Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Halloween Treat

Happy Halloween to all those trick and treaters!  As a lovely treat I would like to share with you a fun music video created by my friends Steve Blunt (children's singer/ songwriter) and Deb Mendonca Cote (aveproductions.com).

Check out "Pumpkins Beware":

Use Halloween as motivation to create your own dance video.  All you need is a favorite Halloween song, a video camera and space to dance.  Explore some action words from a favorite pumpkin song or book.

Excerpt from the song "Pumpkins Beware" by Steve Blunt:
Pumpkins beware it's Halloween
Cling to the vines and don't be seen
if a human comes for you
your happy pumpkin days are through!

Excerpt of the book Five Pesky Pumpkins by Marcia Vaughan

One worried pumpkin
All alone tonight.
Out jump the others..."BOO!"
And give her such a fright!
Five Pesky Pumpkins: A Counting Book with Flaps and Pop-Ups!
Remember when creating any kind of dance always have a:
  • Beginning (opening shape, entrance, etc.)
  • Middle (maybe a specific way to travel around the space or the children's favorite movements)
  • End (ending shape, exit, etc.)
That's it.  Kids love to watch themselves on camera and it gives them a different perspective on how they move.  Believe me, once they start creating it will be hard to get them to stop. 

Have fun creating dances with the children in your life!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Performance Magic!

When my daughter was little she loved to put on dance shows for me.  We had a brick fireplace that was her stage.  She would run out of the room (or backstage) for costume changes and she would even pretend to come out at the end of the show and do a "meet and greet" with the audience (me and my husband.)

Her understanding of dance as a performance came from us taking her to see dance shows.  I am not talking about Broadway but whatever local dance company or school was performing, sometimes in the park or in a theatre or high school auditorium.  When my husband and I would take her, I would explain that we were paying money to buy tickets.  The tickets were to prove we paid so we could go in and out of the theatre.  The programs that we got told us who was performing, who worked on the show and gave us information about the performance.  I would take her up to the stage, if it was accessible, and have her touch it.  I would point out musicians in the pit, if we were fortunate to go to show with live musicians.  And if there were ushers, she would learn how they make sure everyone is in the right seat.

Any opportunity to meet the performers was always pure gold.  I would point out the costumes, hair and makeup.  I would let her know they are people like me and her.  They practiced often, possibly auditioned and put time, energy and love into their performance.  I loved her look of pure awe, mouth open, eyes wide whispering her questions to me.

Her shows at home were filled with all of these elements.  She would make us "pay"  for tickets at her make-shift box office.  She would show us to our seats and even "sell" us concessions at intermission.  My favorite part of her shows were her ""meet and greet" after.  The way she held out her hand to shake ours.  Her declaring that she was one of the performers and asking if I had any questions.

She is 7 now and she is still in awe when we go to shows.  It is a very special time we share waiting for the lights to go down, the music to begin and the curtain to open.  We hold hands, and giggle.  This live performance can't be rewound, paused or recorded to watch later.  We are experiencing a moment together that we will share in our memories forever.

I encourage everyone to take a child to see a live show.  So much can be learned about dance and the art of creating.  And it is pure magic!

Have fun seeing a live show with a child in your life!


Monday, October 11, 2010

Falling Down, Sideways, and All Around

Here in  the northeast the leaves on the trees are vibrant, colorful and awesome!!  And when the wind blows I get to witness a dance of colors cascading down to the ground.  See if you can bring the outside in with this autumn inspired activity (or do the activity outside and join the leaves!)

The week prior to the activity ask the children to observe the leaves on the trees and how they fall to the ground. Ask them to wear autumn inspired colors for the activity (orange, red, yellow, brown, etc.)  

Have the children share there week's observations with you.   How many different ways did the leaves fall to the ground? Write down all of their descriptive words.

 How many different ways can they fall to the ground? 

The children at first will probably fling themselves onto the floor.  After they have explored this way of falling ask them to show you the opposite way of falling. 
  • Can you fall slowly?
  • Can you fall leading with your elbow?
  • Can your fall take you all the way around the room?
  • Can you fall softly?
  • Can you fall with a partner?
  • Can the entire class fall together?
  • Can you fall in a scattered pattern through the class or in a big cluster?
After they have explored all the various ways they can fall, have them describe their experiences to you.  Now see if the class can create a poem with the words.  Read the poem out loud and have them dance to the poem.

This activity works on observation skills, sharing ideas, collaboration and creativity.

Have fun falling with the children in your life!


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Back on the Road Again

I am glad to say hello again!  Thank you for all the well wishes!  I am on the road to a full recovery after my recent neck surgery.  Wow - it is amazing what the neck does and how it affects the rest of the body!!

Did you know that an adult human head ways about 10 pounds?

No wonder our necks and backs get sore!  That's a lot of weight to carry on our thin necks! 

Now think about children writing at their desks all day.  No wonder you see so many of them with their heads down or slouched.  Did you ever say to a child "sit up straight?"  I know I have.  But I never thought about how tired their backs and necks might be.

Some exercises to strengthen those back and neck muscles:
  1. Wall Push-ups - similar to regular push-ups but do it standing leaning against a wall.  Most young kids don't have the strength for regular push-ups, and  it is important not to practice poor technique or form.
  2. Plank- Have your students hold their bodies in "push-up" position on the floor and hold it for ten seconds.  Make sure their ears stay over their shoulders and their heads don't drop down.   Their backs should be nice and straight.
  3. Rows- Sing  the "row, row, row your boat" song while sitting on the floor or in chairs.  Row your arms in circles with a nice straight back.  Go forward, go backward, do alternating arms.
These three easy activities will strengthen the students/children's arms, backs and chests and will enable them to sit without their heavy heads toppling to their desks.  And make sure they get a break because muscles can't work when they are tired.  A runner can't run 24/7 and children and adults can't sit all day.  Muscles work better when they are rested.  This doesn't mean lie down and snooze but get up and work different muscles.

Try a new way of sitting:
  1. Wall Squats - have the children lean against the wall and slowly slide down until their legs are at 90 degree angles.  See how long they can hold themselves in this position.  What a leg workout!  Those legs need some activation so they don't get to sleepy sitting!
  2. Back to Back Standing - Have two children sit back to back on the floor.  Ask them to press their backs together and stand.  They really have to engage those leg and stomach muscles.
Teachers, parents and dance educators - try these exercises and see if it brings new life to your students/ children's ability to sit and stand with their heads held high.

Have fun strengthening the muscles that support your neck with the children in your life!