It’s almost Valentine’s Day, and if you are anything like me, you have no idea how, or even if, you will celebrate with your significant other, but you definitely know what your lesson plans for the week look like! Or, maybe you don’t … and if that’s the case, here are three activities that you can use to celebrate Valentine’s Day with your dance classes!
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These activities are rooted in creative play, which allows for students to explore movement concepts, alignment, technique, personal expression, and collaboration in a fun and developmentally appropriate way. You can gear any of these activities toward a particular genre of dance by instructing students to incorporate vocabulary or concepts specific to that style. You can also adapt the movement for the dancers’ age or skill level by adding layers of complexity. In the first activity, for example, advanced dancers could be directed that their movement choices not only need to move them toward and away from their partner, but also use bound flow, low level, and quick tempo.
The Game of (Spatial) Relationships
Valentine’s Day is all about our relationship with others, be it friendship, familial bonds, or romance. To celebrate this, students can explore spatial relationships: over and under, around and through, near and far, above and below, left and right, in front and behind, toward and away, just to name a few.
1.) Create index cards with space-relational words on them, one word per card (so, near would get it’s own card, as would far).
2.) Arrange these cards in pairs of opposites (near would be paired with far).
3.) Have dancers in work in groups of two, and give each group a set of the cards.
4.) Ask the students to create 16 counts choreography that explores this relationship (in our example, near and far). Variations abound, making this an extremely versatile game:
- Match each card with another relational word that is not it’s opposite (near paired with above, for example.)
- Arrange dancers in groups of 3-6 instead of pairs, which makes the relationship-building more complex.
- Give each pair or group several cards, and have them use several different spatial relationships within their dance.
- Have the students show their dances to one another, and ask the “audience” to list all of the relationships they viewed.
- Have dancers work individually instead of in a group. Each dancer receives a prop, such as a hula hoop, scarf, chair … even a water bottle works! Instead of making a dance with their partner, the dancer will create a “duet” with their prop that explores the relationships on the cards they are given.
- Give each dancer a set of cards, and have them create a solo that explores the spatial relationships within their own body.
Candy Land Cross Training
Conditioning and stretching time is a great place to incorporate a little seasonal fun and break up the monotony of crunches and center splits! Use simple props to create a candy-themed obstacle course for students to complete that includes a variety of cross-training elements. Students can either complete the course as an individual, or you can arrange them in teams and make it a relay race. As a bonus, bring in sweet prizes, such as mandarin oranges (on the healthy side) or lollipops (as an indulgence) for the winners. If you’d like to give everyone a treat, rewards could be given for best form, fastest time, cleanest transitions, sportsmanship, etc. Some ideas for the obstacle course include:
- Tootsie Rolls: Basic log rolls, but with a sweeter name
- Sour Worms: Also known as an “inchworm” or “caterpillar” from a standing forward fold walking the hands out to plank, then the feet back in to forward fold.
- Button Candy: Arrange floor dots or brightly colored paper plates on the floor, students can frog jump, tuck jump, or hop over them
- Taffy Pull: Students sit face to face with a partner in butterfly, pike, or straddle, hold on to one another’s forearms (or hands depending on position and height), and take turns gentle pulling one another into a forward stretch
- Starbursts: Students crouch low to the ground in a ball shape, then “burst”/jump as high as they can in an “X” shape, before returning to the ball shape on the low level
A Perfect Pairing
When I teach dance composition, the example I use for “symmetry” as a shape or spatial relationship is always a heart. With that in mind, Valentine’s Day offers a great time to teach students about the relationships within and among shapes, such as symmetric and asymmetric, and complementary and contrasting.
1.) Working in pairs, as the students create a symmetric shape with their bodies (meaning, each dancer does the inverse shape next to one another). Use the heart shape as an example, but challenge them to create their own.
2.) Have the dancers then create an asymmetric shape (meaning, their bodies are not in inverse shapes).
3.) Ask the dancers to create transitional movement that takes them from the first tableau (symmetric) to the second (asymmetric).
Variations for this activity include:
- The dancers explore non-locomotor movement to take them from one shape to the second, meaning both shapes happen in the same place in the room.
- Have the dancers choose two different places in the room for each shape. So perhaps they make the symmetric shape in the upstage right corner, then use locomotor movement to travel to the downstage left corner to make shape number two.
- Direct dancers to either use or avoid physical contact (ex: holding hands, linking elbows) in the transition steps.
- Encourage students to include technical elements that you have been working on, such as chasse, shuffle hop step, or jazz walks, as they travel from one shape to the other.
- Incorporate a storyline: Either ask the group making the dance to create a narrative for their piece (where they are in the first tableau, why they transition, where they go during the transition, how they end up in the second tableau), or allow the “audience” to make up their own interpretation of a narrative based on what they see.
- Repeat using different kind of shape relationships: complimentary and contrasting, connected and disconnected, etc.
BONUS: These games can be a little tricky for little ones, but you can adapt them for pre-school classes by simplifying the task. For first game, you can use the cards to lead a group exploration of the concepts. For example, all dancers stand in a circle and then do a wiggling dance that goes in to the middle of the circle and then out back to their original circle spots. In the second game, the elements can be practiced individually across a mat rather than in a relay race format. You can adapt the third game by asking dancers to go two by two across the floor. They make a shape (any shape) with their partner to start, then perform a basic dance element like gallops or skips holding hands across the floor, then make their shape again when they reach the other side of the room.