Springtime is just about here, according to the calendar at least, and the best way to celebrate this (or any!) season is by dancing. More sunlight, gentle breezes, and the emergence of colorful flowers and bright green grass spark joy – especially for kids who have been feeling cooped up all winter long. And there is nothing better than the annual dance of jumping in puddles after a good spring rain!
If you follow my blog, you know I love a good seasonal dance activity! Improvisation, games, and creative exercises all provide fun ways to help students develop greater creativity, self-expression, collaboration skills, and performance quality, while also developing a deeper understanding of their dance technique. Tying these games and activities to the season add a celebratory nature to class, and helps students connect what they are doing in dance with what they are experiencing in their lives outside the studio. These 3 spring dance games can be easily adapted for students of all ages, skills levels, and most dance genres, but are designed with dancers ages 7 and up in mind. After all, students of all ages learn through play!. Moreover, play can be a great way to improve students’ social and emotional health, not only in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, but also during this at times stressful season of competitions, recital prep, auditions and assessments, and school testing.
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 Spring Season, with 15 games celebrating all things SPRING, from freshly planted gardens and blossoming trees, to St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, and even April Fool’s! 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, more Covid-19 considerations, detailed instructions, discussion questions, and a description of the primary learning objective for each game.
Here are 3 of my favorite Spring Dance Games, designed to put a smile on your students faces – and yours as well!
The primary objectives of this activity are to help students learn how to apply technique in new ways, create and execute transition steps, and engage in the process of making original movements. Students will work, individually, in pairs, or in teams, or create a dance phrase that corresponds to the word RAINBOW.
To make this an individual activity using the dance vocabulary and technique you are working on in class:
Direct the student to think of a dance step from their vocabulary that starts with each letter of the work RAINBOW. In ballet, for example, this might look like R-rond de jambe, A-arabesque, etc. In tap, R-riff, A-Alexander, etc. Once the student has a step for each letter of the word, they will create transition steps between each to link the steps into a cohesive dance phrase.
To make this a partner/team activity using the dance vocabulary and technique you are working on in class:
Explain the exercise as outlined in 1 above. Direct the students to choose their collaborative style. Will each student choose one letter and create a corresponding step? Will they work together to come up with each step as a pair or team? How will they decide on transitions? What will they do if disagreements or differences of opinion arise?
To make this a creative movement exploration:
Follow the above directions for either individuals or partners/teams as desired. Instead of asking students to choose a step from their known dance technique, have them create their own dance step and give it a name that corresponds to the appropriate letter. The names could be literal, such as R-Reach with leg, A-Arm swish, or original, such as R-Regiplop, A-Apple Step. It’s always fun to allow the students to be silly and creative!
- Create a class dance using the students’ steps after they make their individual or team Suites. You could create a new full-class RAINBOW Suite by borrowing one letter from each students’ phrase, or combine several full phrases together to create a long dance.
- Use this as an opening ritual by having students take turns each contributing one simple warm-up, conditioning, or stretching movement. Repeat the full sequence each time you add a letter. For example: R-run in place 10 seconds, R-run in place 10 seconds A-arms circle 8 times, R-run in place 10 seconds A-arms circle 8 times, I-isolations for the shoulder….
- This game works well in online, hybrid, and socially-distant in-person classes. You can use Zoom breakout rooms to better facilitate pair and team collaborations online.
- Did you find it easy or difficult to come up with a movement for each letter? If you were able to think of many different steps for a certain letter, how did you choose just one? If you struggled to think of a step for a particular letter, how did you work through that struggle?
Faerie Garden – A St. Patrick’s Day Game
The primary objective of this game is to foster teamwork and connection between dancers as they engage in imaginative, playful dance together. It is a fun way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day!
To begin, ask all but one of the dancers to imagine they are aos sí or Irish fairies, relaxing by the sea on the green cliffs of Ireland. After a long day of fairy fun, the dancer/fairies fall asleep. When they are asleep, the remaining dancer enters. This dancer is the Leprechaun. The silly Leprechaun doesn’t want to sleep, and dances around the fairies. The Leprechaun finds a fairy that they would like to dance with, and uses their magic to bring them to life. They can wake the fairy up by tapping them gently on a pre-arranged body part (head or elbow works well), using a pre-arranged signal like waving to them, or calling them to life with a magic chant, such as Bibbity Bobbity Boo, (Name) I choose you!
The fairy wakes up, and dances with the Leprechaun. You can provide instructions for the dancing, such as that they must use a certain body part, or a certain level. After a time, the fairy casts a sleeping spell on the Leprechaun, who stops dancing and falls asleep. When they fall to the floor to sleep, the fairy becomes the next Leprechaun, and goes to find another fairie to wake up. Repeat this process until all fairies have been woken, danced, and had their turn as the Leprechaun. The final Leprechaun gets to wake all of the other fairies, and they all dance together!
- Dancers can maintain social distance during this game as needed. Each fairy would fall asleep at least at least 6 feet apart. The Leprechaun can remain in place, rather than dancing around the statues. They can call the statues to life with one of the “magic spell” such as “Bibbity Bobbity Boo, (Name) I choose you!” Then the elf and statue will dance “together” in their own spots. Ask the dancers to match one another’s movements or use the same shapes, tempos, etc. You can use the same adaptations when playing online.
- How did it feel to be still while waiting for your turn? Did you get anxious waiting? Did you enjoy being still and watching the other dancers? How does this relate to your personality outside of the studio?
- What was your favorite part of this activity? Why was it your favorite?
Moves in Bloom
The primary objective of this activity is to help students develop improvisation skills and creative expression, while counting the music and following directions. This activity is inspired by flowers in bloom. All dancers start on the lower level in a shape that resembles a seed in some way – leave it open to the dancers’ interpretation. For 8 counts, the dancers will “bloom” as they move from floor to standing on the highest level. After pausing for 8 counts, they will then take 8 counts to “wilt” back down to the low level. Allow the dancers to practice this several times, then add layers of complexity such as:
- Take 8 counts to bloom, then 8 to wilt down just to mid level before being infused with sunlight and blooming to the highest level again.
- Take 8 counts to bloom just to the mid level, before drying up from lack of rain and wilting back down to the low level for 8 counts.
- Take 8 counts to bloom, but instead of pausing in stillness on the high level, the dancers are blown from side to side by a gust of wind!
- From your position on the low level, take 8 counts to root down to the earth by moving on the low level only, then bloom to the highest level for 8 counts.
- Grow and wilt just as a stem, without using your arms because your flowers did not bloom.
- Use different count structures, for example: 4 counts to bloom, 4 to pause, and 4 to wilt; 7 counts for each; or 3 to bloom, 12 to pause, 5 to wilt.
- Turn this into a partnering activity by arranging the dancers in pairs and having them mirror or shadow one another as they bloom and wilt.
- Encourage the dancers to be inspired by different kinds of plants as they dance. How would a rose grow and bloom? How would a cactus? What about a lilly? They should use the qualities they associate with each flower or plant in their improvisation.
- Have the dancers create their own solo choreography inspired by the idea of blooming and wilting. Ask each dancer to teach the others their choreography, then perform the entire sequence together as a beautiful flower garden!
- This game works well in online, hybrid, and socially-distant in-person classes.
- Did you prefer blooming (traveling from the floor to the high level) or wilting (traveling from the high level back to the floor)? Does this relate to your favorite kind of dance movements or your favorite dance style? Does it relate to your personality outside of the studio?
Keep the fun going all season long with The Holistic Collection of Dance Games for the Spring Season!