If you’re new to the idea of using dance in the classroom, I’m here to help you get started. First things first, dance IS your most useful tool in the classroom. It takes very little time to prepare and all you need is space and some music for enhancement. It’s faster to set up than most lessons and you and your class can be instantly carried away into new worlds of exploration.
But if you’ve never taught dance it can seem daunting. We’ve all seen So You Think You Can Dance, with artists wildly throwing themselves through space. It’s exciting and certainly requires a lifetime of practice however that is not our aim or goal when teaching dance in the classroom. The show contains highly stylized choreography but in reality, dance composition and even dance training starts very simple, and in the end, dance is simply a method of communication.
If I asked you to dance “joy”, what would that look like? Nine times out of ten people will open their arms, jump, and spin showing joy. Ask you’re students what anger looks like in dance and I’m positive they’ll have similar responses. We all know how to express ourselves with movement.
In my program Dance Equations, I start each lesson with creative movement. Improvisations help us develop our own vocabulary of motion, and you can explore alongside your students. Improvisation can be very open or can have guidelines, steering us in different directions of communication. It is in this way I develop dance in the classroom and I use curriculum themes to enhance the creative movement experience. This allows me not only to explore mathematical themes but to link other curricula as well.
In this Tips and Tricks video, I share some of my lesson ideas.
Now that you have a general idea about how I start a Dance Equations class, let’s go through your lesson planning with some simple steps in order to develop a 1-hour dance class.
As I mentioned above I prefer a very simple warm-up. For example, let’s make up a “hand dance”. With students sitting in a circle, ask them to give you approximately 6-8 movement descriptive words like; stretch, shake, shrink, grow, float, and melt. Take 8 counts of music to explore each movement theme, practice, and present it together with music. You have created your first dance exercise!
I always want my dance students to move big and full through the space. Put on music and ask students to explore different pathways through the space staying an equal distance apart from each other and the walls around the dance area. Start and stop the music to see who is maintaining equal distance and acknowledge students who are being creative moving forward, backward, and sideways in interesting ways.
Next, you’ll want to explore levels with the same parameters. I typically ask students to think of their movements like a scribble through space, moving through all levels, creatively through the horizontal plane, with connected movements.
For the final touches allow them to explore different movement qualities, you could use the same descriptive words from your hand dance or inspiration from other curricula like what you’ve been learning in science class such as states of matter, etc.
It is not uncommon to learn short pieces of choreography in a dance class, it helps develop memory. Ask the students to contribute, you do not need to prepare choreography in advance, let your students do that for you! Ask students to demonstrate one of the “moves” they came up with on their own through the improvisation. Give their steps counts and allow them to teach the class. Maybe it was an interesting jump, you could say; “ok, that takes two counts of the music”. You practice together, counting 1, 2. Fill up phrases to 8 counts (since most modern music is 4/4 time signature). You can explore other time signatures after they become more proficient with counting and choreography. Add on steps slowly and after you practice the steps within a phrase, add music. You can even introduce a little math here, asking how many beats are left in the bar, or how many more counts would make an even phrase of music like four 8s.
4. Theme and Variation
By now you may have already filled an hour, but if you are going to make this a larger unit exercise, on day two you’ll save time by practicing what you have already done in order to take the dance a step further. Now you can definitely explore mathematical themes!
Ask the students to split into two groups down the center of the room. Now have the class work in symmetry, with one side of the class performing your routine as it was on day one, and the other half of the class in opposition. Take turns so that everyone has a chance to try the new version.
You could also take a small portion of the dance and work with ratios or number patterns, overlaying certain steps, or repeating phrases as needed. There is an abundance of mathematical themes you could use to enhance the routine your students came up with on their own.
5. Cool down
Slowing down the class, and lowering everyone's heart rate, is a fulfilling and relaxing way to finish a lesson. You can cool down with a slow improvisation like a dance that slowly melts to the floor, or sit with your class in a circle and stretch. I like to play soft music and play a few shape games, where students enter the circle one at a time. You could ask them to make a shape with as many right angles as possible, and challenge them to create new shapes each time.
6. Your Turn
Take a moment to write down a few concepts that would easily translate to movement or shapes in space. Then using the same structure from above; warm-up, improvisation, choreography, theme & variation, and cooldown come up with a new class and lesson theme.
If you’ve enjoyed exploring dance in this way, please join my site as a member so that you can be invited to my Q&A sessions, LIVE seminars, and courses. The Dance Equations program has two books and over 50 videos of examples and lessons, MP3 music collections, and other classroom resources. Do not hesitate to reach out via my WhatsApp link located at www.danceequations.com