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!

Candy Cane Prop

Just wanted to share a cute idea from my Kindergarten and 1st grade tap classes. I saw these lawn candy canes at Wal Mart and picked up a few for $1 each. They are the perfect size for pint-sized dancers to use as tap “canes” and fun for the holidays!

This year I had a hard time finding non-lighted ones, but Wal-Mart had some for 99 cents each. If you wait until after the holidays and find them even cheaper and keep them for next year.

It’s funny how creative kids are – within minutes of getting to use the candy canes, they had come up with 4 or 5 different ways of holding the cane I hadn’t even considered (including riding the cane like a horse, and putting two canes together to make a large heart).  One word of caution–these canes do look like candy so the first thing my kids started to do was pretend to lick the candy cane! I’m not sure younger students would be able to resist trying to lick the pretend candy… something to consider.

EDIT:  I left these in my car overnight and the cold temperatures made them brittle.  When I went to take them out of my car, a few of them shattered all over my trunk, leaving tiny bits of plastic.  I recommend keeping yours indoors or find a thicker, more pliable material.

For my Kindegarten class (all first-year dancers), I used the Peppermint Stick Strut from Rosemary Boross’ “Land of Sweet Taps” CD. The song includes instructions such as “Tap tap tap tap, together, clap”, so we modified them to mean “tap (your cane and foot to side), step together and tap cane in front”.  The Kindegartners has trouble remembering which end of the cane to hold onto, so we didn’t reverse our steps, but kept the cane ‘crook’ in our right hand for the whole combination.  Their favorite part was walking around the cane.

Lighted candy cane from Boscovs.. too many wires!

For my 1st graders, I used “Sleigh Ride” by Amy Grant.  It is a bit faster, but you can go half-tempo for harder steps.  They were able to switch hands and enjoyed making different shapes with the canes and their formations.

Click here to view the age 6-8 combo I created*
Suggested song: “Sleigh Ride” by Amy Grant Sleigh Ride - A Christmas Album 

*If you read the combo, a quick note about the “giddy up” part… my 1st graders have been flying through our tap syllabus this year and absolutely love cramprolls.  They can do them at a high speed, so during the giddy up part they are able to perform 3 quick cramprolls.  You can modify it to be little ponyjumps (like a pas de chat but parallel or whatever jumping step your class enjoys).

Here are some links to prop suggestions:

What props have you used this or in past holiday seasons?

Props to Use in Class

A great teacher has the ability to make the repetitive material exciting and new. This is especially a challenge for teachers who teach beginners, elementary school-age classes or preschool classes where a lot of repetition of simple steps is necessary for systematic progression. One way to keep class fresh and new is to bring props into the classroom.

Props help all types of learners retain and discover more about the steps they are learning. However, there is something magical that happens using props for dancers who are tactile learners. When they see a prop, touch it, feel it and use it, something clicks in their brains to help them learn the step or correction.

Finis Jhung, one of the most sought-after ballet teachers, uses props (to the right): he has a square for finding–and maintaining–your center, and his “plum” line is a variation of plumb line, used to show alignment. Many teachers who use vivid descriptions will find that a simple prop will take their teaching that much further.

Suggestions for props:
– Beanbags (balance on body parts, gentle tossing, passing in circle)
– Kickball-size foam balls (roll to different students while stretching in center split)
– Scarves (creative movement, free dance, ballet class)
– Maracas or percussion instruments (make ‘music train’ with toddlers / with older students-half of the class makes the beat while the other half dances to it)
– Parachute (toddlers)
– Pom Poms (emphasize arm movements)
– Teddy bears / puppets
– Jumprope (create different movement paths on the floor and mimic them with the body)
– Magic Wands (for littles: tip toe walks, bourree turn with them above heads and grant a magic wish while you arabesque)
– Rhythm sticks (teaching musicality and rhythm)
– Tambourines (again, musicality and rhythm exercises, also hold it in front of your creative movement dancers while they learn battements – try to tap the tambourine, with older children you can hold it up high during leaps and have them try to tap the tambourine while leaping)
– Candy canes at Wintertime (hold them long ways while doing dig heel walks. After executing a cramp roll, tap it on the ground 3x. Place end on floor and walk around it)
– Jingle Bells at Wintertime (shake out a rhythm, then match it with your taps)
– Canes (for a Broadway feel combo)
– Long/large scarves (for Arabian type dances during Nutcracker time)
– Chairs (for different movements-seated, stepping up on, spinning on one leg, etc…)
– Wooden suitcases to tap on
– Serving trays with elastic straps on the bottom to attach to your hands (works great for waitress type dances or Be Our Guest)
– Umbrellas

What props do you use in your classes?