Is anyone else feeling the mid-semester slump right now? Classes have been in session for a few weeks, or a few months, depending on what part of the country you’re in. The novelty is wearing off and the exhaustion is setting in. Winter break seems light years away and many of us are deep into Nutcracker rehearsals. For even the most dedicated and enthusiastic students (and, let’s be real. their teachers!), this time of year can be tough.
Luckily, fall offers plenty of opportunities to shake things up in class. I’m not the biggest fan of Halloween – I hate horror movies and things that go bump in the night – but we all know that kids eat it up! Incorporating some Halloween activities into your class can be the perfect antidote to the mid-semester blues.
Here are three of my favorite Halloween activities to use with your students of all ages and levels and in all genres of dance:
1.) Funny (And Functional) Bones – The prevalence of skeletons of the spooky variety this time of year provides ample opportunity for us to teach our students about their own internal structures. I bought a ten dollar Halloween skeleton at Target which offers an “accurate enough” representation of the skeletal system to be used in most dance classes. I use this skeleton to show what the bones and joints I talk so often about in class actually look like. We explore – in discussion and in movement – how hinge and ball-and-socket joints work and where they are found in the body. (You can add other kinds of joints for advanced students.) We improvise with the range of movement at each joint and throughout the entire spine. We talk about the role of the skeletal system in balance and discover different ways to be on and off balance. We twist and turn the decorative skeleton into different shapes and use those as an inspiration for our own movement.
2.) Monster Mash(up) – The range of monsters in popular culture – from the innocent Sesame Street variety to the more odious of the lot – can be used to teach students about the potential for expression through movement. Have students brainstorm words that can be used to describe monstrous creatures and write them on index cards. Have students draw cards, either individually or in teams, and move in a way that expresses that descriptor. Allow the other students to try to guess what the adverb is. For a more advanced version of the exercise, combine the descriptive words with student-sourced verbs that refer to “monster-like” actions, such as creep, slither, and stomp. Each person or group would pull one descriptor and one action, and move in a way that combines both.
3.) Bats and Pumpkins – This is a game in the style of “Sharks and Minnows,” as you might have played in gym class way back in elementary school. Choose a few “Pumpkins” to start in the middle of the room. They are only allowed to move on the low level. The other students, the “Bats,” must cross from one side of the room to the other on the high level, without being tagged by the Pumpkins. If a Bat is tagged, they become a Pumpkin. The beauty of this game, besides being a fun release from more formal activities, is that it can be adapted to explore other movement qualities. For example, “Ghosts” can move only with light weight and free-flowing energy while “Frankensteins” can move only with strong weight and bound, tense energy.
Whether you are the kind of person who goes all-out for Halloween or the type who would never be caught in a costume, using these holiday-themed activities in your class can help shake students out of their mid-semester funk and provide a fun way to explore movement concepts.