Monday, March 29, 2010

Audience Appreciation

I am going to participate in a Passover Seder tonight. For anyone who is not familiar with a Passover Seder, it is a dinner where everyone at the table participates in reading out of a special book called the Hagadah. It tells the story of the exodus of the Jewish people out of Egypt. There will be 24 guests celebrating Passover tonight and each of us will take a turn reading out of the Hagadah.

As I think about the Seder, I keep coming back to audience participation, and the importance of teaching this concept to children when they are very small. We tend to think that the person dancing on stage is the one who is actively engaged. But this is not true at all. Yes, of course the person on the stage is engaged but the audience member is just as engaged. The audience member is a critic, observer, and a part of the experience.

The Role of the Audience

1. To listen. We listen with our eyes and ears.

2. We are quite so we don't disturb the dancers and other audience members.

3. We watch. We look for shapes, levels, steps. We watch for images.

4. We think. We feel. What did the dance remind us of? How did the dance make us feel?

5. We share. We tell the dancers what we saw and liked.

6. We applaud. We thank the performers for sharing with us.

Sometimes it is hard to sit and be still and not be the one on stage. But when the audience has a job to do, they have the tools to focus and give feedback. They have the tools to be apart of the performance and have the opportunity  to use the dance skills they are learning by observing.

When I am sitting at the Passover table tonight, I will be an audience member and "performer." I will speak, listen, observe, think, and share.

Children at every age can be audience members and start practicing this very important job.

Have fun being an audience member with the children in your life!



Monday, March 22, 2010

Dance Treasure Chest

I love keeping a dance journal.  I started this in college.  I wrote down thoughts, inspirations, technical corrections, concepts, anything and everything that I encountered in a day.  It helped me process what I was experiencing.  And some of those thoughts became dances. And some dances I saw encouraged me to right down my thoughts.

Dance Notebooks
I bought small notebooks, pencils and colorful erasers for the children in one of my classes and asked them to write about what the learned, experienced, and what their favorite activity was in class.  These students are 6 and 7 years old.  Some of them asked me if they could draw a picture of their experiences and my answer was an absolute YES!!  They were very excited to each pick a notebook (they were various colors), a pencil and a colorful eraser to go on top of the pencil.

After they were finished writing I asked them one at a time to read what they wrote.   Some entries were very detailed and others were about a sentence. It was special for me to hear each child read about their own personal movement experience and it was also a great assessment tool.

If your child/students are not old enough to write down some words or sentences you can have them draw a picture about their movement adventure.  They can describe the picture for you. 

For examples of this check out

There is more than one way to learn from an experience.
By doing and then redoing in a new way, like writing about it or drawing a picture or talking about it, you develop a deeper understanding of the kinesthetic experience.  Having a special notebook to process the experience is just as important, it is like the dance treasure chest that holds all the gold!

Have fun moving and writing/coloring with the children in your life!


Monday, March 15, 2010

Free Dance is Freeing

I believe a person receives a gift every time they dance; the gift of body ownership and a sense of control.  Children do not get to make many choices in their day.  They don't choose when to wake up, what they are going to eat, what they will be doing at school, and what time they go to bed.  Adults might not get to make as many choices as they would like either!  But when you dance you are the one in charge!

You can choose to wiggle your hips, swing your arms and tap your toes.  You get to find your own rhythm, create your own pathways through the space and choose your own steps. You can raise your arms up to the sky or reach them down to the ground.  The possibilities are endless; the choice is for each dancer to make.

"Free dance" is an important part of any dance experience.  This is a time when you decide and find out how you like to move.  What feels right for your body, what feels natural and safe?  It is important to remember that giving children the time to explore and move freely is essential to developing a sense of self.  It can promote body awareness, self expression and self confidence.

Our Favorite Thing
I like to make a circle with my class and have one child at a time go in to the center and dance.  I call this time "Our Favorite Thing."  Each child shares their favorite way of moving.  We clap along and practice being good audience members.  If a child is shy, he or she can invite another friend to dance.  This is their special time to shine.   

In a day filled with so many unknowns that you can not predict, so many rules and schedules it is great to let loose and explore what is yours alone; your body.  Find at least one moment a day to dance freely, without rules, with the children in your life.  It will do your body and your children's bodies good!!

