Link Love: Olympic-Inspired Movement

Thanks to Teach Preschool’s post about the Olympic Blog Hop, I discovered a bunch of great Olympics-inspired movement posts for the little ones and had to share!

Move Like a Gymnast from Creative Family Fun – these activities might be fun to incorporate into a summer camp next year.

Pom Pom Games – These pom poms look fairly easy to make and would be a fun alternative to bean bags in the classroom.

Movement Games for Young Children – a few ideas and a great list of guidelines for creating your own movement game.

Ring-Based Movement Ideas – You could easily translate these ideas to non-Olympic rings by using some hoola hoops or rubber circles.

Olympic Family Fitness from The Iowa Farmer’s Wife – a 15-minute fitness lesson for a 3-year old including warm-up, activity and cool down.

Cute London Bus Prop Idea – ok, so this one has nothing to do with movement, but the London bus they made from a cardboard box would be a cute prop!

Have you been watching the Olympics?  Will any Olympic inspired movement be making its way into your classrooms this year?

"Cleaning" Dance Routines

Polishing, cleaning, fine-tuning… whatever you call it, its necessary before a performance.  I thought I'd share some of my favorite techniques that I've picked up over the years as a student and teacher. 

The first key is making sure everyone knows the dance – break the routine into 8 counts, count by count and analyze and correct everything from the head placement, arms, feet, legs (bent or straight), and tempo.  If you're low on time, start at the messiest part of the dance.

Once everyone knows the dance, repetition is key!  One of my teachers will not move on until each section (usually 8 counts) has been performed correctly and cleanly three times… in a row.   If they mess up on the third time, she starts over.  She calls it her "Rule of Three's" and uses it for only the messiest parts of dances because it can get very frustrating, but yields results.

Read more suggestions after the break!

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Quick Choreographic Inspiration

Have choreographer’s block?  Try some of the following choreographic devices to jump-start your creative mind:

Repetition – repeat a sequence of choreography you have, but with a change – new port de bras, new formation, new facing or pattern, different timing, new levels

Retrograde – Perform a sequence in the reverse order.  Or retrograde the arms, movement pattern or timing.

Peel/Canon/Contagious – A canon in dance is when the same step is repeated by each dancer, one after each other, started at regular intervals. Perform yours side to side, front to back, one at a time, or go out of order.  Or build – start with one dancer, add two, add four, etc.

Manipulate Timing – Take a sequence and repeat it, but with different timing.  For a controlled-chaos contemporary look in a group piece, have the dancers perform the same sequence, but each with their own timing, some frantically moving at double time, others slowly moving through the steps. 

Cross-art Inspiration – look at pieces of art, read a poem, listen to a different song.  Find something about that piece of art that inspires you and create a movement sequence from that.  Turn on another piece of music and choreograph a sequence.  Return to your original music and manipulate the new sequence with that music.

Non-Art Inspiration – similar to art-inspiration, analyze your choreography – are the movements natural?  Then look at pictures or videos of nature, watch animals move, observe snow falling.  Create a movement pattern from this.  Is your choreography stiff and mechanical – look to machines for inspiration.  Look at the world around you for things that move and imitate them with your body.

Group Work – let your dancers help in the creative process.  If you are teaching children, they love to participate and make a dance “their own”.  Give specific instructions and allow them to improv to the music.  “Movements that are low to the ground and stay in one place” or “quick, sharp movements” are examples of structured improv directions.  If possible, record their improv so you can play it back and isolate movements you like.

If all else fails, walk away, do something else and then return to your choreography. Sometimes a block is really a block and you will ultimately be frustrated if you try to force out choreography.

Happy choreographing!

Need to Solve a Problem? Take a Shower!

In a world of constant connection and interruption, the best place for your creative juices to flow may be the shower!

Last week I realized that I kept discovering solutions to problems while taking a shower. In mid-shampoo, I realized that if I set-up registration in a certain way, it would eliminate hours of work for my office manager. The next day, I choreographed a brilliant combination for my tap class. The next – I got lost in imagining new lifts for my dancers to try.

Why were these moments of brilliance isolated to the shower?

Because I was “disconnected”.

No ringing phones, no email notifications or text messages. I was on my own, free to let my mind wander without consequence.

This is apparently not isolated to me – Ismene Brown writes an article about a ballet conceived in a bathtub (, Steve Palina discusses his process for exploring creativity, and Wikipedia defines this state of mind.

The ten or fifteen minutes of creative energy I experienced is often referred to as “creative flow”. It is that period where ideas are free-flowing and you are so involved in the task at hand that you can tune out the world. Choreographers or dance teachers, this may sound familiar: have you ever been driving while a song comes on and you don’t just hear the song, you SEE the choreography. Your mind is in its creative flow.

So, the next time you need to solve a problem, create some choreography or find inspiration – “unplug” from the world. Go for a walk (WITHOUT the ipod or phone!), take a long bath or just sit in your favorite room with the TV off. Find your flow.

The next problem – remembering your ideas once you get out of the shower!

Fascinating Talk on Spreading Ideas

If you have a few minutes, take the time and watch this great video on how the internet is helping innovation in all areas, including dance! If you don’t have 20 minutes, at least watch the first few minutes about how dancers are learning from YouTube and innovating faster than ever before!

If you enjoyed this video, check out TEDTalks – there are some fascinating ideas out there!