Autumn Leaf Creative Movement Dance

leavesI wanted to share an autumn leaf dance I’ve been exploring with my younger classes.  It was inspired by a fewdifferentposts from fellow dance bloggers and my recent acquisition of scarves!

We danced this dance in my youngest ballet classes (ages 5 and 6) through my intermediate ballet and modern classes (ages 9-12) and they all enjoyed it.

After all, who doesn’t like dancing with scarves!?

Autumn Leaf Creative Movement

This dance can be as structured or as open as you’d like to make it.

Scarves (links to Amazon)

Optional Props:  Dance scarves (I purchased these 27″ square ones from Amazon and they are holding up pretty well considering we’ve been using them almost weekly in about 10 classes a week.  They are nice and big and come in a nice variety of colors. The edges are starting to fray slightly, but I expected that.)

Skills:  Spatial awareness, working with a group, telling a story, improvisation

Music:  We used Vivaldi’s Autumn Allegro (The Four Seasons) & for the older classes closer to Halloween switched to a spookier-sounding song – we used Sayuri’s Theme.  Links open in iTunes, DB is an iTunes affiliate

We divided our class into Tree dancers, Wind dancers and Leaf dancers.  The scarves made it easy as I was able to group dancers by color (red and orange were Leaves, green and yellow were Trees, blue and purple were Wind).

General movements:

Trees – tall and straight, limbs moving and shaking in the wind.  For ballet classes, they moved through different ballet arm positions, modern class was freer movements, the scarf held in one or two hands like a leaf.

Wind – flow-y and blow-y, lots of traveling.  We used chasses, bourees, gallops, ballet runs, and turns, with the scarf circling overhead

Leaves – going between slow and still movements to fast and big movements.  We used skipping, hop scotch, and turns, scarf dancing along with them.

Formation & Travel Patterns:

To start, the Leaves gathered in a pile in the center of the room (sitting or kneeling together).  Trees stood in a circle around them.  Wind stood in a line “offstage”.  I usually appointed a leader (or had my assistant lead) for the Wind so that they would move in a line, like “follow the leader” – it helped them not get so wild.

Blue = Wind dancers, Red = Leaf dancers, Green = Tree dancers

The “Story”:  I would narrate this over top of the music, occasionally changing it up (the options I can remember in parentheses).  I also think it would work well with Maria’s creative movement falling leaves poem.  After a few times, I would give fewer and fewer cues and with the older kids we did it without talking.

Once upon a time, deep in the woods (middle of a meadow, spooky Halloween forest, etc) was a wonderful circle of tall, tall trees.  

The trees were straight and tall from their roots (in 1st position for ballet) and stretched their branches up to the sun.  

Then one day, the wind began to blow (motion for wind dancers to enter – they would do their movement traveling around the room) and the trees‘ branches began to shake.  

The leaves began to dance all around (cue for Leaf dancers to get up and come out of the circle).  They danced this way, and that way and twirled and whirled with the wind!  

At this point I would send Wind back offstage, (“The wind went away, back from where it came… and the leaves drifted slowly back to their tree grove and trees protected them” – trees would reach hands in the middle to cover leaves) or open it up to creative movement, which is what I would usually do towards the end of our class (all the forest began to move around and dance together).

Repeat and switch roles!

Other ideas we played with during group dance:

  • Incorporate steps from class, using the scarf (“they balance’d this way and balance’d that way”)
  • Have all dancers just dance with their arms and the scarf
  • Observer how the scarf moves and imitate it with their bodies
  • Float slowly to the ground like a falling leaf
  • Toss the scarf in the air during their creative dancing

Does anyone else have a fun scarf dance or exercise?  Do you do a fall dance?  I hope you enjoyed ours!

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Check Out My Interview at Maria’s Movers

recital nutcase

I was so excited when Maria invited me to be a part of her “Creating With Kids” interview project!  Her goal is to interview 52 children’s dance teachers this year and I have loved reading the other interviews, especially those who don’t work in the traditional studio setting.

You can read my interview over at her blog – Maria’s Movers

And check out all her great creative ideas while you’re there! 🙂

Thanks again Maria for inviting me to participate in your project!

Dance Baseball

This is a fun dance game that my students love playing in class.  I hesitate to call it a “game” because I try to make a lot of our exercises in class fun, and it also is a good review of technique.  Either way, the kids see it as a game and they love playing, so I like to save it for special times of the year.

As a side note, one of my 7 year olds who started playing softball in the spring was so proud that she was the only one on her softball team that year who knew how the game worked because we had played “ballet baseball” in class…wasn’t exactly what I was hoping she would learn from ballet class, but hey at least she learned something!

Dance Baseball

Ages 7 & Up (dancers need a basic understanding of baseball/softball)

Class:  Adaptable to any style of class where the students have learned specific technique skills that they can be called upon to remember.  I will use a beginning ballet class in my description below.

My ballerinas lined up to play (purple cone is 1st base)

Set-Up:  Designate bases around the room (we use the traditional diamond shape, but your dance baseball field can have as many bases as you like).  I usually use small cones, but little rugs or tape mark would work.  The pitcher (usually that’s me) stands in the middle.

The Goal: The whole class is one team and their goal is to get as many “runs” around the bases as a class as they can against the pitcher, who’s goal is to stump them and get them “out”.

How we play:  The first dancer comes “up to bat” (steps up to home plate) and I “pitch” them a dance step (2nd position demi plie). If they can do it, they move (we bourree) to first base.

The second dancer steps up to home plate and I “pitch” them a different step (degagé).  If they can do it, they move to first base and the first dancer moves to second.  If the do not know the step or do it incorrectly, the team has an “out”.  Depending on the age, I will give hints or three tries to the dancer who is up.  If I’m able to stump someone, I keep using the same step until someone gets it.

This continues and if dancers know the step, they all move up one base, eventually getting all the way back home and earning a “run”.

We play to three outs and count up the runs.  We try to beat our highest score as a class the next time we play.

Stealing a base in ballet baseball

Advanced Dance Baseball:  “Stealing bases”

With my tweens and teens, I allow “base stealing”.  The pitcher holds a beanbag and dancers may attempt to steal a base by tiptoeing… however if they try to steal a base, I can toss the beanbag at them to try to get them out.  This usually causes lots of giggles since I have pretty bad aim ☺

Just remind them that they are in dance class, not a field, so no running (or sliding).  Sometimes I allow multiple people on the bases – modify the rules as you see fit!

I hope you like our fun alternative to reviewing dance steps – make it your own!  Play ball!

Why, Discount Dance, Why?

It’s the first day of dance and your newest little toddler students enter the room in their new dancewear – hair pulled back, cute little leotards, pink tights and then you look down at their feet and you see:

Flimsy slipper
THE HORROR!
The super soft fake satin ballet “slippers” they unfortunately sell next to dancewear at Target and Walmart.  Every preschool teacher’s nightmare.  They fall off feet, cause dancers to trip and fall and are simply not suited for a dance class.
Screen Shot 2013-08-12 at 10.36.27 PM
But they truly are annoying and I cringe every time I see a parent proudly whip them out of a dance bag… usually just a case of being mis-informed.
Then today I was shopping for some new ballet slippers for myself from Discount Dance and I see this:
 Screen Shot 2013-08-12 at 10.43.52 PM
Let’s take a closer look…
s200

AHHHHH!  Eh tu, Discount Dance?

I mean, I understand that Target and Walmart might not care if the bedroom slippers they are passing off as ballet shoes aren’t ACTUAL ballet slippers, but Discount Dance should have SOME shred of integrity when it comes to shoes that are listed under the “Ballet” category!  Whyyyyyy??

At least one of the reviewers (mind you, a 13-year old who has better sense then a dance catalog) wrote:

“I’m just going to quickly say if you are planning on buying these to wear them, don’t…Anyway, I actually made them in to a keychain!”

The only use for this shoe is as a decoration!

Ok… rant over.  I feel better now.

At least until the first day of class…

Marching Onward… and Checking In!

Hi friends, just taking a moment to check in and say I’m still here!  Crazy busy, but still here!

February to June is my super busy season, as I’m sure it is for many other dance teachers and studio owners as we prep for our annual recital, register for summer classes and work on next season’s schedule!

Haven’t had as much time to write down thoughts and new music finds, but I wanted to share a funny story from my beginning ballet class.  They are first and second graders and always surprise me, but one caught me off guard!

We were at ballet barre about to work on tendus…

Miss Cait (that’s me): “Now what do we need to remember about tendus?  Sophie?”

Sophie: “Straight legs!”

MC: “That’s right, what else, Julia?”

Julia: “Make them sticky!” (see more about that here)

MC: “Yes definitely… ok, anything else, Morgan?”

Morgan (just as brightly and matter-of-factly as the other responses): “My fish died!”

MC: “Oh.. well… I’m very sorry to hear that – what was your fish’s name?”

Morgan: “Swishy”

MC: “Well…” (scrambling for the appropriate response)

Sophie: “I know!  We can have a funeral for Swishy!”

MC: “I don’t know…”

Julia: “It’s perfect ’cause we’re all dressed up for a funeral – we’re all wearing black!” (we wear black and pink)

MC: “Ok then, let’s dedicate tendues to Swishy”

Kids: “Swishy, this is for you.”

So that’s how we ended up dedicating part of our ballet barre to Swishy the fish!

Coach’s Eye – App for Dance Teachers

I came across this great app that I just started using for cleaning dances and am loving it!

It’s called “Coach’s Eye
(link opens in iTunes) and it works on iPhones, iPads and iPods.  It $4.99, but its a worthy investment of five bucks – let’s face it, I’ve spend more on coffee in one day (not sure if I like what that says about my caffeine addiction).

This app allows you to record a dance, play it back for your students (in regular or slow motion) and even draw on the video like a football coach or the play-by-play guys on TV do.

You can also record yourself critiquing the video and then share it or send it to your students.

I am trying it out this week and will let you know what I think!

Grab Coach’s Eye:

Coach's Eye - TechSmith Corporation

Looking for more advice on cleaning dances?  Check out this post.

Looking for more apps to make your life easier?  Here are a few posts you might like.

Tell me:  Do you use your iPhone or iPad in class?  What do you use it for?

Ballet Mime

Crossed arms mean love – but be careful –
make those hands into fists and you may
be saying something completely different!

My students and I had a conversation about ballet miming this week:  Did you know dancers are storytellers as well as actors and actresses too?

Ballerinas and ballet dancers even have their own special hand gestures to tell stories – sort of like ballet sign language!

You may already know some common gestures:

– Both hands to the heart for “love

– Hand cupped by ear for “hear

– Bowing or curtseying to show loyalty

– Strong motions with fists to show anger

 

Then there are some you might not be as familiar with:

– Tapping the forehead twice for “princess” and three times for “king” or “queen

– Crossed hands with fists for “death

– And “dance” is said by circling your arms overhead in 5th position

Here are some links for more ballet mime:

Learn the conversation between the Swan Queen and the prince from Swan Lake with this fun video from The Royal Ballet: