It’s finally feeling like spring in most of the U.S., and there is no better way to celebrate in our dance classes than with some fun seasonal activities. Young dancers, especially pre-school and early elementary ages, tend respond well to games and activities that reflect the spring season. Here are a few of my favorite springtime activities for young dancers:
Baby Animals on Parade
This is one of my favorite dance warm-ups for little ones at any time of the year, but it is especially appropriate during the spring season. Ask the dancers to perform dance vocabulary that mimic the movements of various kinds of baby animals. Some examples are listed below, but I also like to invite them to come up with their own animal movements – you’ll be surprised by how creative they can be! (Side note: I love this bookfor getting kids thinking about animal dances. The pictures are great and the message in the story is an important one!)
- Jumping (on two feet) like bunnies, making bunny ears or tails with their tails
- Walking slowly on releve like butterflies floating through the air, flapping their wings gently up and down like wings
- Running on releve like bees darting from point to point, with elbows bent and arms held close to the body
- Jumping from a squat position like frogs, to help build strength in the legs and feet
- Passe walking on a flat foot or on releve like flamingoes, with one arm stretched up and curved at the wrist representing the long neck
- Galloping like ponies, stopping to toss their manes from time to time. For extra credit, have the dancers pas de chavol a few times to get started!
- Jumping from foot to foot in a sort of parallel pas de chat action like kitten, with arms held close to the chest like paws
- Slithering like snakes across the floor to build core strength
- Crawling like lion cubs – a great way to encourage cross-lateral coordination!
Take advantage of the different ways the dancers can move across the studio. They can move in straight lines, diagonals, curves or serpentine pathways, zig-zags, etc. You can direct their path or they can take turns following the leader. They can move in a single file line or with a partner, going in front of, beside, or around one another.
Flowers in Bloom
This is a unique way to bring some science into the studio by teaching dancers about the science of how seeds turn into flowers, and makes a great warm-up sequence! The tactile input included in many of the steps below is important for sensory development, but if you have a student who does not respond well to touch, then you might want to skip that step with them.
- Have the dancers start on the floor, on their knees, with their chest bent over their knees and arms tucked around the head or beside the body. “Bury” each dancer in imaginary dirt by softly patting their backs.
- Ask the dancers what the seeds need to grow into flowers (hopefully they will respond with water and sunlight!). Sprinkle their backs with imaginary “rain drops” and then run some “sunshine” on as well.
- The dancers will take several deep breaths as they begin to”grow,” feeling their lungs and lower back expand with each inhale.
- The dancers will lift their eyes and peek up “through the dirt” to see if it is time to bloom yet. When the class determines that spring has come, direct them to roll up from the base of their spine, so that their chin stays tucked into the chest and emerges last.
- Now that their “stem” (torso) has grown, the dancers will use their arms to represent leaves and flowers. Direct them in some simple port de bras, keeping their lower body rooted to the ground.
- “Oh no! Strong winds are blowing!” Direct the dancers first to bend from side to side, then to twist from their waist, keeping their head-tail connection. After a few rounds of each, tell the students that the winds have died down and they can return to a neutral spine.
- “Oh no! It’s been cloudy for several days, and the flowers haven’t had enough sun. What will happen to the flowers?” Direct the dancers to “wilt” by dropping their hands and shifting their hips over to the right side. With as little support from their hands as possible, have the dancers push back up over their legs, activating their core and pelvic floor in the process. Repeat several times to the left and right.
- “The sun is back! What will happen to the flowers?” Direct the dancers to reach and stretch up higher and higher until they are standing on two feet. From here, you can move into plies, tendus, or standing stretches.
Life Cycle of a Butterfly
Another fun dance and science combo activity! This is a fun improvisational activity, but you can also choreograph appropriate movement for each stage. You will need dance scarves for this one!
Stage 1, The Egg: Give each dancer a “leaf” (2 scarves laid out on the floor) on which they will curl up in the shape of an egg. Allow the dancers time to explore rolling movement on their leaf.
Stage 2, The Larva (Caterpillar): Have the dancers emerge from their egg and start moving on the floor as caterpillars. This could include improvisation or a choreographed movement pattern which might involve slithering, creeping (moving hands, then feet), log rolling, curling up into a ball and stretching out, and other low-level movement.
Stage 3, The Chrysalis: Have the dancers return to their scarf, which has magically turned into the material for the chrysalis. Have the dancers “spin” themselves into the chrysalis, making a cocoon for themselves by wrapping the scarf around themselves.
Stage 4, The Butterfly: Have the dancers slowly emerge from the chrysalis. As they do so, the scarves will magically transform into the butterfly’s wings. Have the dancers stand and begin exploring the way butterflies move. This could include specific movements, such as bourrees, leaps, and sautés, or movement qualities, such as light weight, free flow, quickness, and movement on the high level.
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