Have fun moving any way you like with the children in your life!


Monday, March 8, 2010

In Like a Lion, Out Like a Lamb

I love the wind.  I love feeling the air on my skin.  It makes my body feel alive.  I love teaching movement with the wind as a tool for body awareness.  It is the perfect tool.  We are normally not aware of our skin like we are aware of our knees bending or our arms swinging.  It is hard to be conscious of the back of your neck or the front of your shins.  But when a strong brisk breeze blows by you can feel every ounce of your body come alive.  The hair on your skin stands up as if to shout "We are here!" like the Whos did in the book Horton Hears a Who!

In feeling all sides of the body, in essence your three dimensionality, you become aware of all the directions your body can move.  The wind can blow forward, back, side, and side and so can you.  The wind can twist and turn, so can you.  A kite can take flight and so can you.

Movement Activity
  1. Talk about the wind with your child/class.  It travels in all directions.  How do we know?  We can feel it.  We can feel it whooshing by our legs, it sometimes can push us forward or back with its force.  We can see it when our hair gets whipped about or when it picks up a piece of litter and lifts it off the ground.  Let's see if we can travel in all directions like the wind.
  2. Give each child a scarf.  (If you don't have a scarf, use a tissue.)  Can they move their scarves forward and back?  Can they make their movements bigger and smaller?  Can they move through the space with big sweeping forward and back movements?  Next try side (right and left) and back.  Can they twirl and spin with the scarf?  Can they move from low to high and high to low?
  3. Make a circle and have one child go into the circle at a time.  Watch as they do their wind dance.  Have the children pretend to blow softly, moving their scarves gently, directing the dancer to move gently and slowly like a calm breeze.  Then have the children move their scarves fast and furious like a blustery wind.  The dancer in the middle then should react with gusto!
Have fun moving up down and all around and off the ground with the children in your life!


    Monday, March 1, 2010

    Keeping the Beat

    I just got back from exhibiting at the eastern regional AAHPERD convention.  For those of you who have never heard of AAHPERD it stands for American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance.  There mission is to "promote and support leadership, research, education, and best practices in the professions that support creative, healthy, and active lifestyles."
    Check it out at www.

    I had a wonderful time meeting educators from all over the East Coast who are dedicated to bringing  movement programs and possibilities to kids and adults.  My booth was next to the American Heart Association.  They were promoting their Jump Rope For Heart Program .  Here is more information about the program taken straight from their website

    • The American Heart Association, with its partner the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, launched Jump Rope For Heart as a national fund-raising and education program in 1978. More than 30,000 schools jump in each year to help fight America’s No. 1 and No. 3 killers – heart disease and stroke – and teach kids the importance of physical activity and a healthy heart. Jump Rope For Heart continues to educate students about living a heart-healthy lifestyle.
    • Jump Rope For Heart develops rope-jumping skills that are fun for everyone while promoting the value of physical activity and teamwork. Students learn about the seriousness of heart disease and stroke, the lifelong benefits of physical activity and the importance of living a heart-healthy lifestyle. The program also teaches students to set and achieve goals and shows them how they can make a difference through volunteering and community service.
    Jumping Rope Teaches Rhythm
    I remember when I was 10 I learned a jump rope tap dance routine.  It was crazy hard and fun.  The most interesting thing about jumping rope is that it helps to teach rhythm.  Many people tell me they can't dance or they have no rhythm.  What they really are saying is that they are self conscious about how they move and have never been taught that they don't have to move like anyone else.  There is no right or wrong way to move the body - just choices and possibilities!

    When I teach rhythm to students I use jump ropes, balls and hula hoops.  Why? Because you need to keep a beat in order to do these activities.  When you jump rope you natural keep a beat, the same with bouncing a ball or moving a hula hoop!  Everyone can keep a beat, but it is easier when you are not thinking about the beat but doing an activity.

    Try using balls, jump ropes and hula hoops and see what fun you can have. And thanks to Donna, my first dance teacher, for teaching me to jump rope and tap dance, I will never forget it!

    Keep moving up down and all around with a beat and a jump!