Tomorrow I will begin my second of three weeks teaching for Summer FAIR. I teach four 50-minute classes each day; 1st through 4th grade. This is my first summer teaching for FAIR, and I didn’t quite know what to expect. Let’s just say I can’t quite teach movement and dance like I’d want… It’s a lot of disciplining and playing games that roughly have something to do with movement. But I think it’s getting better.
For the most part, I’ve been teaching without using music because the children don’t understand the traditional structure of a dance class, and it makes the class less hectic if there is less sound in the room. However, I observed that some kids missed the music and I remembered that for some people, music is a helpful instigator for movement improvisation. What is the age old connection between rhythmic sound and rhythmic movement? Is non-rhythmic movement still dancing? I’m curious about aspects of timing, rhythm and pause within the arts. (I’m very curious about slow.) Does rhythm subtly indicate intentionality? Or does it remove some element of intentionality if a dancer follows the rhythms of music exactly? Or is the music a framework to work inside and rebel against when necessary for good composition? Those are just some things I’m thinking about.
Exercises that have worked over the past week at engaging the kids include “freeze dance” (which is exactly what it sounds like – a version of magic statues), partner tag, counting games, and “relay.” Relay has become my word for “across the floor,” as it would be called in a more traditional class. By calling it a relay I have gotten the kids to go across the floor with a particular step, return, and pass of the turn to their classmates, who are sometimes waiting in line when they get back. I also created a movement scavenger hunt, with written clues, designed to get the kids to generate their own movement. It was mostly successful, but still generated a lot more gestures and “acting out” than I would have liked. I have found that one of my biggest challenges has been to get the kids to appreciate the movement just for what it is, without attaching meaning and names to the movement. The 4th graders in particular are fond of telling me what their movements are before they show them. I have to keep saying that we create movement by doing rather than talking, and that I don’t want the movements to have names, per se.
I am interested in getting to a way of moving that is beyond acting and miming so that as a class we can develop greater movement specificity and movement possibility. Specificity includes attention to rhythm, inner and outer space, relations with other people in space, shape and size and momentum of movement and so on. I want the kids to delve into movement as more than a simple background for a caption, a sound, or a name.
Two sites that have been helpful for generating and modifying games have been:
My plan for the upcoming week is to use the Jacob’s Pillow dance archive to plan each day’s lesson around a video from dance history. Each video is short, not longer than 2 minutes. Hopefully we will have a short discussion about the video, then learn some movement or dance vocabulary/ skills based on the specific performance. For the second half of the class I will lead movement games, and then at the very end of the period we will review whom we studied. Hopefully, with the promise of games at the end of class, we can get through some real material. On the list for the kids are: Garth Fagan, Wendy Whelan, Inbal Pinto & Avshalom Pollak, Compangie Käfig, Kyle Abraham, 3e Étage, Brian Brooks Moving Company, and Monica Bill Barnes. There are so many great videos in the Jacob’s Pillow archive that it was really hard to choose, and hopefully we’ll have some time to talk more generally about dance history as well. I would love to talk about William Forsythe and Misty Copeland and so on and so on with these kids as well.
That’s all for now! Here’s to hoping I can get the kids actually invested in movement.