifting up. Gallop with one foot chasing the other, pointing the toes … like a real chassé!
Second, we emphasized Body Parts and Shape for the A section.
Find a partner and a spot in scattered space. Practice slap & clap. Add one body part for the slap (idea from the children that we all use) and clap. Add second part and clap. Sequence first-part slap/ clap, second-part slap/ clap. Teach ‘angular elbows’ around for an elbow swing with your partner. Ask for prediction, when we repeat, what will happen with elbow swing? (We’ll go the other way).
Here comes the shape emphasis.
Decide who is an Apple and Orange in each pair.
Apples will travel. Oranges will stay.
Travelers will use two of the three locomotor skills we practiced earlier. (Travel away with the side slides and back with the gallop.)
Oranges will MAKE A BODY SHAPE and keeping the pulse WITH ONE BODY PART (can be audible or visual). Nod a head! Tap a foot! Bounce into one hip! (Etc.)
All practice shape and keeping the pulse.
Then practice travel and shape/pulse. Practice trading.
MUSIC GO! On second travel, skip away and gallop back.
As a director of movement performances, I value the ‘flow’ of an event. This gives it polish and lowers the stress level for everyone!
Here are some tips for creating flow.
1. Blocking – Everyone needs to know where they supposed to sit before they perform and where they are supposed to go and stand to perform. Enlist the help of teachers, etc. to ‘wrangle’ each of the performing groups if they are – for example – several classes in an early childhood center. They can even begin by sitting on their own classroom rugs, brought into the space for this occasion.
2. Use ‘magic hands’ to cue transitions. Hands with palms facing up and rising = ‘stand’. Palms facing down and lowering = ‘sit.’ Hands separating, or pointing = ‘go to your assigned places.”
3. Use shorthand vocabulary for body positions. My words are ‘sit ready position’ (that’s the criss-cross apple sauce we all know and love), ‘stand tall one and all’ for the standing neutral position. Magic hands tell people to do these things.
4. Use a song that the children know that helps them line up and move from one place to another. This makes the transition to ‘places’ part of the fun for them and the audience and keeps the pacing lively and interesting. I use
Down By the Station (from Songs for Dancing) for this because a train is a single file line that moves down a track. You can signal groups, one by one, with magic hands, to get them to their feet, and use your adult helpers to lead off the train.
This is an excellent exit strategy too, as groups leave the space one by one at the end of a program.
(I based this on the assumption that you have already taught and used this song/activity before and that it is comfortable and familiar to the children.)
I also use The Goodbye Song (from Songs for Dancing) to start off the transition to end the program, and keep the music going as they move towards the exit. (Of course, first I say all the closing stuff, then make The Goodbye Song the ultimate activity, starting in self space, then dismissing group by group, using eye contact with the leaders and ‘magic hands’ to signal)
Kerry B asked:
Do you think that kids need to dress in “costume” for performances to portray a certain character……..Is it necessary or could be too distracting and take away from the dance itself.
I am doing a movement sequence about horses and butterflies for my kids ages 4-5 (creative ballet and movement). Could they just wear dance clothing and uses their simply dance and pretend to be whatever animal or person we put in the story? I know many parents want them to “look cute” , but hats fall off, wings get caught in hair ect.
My personal thoughts are it is a dance performance, not a costume show……but now to convince others.
My thoughts on this:
For an informance, children dress as they wish, following the basic safety rules: no shoes, hair off the face, comfortable clothes.
For an abstract dance, ask for a color scheme that everyone has in their wardrobe:
- jeans and white shirts
- black bottoms and bright colorful tops, no patterns (or worn inside-out if patterns will show, keep a scissors on hand to snip off tags)
- dress as a twin with your partner; work it out with your partner
For a theme-based dance, ask for colors that suggest the theme:
- water dance: everyone wears cool colors (blue, green) and off white
- fire dance: everyone wears warm colors (red, orange, yellow)
For characters, add a costume piece that suggests the role
- bandana around the neck for cowboys, pioneers, etc.
- vests and ties for “boys” and “girls” (even if the whole cast is female)
Keep it simple, inexpensive and easy-on/easy-off.
One of the things that differentiates our work from Ballet/Tap/Jazz/Baton studios is that we de-emphasize the expenditures on the clothes, stay away from competition, and put the emphasis on the creative.
The question is: How do you plan the overall lesson for an informal performance that showcases concept-based, student-centered creative dance learning? Do you first choose student favorites, then matching a concept? Do you choose a favorite concept lesson, and match activities? Or do you try something else?
Here’s what my college students had to say about that:
Response #1: I liked the way that we planned the informance by starting with the children’s favorites and then finding a concept lens that best fit. Since it is the children’s last day and they want to show off what they have learned, this gives them an opportunity to do so.
Response #2: The concepts themselves can be easily formed to fit different activities. But overall I think when choosing between a popular activity and the concept, the kids want to do their favorite activities. Therefore, I think favorites win out over concepts in the end and that’s fine for an informance. However, I’d also consider choosing the concept first and then finding favorite activities within the given concept to plan the informance. In a way I’d find that easier, but not as creative or fun.
Response #3: Asking the children their favorites gave valuable information and made them more willing to participate fully in front of their parents. However, I would take into account what activities go together well when choosing a concept; although something might be a favorite, it might not fit will with some of the other activities they chose. I believe choosing a lesson plan that is consistent and maintains the same thread is important when showing to an audience.
Response #4: By asking yourself what concept you would like to emphasize and then selecting activities that work well might limit you as to what activities you’d choose, or stop you from being as creative with which activities could work for any concept. But ultimately, I think either process could work well.
With our Fall semester closure coming up on Saturday, we’ve been talking about the difference between an informance and a recital (based on Anne Green Gilbert’s description in her book Creative Dance for All Ages (pp. 53 -55). Here’s what my college students observed:
Why choose an informance over a recital?
1) An informance allows all the students to always be participating and to learn and watch each other. It is also a way to share information and all that the children have learned throughout the semester to the parents and guests attending. It is a chance to educate the community about the program and the benefits of creative dance. At a recital there is a lot of down time and emphasis on the performance instead of constant engagement and learning together.
2) In an informance we are able to explain concepts and interact with parents. They are able to see and experience the learning process as it occurs in the classroom versus just watching as in a recital. It is at this time that we are also able to explain the value of and benefits of creative dance.
3) An informance allows for the children to show and tell and their family can take part in the activities as well. A recital is all show and it is easy for the children to get nervous and shy. So the informance adds more value to the performance and everyone can experience what each other has learned.
4) An informance is much less pressure on the kids, allowing them to show what they’ve learned in a supportive and welcoming atmosphere. Informances are also more productive than recitals for the kids because the learning involved for a recital is very static (kids perfect the teacher’s choreography for many weeks), whereas when preparing for an informance, kids explore all dance concepts, practice movement combinations, collaborate with others, and create dances themselves. This is a much more enriching process.
5) With a recital you’re pushed to spend your class time “rehearsing” to prepare for it. Where as in an informance you’re still having the students explore even as they’re showing off to the audience. This way you’re sharing your progress and development with the viewer, instead of having them dress up and show off something that was laid out for them.
6) I love the duality of an informance: informational and informal. What a great way to capture two aspects of this class and it’s purpose! Choosing an informance makes sense because it’s really showcasing the active involvement of the creative process. It isn’t just performing, it’s allowing for understanding and processing of why the dancers are doing what they are doing, and why the teachers are assigning the ‘assignments’ they assign. It allows for an opportunity to explain the benefits of creative dance and provides an opportunity to educate not only your students, but the community as well.
What can a studio director do to promote authentic movement and dance when parents have an idea in their minds of what a recital should look like? There is so much competitive dance out there. Winners and losers. So many commercial approaches, expensive costumes. Even pressure to dress up children beyond their years, with make up and revealing clothing.
I think children should be entitled to be children. That creativity and imagination are precious commodities.
Dance is misconstrued in our culture by many people, who have preconceived notions based on what they see in the media.
I was not attracted to dance because it was “hot” but because it was a place where I could invent, discover and express.
Is there another phrase besides “Gotta Dance” that we can promote? Like “Creativity First”?
What’s a good basic description we can share with parents? “Dance is movement and shape, in space and time, expressed through action and emotion.”
Everything else is style, genre.
At our studio, we emphasize each of these components in conjunction with relating to one another, imagining, expressing, discovering how we think, feel and see the world. The macro ideas. We also address motor control, coordination, rhythm and phrasing. We use three languages: words, music, movement.
One of my students told his grandma, “When I’m in dance class, I don’t worry about anything.”
What a nice compliment. A safe exciting place, worry-free!
Let’s aim for that!
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?
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.