Monday, July 25, 2011

Dancing Words Creates Dancing Pants

I have written before about how much I love Shel Silverstein's poetry and how poetry or words can inspire movement.  Well, my dear friend was teaching a summer dance workshop and called me up with an urgent request.  She wanted to know if I could suggest a Shel Silverstein poem that her jazz dance class could use to create a dance.  I nearly leapt out of my chair with excitement.  (Okay - I did leap out of my chair.)  I have many books Shel Silverstein wrote but my absolute favorite is Where The Sidewalk Ends.

I began to suggest to my friend almost ever poem on every page of the book.  His poetry is so descriptive it just about begs a dancer to move to the words.  She decided on the poem Dancing Pants

Dancing Pants by Shel Silverstein (page 126 in Where the Sidewalk Ends)

And now for the Dancing Pants
Doing their fabulous dance.
From the seat to the pleat
They will bounce to the beat,
With no legs inside them
And no feet beneath.
They'll whirl, and twirl, and jiggle and prance,
So just start the music
And give them a chance-
Let's have a big hand for the wonderful, marvelous,
Super sensational, utterly fabulous
Talented Dancing Pants!

Hope you can come up with a dance for these dancing pants with the little ones in your life!


Monday, July 18, 2011

Simple Moves for a Simply Fabulous Dance

I just came back from dancing in New Hamsphire with my friend children's music singer/songwriter Steve Blunt.  He is in the process of  completing his new CD and he had the great idea of adding a bonus movement feature to the disc. The movements he created are simple and easy to remember because they mimic the words he sings.  It makes the songs interactive and the kids get to be silly as they listen to silly lyrics.  Dances do not have to be complicated to be effective and engaging.  In fact, sometimes the simplier the better!

You can use this idea to create simple movements to your favorite tunes. 
  1. Choose a song that has a lot of descriptive words or clear actions.
  2. Have the words of the song inspire three or four movements that can repeat throughout the song. (It is great to pull ideas out of the chorus since it repeats.) 
  3. One or two of the movements should travel through the space and one or two should be stationary.
  4. Create a beginning and end shape to the dance.
  5. Make sure at least one movement engages the entire body.
  6. Encourage the kids to use facial expressions as well. 
  7. Be careful not to "act out" the song. 
  8. Make sure the kids come up the movements with you!
 Simple dances are fun and do not require much space.  You can even have the kids pick out the music.  (Make sure to listen to the lyrics first before agreeing to the song.)

Have fun dancing to your favorite song with the little ones in your life.  And keep your movements simple for a simply fabulous dance!


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A Growing Family Tree

A few years back a child in one of my classes was awaiting the arrival of a baby brother.  The classroom teacher of this preschooler asked me to create a lesson to address this upcoming event.  My challenge was to create a lesson  that was not too literal, could be univeral to all the children in the class as well as address the needs of this particular student.  This is what I came up with:

Music For The Lesson

I used Tom Paxton's Family Tree song for this lesson.  If you do not know who Tom Paxton is check out is website:  He is one of the best folk singers of his era and is an incredible song writer. 

Here is the excerpt of the song:

Before the days of Jello
Lived a prehistoric fellow,
Who loved a maid and courted her
Beneath the banyan tree.
And they had lots of children.
And their children all had children.
And they kept on having children
Until one of them had me!

We're a family and we're a tree.
Our roots go deep down in history
From my great-great-granddaddy reaching up to me,
We're a green and growing family tree.

To listen to the song or to download it check out:
Dance Activity
Walk in a circle holding hands and sing the chorus of the song.  Invite a child to dance in the center of the circle as everyone keeps moving counterclockwise.  Invite another child in and have them dance together.  Keep adding children until the entire class is dancing together.  Then direct them back to the circle.  Do this a few times.  Have them talk about the activity. 
  1.  How did they feel when they were dancing and other children joined in? 
  2.  What does the song mean to them? 
  3.  What happens when a family grows?
  4. Is there room for everybody? 
  5. Was it fun to dance with many people?
There is no right or wrong answer.  Do no lead the children to an answer.  Let them explore their feelings. 
Have fun exploring what an expanding family tree means to you and the children in your life!