Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Telling Stories with our Bodies

Happy Dancing Wednesday!  

I have been teaching dance for 18 years now.  That very thought makes me feel ancient but I was reminded that I started in 9th grade so I suppose that means I have a few more years before I need to start looking at walkers.

In my 18 years of working for different studio's, programs and even developing and owning my own program I have learned one very important thing.  When teaching young kids you can never have too many props.  When going to the different locations I taught at, I often had a CD player, dance mat, beam and GIANT bag of toys, I looked like a hoarding hobo.  

Props are a very valuable teaching tools.  When trying to get a child to learn a new skill or movement the right prop can be the perfect aid in letting them feel and see how things are done.  Props can be the key to turning a boring slow dance into a magic story that fills the imagination.  Props can be very educational.  They are also a great way to get a group of kids to focus and work together. 

These were our first props.  

Typically I start my classes with an upbeat movement where kids still have to listen and work together.  I place a prop at the 4 corners of the room and we begin in the middle.  Today the skill we began with was marches.  I would shout out the number and the girls would march together to that number.  Once we all reached that number we clapped and counted the number that we were at.

Our next prop


As we told our story of the butterfly today we used these wings to help us fly with beautiful graceful arms.   These are my newest props and I had a hard time getting them back.  You can get the wings here.  

Estee in her cocoon (hula hoop)

Big stretches. The butterfly is no longer a Caterpillar and she just discovered her wings.

So they fly around the enchanted forest.

Next we did an exercise for our ballet fingers.
I am just beginning to teach them about correct finger placement, to do this we used our middle finger and thumb (or Tall man and Thumpkin as they were called yesterday in music).  These two fingers almost touch, so we made believe we were on a beach collecting sea shells.  We picked up each sea shell and examined its beauty and once we had collected our shells we strung them on our sting to make a beautiful necklace that we placed around our necks.

We then used hearts to help us with our first position feet.  We went through different parts of our bodies as we prepared them to stand like dancers.

We then did our port de bras
with this ball.

I had a ball (1st position)

but I lost it (open second)

I looked high (third position)
I looked low (forth position)
and I found it (fifth position)

In the classical ballet method founded by Vaganova some of the ballet terminology is different.  For instance, what most of us know as 5th position is their 3rd position.  I plan on teaching my children classical ballet when they reach the age-appropriate time but have not decided how I'm going to adapt this different way of thinking yet.

next, we played Hickory Dickory Dock

We started on our blue circle
then did tip toe runs like a mouse up the side of our yoga mat (clock)
The clock struck 1, we made 1st position arms
Then we did tip toe runs back to the circle.

she is quite enthusiastic and sometimes gets carried away with her movements
(video soon)

We then put on our music for this weeks theme of Peter and the Wolf and moved as each of the different characters.

Bird - played by the flutes
we used our arms from our butterfly exercise and tip toe runs

Duck - played by the oboe
we used swimming arms and walks with flexed feet

Cat - played by the clarinet
we used pas de chat (it means step of the cat)

Wolf - played by french horns
we used giant lunging steps and forocoches hands and faces

See, very forocoches!

Grandfather - played by the bassoon
we used our canes, old man walks and our disapproving pointer finger


Peter - played by the string instruments
we used our happy, care free skips

We then took our lesson outside in our slightly cooler then yesterday, 90 degree weather (because that's our only place to tap)

Watch out, these two have something in store for you.

"I'll see you tomorrow in Hollywood. Totes."

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