How do you deliver a choreographic session in a primary school?
Task setting, setting boundaries and a bit of classroom management. That’s how!
Welcome to Part 5 of the West End in Schools Guide to Teaching Dance. So far we’ve covered why we teach dance at all, the 5 simple steps for how to teach dance, the process for creating choreography with your students, and lastly the choreographic devices that will help you and your students create their masterpiece. This final piece is all about tips for actually delivering a session. Still with me? Great!
Let’s give you a bit more detail…
Delivering a Choreographic Session
1. Task Setting
Create a clear conclusion to discussion
It is likely most dance classes will begin with a quick discussion - getting ideas for the session ahead (This goes back to finding the Impetus for the dance, which I described in Part 3). Be sure to clarify a clear conclusion to this at the end before cracking on.
E.g. So putting all of your great ideas together, today we are going to be looking at how shapes and movement can contrast each other. Remember that word ‘contrast’.
Demonstrate the task
Dance is a performance art and so seeing things before doing things is a huge help for students experimenting with the subject.
Invite students to demonstrate a task with/for you as an example.
E.g. Contrasting movements. Whilst the rest of the class watches, invite a student to make a small shape, while you make a big shape. Invite a student to make a rigid shape or action, while you make a fluid one etc.
Give your Task setting a structure
Remember to use Concise instructions before letting them loose!
Option A. “Ok, find a space… and er, stop running… and now we’re going to - listen at the back please!” Oh dear.
Option B. “When I say ‘go’, find a partner, find a space. On the spot, start experimenting with contrasting shapes. You will have 2 minutes… Go!”
2. Setting Boundaries
If needed with a group, be sure to set physical boundaries. Use cones, benches, tape (whichever school paraphernalia is available to you) to mark out the space(s) in which the children are to work within.
Similarly, mark off any space that may be out of bounds. E.g. the sound system!
With younger students, mark out the lines or circles or spaces in which the children are to stand/sit/start/finish on.
With older students, mark out the lines or circles or spaces the movement is confined to. (Oooooh, well into the depths of choreography there!)
Quality over quantity
Explore? Yes! Go crazy? No.
In my task setting example, that was a session purely on contrasting movements. Follow suit, and only give students one focus point at a time (one choreographic device might be one focus point).
This doesn’t have to be an entire lesson, but certainly an individual task.
How can you make this move faster?
How can you make it slower?
What happens when you speed it up then slow it down?
Now, what happens when you apply that to the whole sequence?
3. Classroom Management
Set up a warm up/cool down
Use, or devise, a class warm up and cool down that you will use at the beginning and end of every dance session.
This helps create a sense of unity, gets everyone on the same page and regardless of their success or failure within the class, has everyone starting and ending at the same point.
Looking for inspiration? Download our handy dance warm up here:
(originally published in Part 1 of this guide especially for you!)
Use stop signals
You’ve set them off on their way in the correct structure but how do you make them stop?!?!
Before they head off to explore, ensure you’ve set a stop signal.
“When I clap, you freeze. When the music stops, you sit down. When you see me doing this *insert silly jazz hands or the like* you stop what you’re doing and copy me!”
Highlighting positive/correct behaviour
For those less creative (or let’s be honest, less interested) students, grasping the concept of some tasks might be difficult. Highlight those getting it ‘right’ rather than pointing out how someone is doing it wrong.
Similarly, thinking of actual rules, highlight those working well within a group, staying within the specified space etc.
Opportunities to perform
Whether it be showing how a particular action is carried out or a whole class performance at the end, be sure to give everyone an opportunity to perform their work.
Having something to work towards will (hopefully!) encourage students to do the work.
And that’s all folks! I hope you have found this guide useful. If you have any questions please do get in touch - either by commenting here or by contacting me or the rest of the West End in Schools team on email@example.com.
More from A Guide to Teaching Dance: