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Teaching Basic Choreography

In a high quality dance class, it is important to allow the children opportunity to choreograph.  This process helps the children to develop their creativity and enhances their knowledge of the techniques they have learnt and the topic they are working on.

When their contributions are accepted and incorporated into the session, children feel valued (which does wonders for their self-esteem!).

The best way to encourage children to choreograph imaginative and innovative movement, that is relevant to the topic, is by giving them a framework to use.

The following process is one that professional choreographers use when creating their dance performances, and can be easily applied to the classroom.  In the words of the great George Balanchine,

“choreography is simpler than you think.  Just go and do, and don’t think so much about it.  Just make something interesting”.

  • Stimulus: the starting point chosen to inspire movement.  For example, a topic (Gladiators training), a picture (The Angel of the North), an object (a robot).
  • Improvisation: spontaneous movement, without prior planning.  Children are excellent at this as they are already ‘full’ of ideas!  Improvise movements in response to the stimulus.  For example, strong striking movements (Gladiators), different long and imposing shapes (The Angel of the North), stiff, mechanical and angular actions (robot).
  • Select and refine: choose movements relevant to the stimulus to create a phrase (sequence of movement).  I often ask them to select 3-5 of their ideas, the ones they feel best represent the stimulus.  I also remind them to use variety in their decisions, so that the children use a range of ideas.
  • Development: consider how (dynamics) and where (space) the dance will be performed.  For example, will there be a change of levels? (low / high)  Will they include a change of direction? (facing the back / front / side)  Will there be a change of speed? (fast / slow).  This stage is more applicable to key stage 2 children (although there will be key stage 1 children who can achieve phrase development too).  And finally, who will they dance with?  Is it a solo, duet, trio, group dance?

I (and approximately 150 children!) have been busy choreographing for the Jump2it Dance Festival, which will take place in March at Longslade Community College in Birstall.  To book tickets, contact me at [email protected] or 07738042089.

If your school is interested in being part of a dance festival, or you would like me to choreograph a performance piece, contact me via the methods above.

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