A Guide to Teaching Dance Part 3 - Let's Create

A Guide to Teaching Dance Part 3

Been teaching pre-set dances for a while now? Rinsed your repertoire? Is your class itching to create something of their own? Are you?!

Then let’s do it. Let’s create. Let’s choreograph. (It’s easier than you might think.)

Sidenote: If the answer to ANY of those questions was ‘no’ don’t run away just yet! You can read more about how to teach pre-set dances in Part 2 of this guide. Or, if you need a little convincing about why to do this at all, check out Part 1, or you could even take a look at our dance workshops which we run in schools all over the UK. Got it? Great! Onwards.

Facilitating the creation of dance and movement, choreographing, is a great way of giving your class ownership of their work.

Ownership feels good because it gives students an opportunity to explore their own imaginations, it allows them to carry out trial and error to their own liking, and it broadens their creativity and self-expression. All of which contribute to boosting self-esteem! (Yay!)

And so how is it done? I’ll help explain by talking about:

  • Choreographic process (in this blog, and in the Inside Info resource to go with it)

  • Choreographic devices (in Part 4 next week)

  • How to deliver a choreographic dance session (in Part 5… the last one, I promise!)

It’s worth noting that although creative results are likely to be more recognisable in older students, that does not diminish the fact that younger students love creating too.

The tools I provide in this blog can be used across all key stages, though of course to what extent is dependant on their age, ability, and how much you think you can challenge them. (Look out for hints giving advice on this! Usually in parenthesis, too!)

Choreographic Process

Play some music. Shout ‘GO!’. A class full of Matthew Bourne’s springs to life, no? Ok, so it’s not that easy.

Creating a dance is reliant on ideas. It’s your task as a teacher to elicit and elaborate on ideas from your students. How would you go about this in any other subject? Through Q&A and discussion? Sounds great!

Get your class’s creative juices flowing by discussing this 4-step process:

  1. Impetus

  2. Explore

  3. Pick and perfect

  4. Develop

1. Impetus

What should the dance be about? What is the starting point?

It is likely a class dance is going to be based on a topic or story you have been studying together in the classroom. That’s great!

If it’s a topic, decide together whether or not you need to focus on a specific aspect or area of that topic.

For example, Underwater is a broad topic but any ideas for movement are likely to portray that image: wavy water, types of fish, fluid or floaty actions and the like. However, if that topic is Ancient Greece or the Tudors, then the details of those might not be so easily conveyed. You might want to choose one particular time frame, community, event etc.

2. Explore

How can you explore this impetus? What do you need in order to discover some initial movement?

This is an opportunity for your students to share their initial ideas and improvise movement based around them.

You’ll need some reference points. You’ll need some specific content to work with. It might be a word bank or picture references. Perhaps a verse of poetry or a song verse. It could even be slightly more obscure like a recipe!

(These things can be present in the space to look at - visual references are great for littluns! Or they can be referred back to verbally, eliciting the info from the children, which is more suited to older students.)

Students improvise some movement based on your references. (Guided improvisation is best for EYFS and KS1 students: Show me how… How can you… Can you make a… )

Sidenote: I find it’s nice to have some background music on during this stage of exploration. It doesn’t have to be the music you use for the finished product but something to cushion the space, helping students feel more comfortable to improvise.

3. Pick and Perfect

Which ideas do you like best? Which ones do you want to perfect?

This is where the creation of a sequence takes place.

Having explored freely it is now time to rein it in! By that I mean, choose particular movements students like and refine them.

Individually, in groups or altogether, decide exactly how the movements are to be performed. How, precisely, do you move from one movement to the next? Timing and positioning are key!

4. Develop

How can you make it more interesting? How can you develop and extend the sequence?

Now it’s time to feed your students some useful tools we call choreographic devices (a bit of dance jargon for you to throw about there!).

Choreographic devices are the various ways in which movement can be manipulated to enhance, exaggerate and embody actions. (There’s a detailed list of them in Part 4 so tune in next week!!)

It’s during this stage that individuality will really come to light. This is where students take ownership of their work and begin to experiment with their own creativity, not just explore it.

And voila!

Your students (and you!) are now able to bounce between Pick and Perfect and Develop to experiment, eliminate and establish movement for a finished sequence.

Once all decisions have been made, use some music with a clear beat or anything you can easily count 4s and 8s to. Your students may well be fabulous mathematicians but dancers only count to 8! (Hehe)

Check out the Inside Info resource for an example of this process in play.

- Sarah