It’s hard to believe that winter and the holidays are upon us again! This year, the holidays are sure to different for everyone, and it might be hard for us as adults to get into the festive spirit. If you are like me, however, you want to do all that you can to help your students experience all of the magic of this season. Holidays … school breaks … the first snowfall … it’s pretty much a kid’s dream! Incorporating winter-themed activities into your classes is a fun way to engage students of all ages and genres in new kinds of dance learning, while also giving them an outlet for all of the excess energy they seem to have this time of year!
Seasonal activities provide an excellent opportunity to encourage students to explore different movement qualities and refine their performance abilities. (Several of my Halloween activities focused on this as well!) Improvisation, games, and creative exercises all provide fun ways to help students work on these skills while also developing a deeper understanding of their dance technique.
The dance games featured here are designed to be played during in-person, online, or hybrid classes. Covid-19 considerations are listed to help you adapt the game for social distance or online settings as needed. Be sure to check out The Holistic Collection of Dance Games for the Winter Season, with 15 games celebrating winter, winter holidays, and Valentine’s Day. You’ll find variations that make it easy to play these 3 games, and the 12 others, multiple times in class – because we all know kids can’t enough of their favorite activities. You’ll also find music suggestion, Covid-19 considerations, detailed instructions, discussion questions, and a description of the primary learning objective for each game.
Frozen Hot Chocolate (A Game of Opposites)
The primary objective of this activity is to help students connect with one another while developing their observation and improvisation skills. The foundation of this activity is the improvisational concept of mirroring.
Arrange the dancers in pairs, with students facing one another. (Covid-19 precaution: Make sure students are a safe distance apart.) Assign one dancer from each group to start as the “leader” and one as the “follower.” The follower will copy the leader as if they were their reflection in a mirror. When the leader moves their right hand, the follower will move their left hand. In both cases, students should be encouraged to watch each other closely and try to copy the leader exactly. The leader should begin by moving slowly, with simple movements that do not change direction, so that the follower can copy their movement more easily. The ultimate goal is for the leader and follower to be moving so succinctly that an outside observer would not be able to determine who is leading and who is following.
When the instructor says “Marshmallows!,” the follower will have to do the opposite of what the leader is doing. This can be open to the dancers’ interpretation. If the leader moves their right hand, the follower could choose to move their own right hand (instead of their left as they would if mirroring), or their foot, or they could move at a different tempo or with a different quality. The instructor may choose to give some specific guidelines if they want the dancers to focus in on a specific kind of opposite movement.
When the instructor says “Whipped Cream!,” the dancers switch roles, and return to mirroring. This means the dancer who had been the leader would begin mirroring the dancer who had been the follower.
- This dance can be easily adapted to online classes. Assign each dancer a partner to play with over the Zoom screen. Consider assigning each pair to their own breakout room if you have a large class.
Questions for Discussion
- Did you feel like you were successful in your attempt to mirror your partner’s movement exactly? What made it easier or more difficult to mirror exactly?
The primary objective of this activity is to help students explore new locomotor movement based on imaginative prompts, trying to move quickly and efficiently across the floor. Allow the students to “race” several times against different opponents, and encourage them to think about ways to make their movement more efficient, faster, and more interesting each time.
Invite the students to help you brainstorm different “Winter” ways to move, as if they were:
- Figure skating
- Speed skating
- Skiing downhill
- Cross country skiing
- Slipping and sliding on ice
- Trudging through heavy snow
- A snowflake being blown in a blizzard
- A snowflake in a gentle flurry
- An icicle slowly melting
- A penguin, reindeer, polar bear, or other arctic animal
- A marshmallow floating in hot chocolate
- A snowman happily dancing on a cold day
- A snowman melting in the summer sun
Create a course for the students to complete through using the different movement scenarios. For example, they might move from stage right to stage left as if they were sliding on ice, then upstage as if they were a penguin, then on the diagonal as if they were a melting icicle. (Covid-19 consideration: See social-distance options below.) Dancers may race against one another in pairs, or complete the course as a team, relay style, with the group of dancers who can complete the course fastest (and/or most appropriately) being declared the winner.
- For socially distant, in-person classes, you may want to have the dancers move only in one direction (such as stage left to stage right), on different “tracks.” You can use marley panels in the studio or tape off the tracks with painter’s tape. Make sure that the racing students are spaced on offset tracks, such as the 1st and 3rd, to allow for more space between them. In between each race, you may want to run a quick mop on the track that was used, while the next group uses the opposite tracks. To complete the game relay style using tracks, you can have each dancer on the team take a turn going across in a different way. For example, each dancer will go once across the floor as a penguin, then once as an icicle, then once as a speed skater, and whichever group completes all three rounds fastest is the winner.
- For online classes, you can ask each student to measure out their space and create their own track that meets a particular length requirement. For example, if you want the track to be 20 feet long, they could do 4 laps of their 5 foot space. The students could then race one another online, with whoever completes their own 20 foot track first being declared the winner.
Questions for Discussion
- Did wanting to “win” the race change the way that you moved? How did you try to move more quickly or efficiently? How can you apply this to your dancing in technique class or choreography?
The primary objective of this activity is to help students cooperate and work together to achieve a movement goal. Since many winter holidays, from Christmas to Hanukkah to Diwali to Kwanza, involve twinkling lights and candles, this is a perfect activity to help celebrate unity and togetherness this time of year!
Arrange the dancers in a large circle. One dancer will “light the flame” by creating a movement that starts small, centered in their core, and grows larger and more powerful as it radiates out to their distal ends. When the movement reaches their fingers and toes, they will “pass” the movement to the dancer on their right to “light” their candle. The second dancer will take the movement inspiration that was passed to them by the first dancer, let it travel through their body, and “pass” it to the dancer on their light. This pattern will continue around the circle, until all the dancers have received the “light” and sent it on to someone else.
- Rather than “passing the light” to the person next to them, encourage the dancers to send their movement to a random dancer, either across the circle from them or to their sides.
- Invite the dancers to “pass the light” using a range of body parts, including their fingers and toes, head and hips, elbows and knees, etc.
- Once the dancer “passes their light” to another student, encourage them to keep their own light shining by continuing their movement exploration. By the time the light extends to all of the dancers in the circle, the entire group should be dancing like a blaze of candles lighting up the cold night!
- This activity can also be performed in dancers’ individual six-foot distanced boxes, if a socially distanced circle is not an option.
- This activity can be adapted for online classes. If using Zoom, use the Spotlight feature to highlight the dancer who is moving. When they “pass the light,” advise them to say the name of the dancers to whom they are passing it, to prevent confusion.
Questions for Discussion
- How did it feel when the light was passed to you? Did you enjoy receiving the movement and embodying the light?
- What was it like to pass the light to someone else? Did you share a moment with them?
Keep the fun going all season long with The Holistic Collection of Dance Games for the Winter Season, featuring 15 games celebrating winter, winter holidays, and Valentine’s Day.
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