I don’t know about you, but I believe that summer dance classes call for a little extra fun! I love welcoming new students into the studio during summer camps, helping them to fall in love with dance forever. I love getting into the nitty gritty with experienced students during summer intensives and workshops, helping them to reach new milestones in their dance technique and artistry. I love finding new ways to connect with students – and help them create connections with one another – as they develop social-emotional skills. And perhaps most of all, I love the opportunities for playfulness and creative expression that come with the fun vibes of the summer season.
If you follow my blog, you know I love a good seasonal dance activity at any time of the year! 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 summer dance games can be easily adapted for students of all ages, skills levels, and most dance genres, but are designed with dancers ages 5-7 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, especially as they take in all the new experiences that can come with summer camps and intensives
Find detailed explanations of these games and 12 more in The Holistic Collection of Dance Games for the Summer Season to keep the fun going all season long!
The primary objective of this activity is to help dancers explore different spatial relationships as they dance independently and with a partner. The basis of this activity is the perennial dance class favorite, freeze dance. Before you begin, explain to the dancers the concept of general space, personal space, and negative space. General space is the space we all share, outside of our individual kinespheres or “bubbles.” When you travel across the floor in class, you are using general space. Personal space is the space inside our individual kinespheres or “bubbles.” When you do barre exercises, you are using personal space. Negative space is the space immediately around an object – above, below, between, and around it. In this game, we will use all 3 kinds of space.
For this activity, pair off the dancers. One student from each pair will be Team Strawberry and the other will be Team Rocky Road (feel free to substitute your own favorite ice cream flavors!). To begin, all Rocky Road dancers will take the floor and start moving in general space, traveling around the studio improvisationally. The Rocky Road dancers will wait on the side of the studio, watching their partner dance. When the music stops, all Strawberry dancers will freeze, making a big shape in their personal space.
You will then say, “Double Dip with extra Strawberry!” The dancers in the Strawberry group will dance to their Rocky Road partner. The Strawberry partner will dance around the Rocky Road dancer’s negative space. They can crawl between their legs, wrap their arms around their torso, jump over their feet, or do whatever kind of movements allow them to explore the negative space. The Rocky Road partner must remain frozen the entire time! When you say, “Add a cherry on top!,” the Strawberry partner will make a shape in the negative space that complements the Rocky Road dancers’ shape.
After freezing in this shape for a moment, direct the Rocky Road dancer to step away from the shape and leave the dance space. The game will begin again with the Strawberry dancers remaining in their shapes on the dance floor, ready to move in general space, and the Rocky Road dancers on the side, prepared to join in on the “Double Dip” cue.
Beach Bag Movement Memory Quiz
The primary objective of this activity is to help students develop movement memorization skills while also encouraging them to make their own unique movement choices. To begin, tell the dancers that you are going to enjoy a day “at the beach” as class and that you have to pack a bag full of all the things you’ll need for fun in the sun! Each dancer will take a turn adding an item to the bag, but you’ll all need to remember what’s been packed as you go.
Assign a dancer to start the game by choosing an item to pack in the bag and creating a movement to represent it. For example, they can add sunglasses by doing a movement that connects to the idea of “sunglasses” for them, either literally or abstractly. They will do the movement and say sunglasses at the same time. The entire class will repeat movement and say the name of the item after the dancer. The next dancer will repeat the first item and movement, then add their own. The entire class will repeat that sequence after them. The third dancer will repeat the first and second movements, then add their own as well, with the entire class repeating the sequence. The pattern will continue in this way until all dancers have had their turn adding an item.
S’more Great Dancing!
The primary objective of this game is to explore different movement qualities and apply them to known dance movement. Begin by asking the dancers to think of as many different adjectives as they can that describe a S’more. For example, the graham crackers are hard and crunchy, the chocolate is gooey, melty, and warm, and the marshmallows are soft, squishy, and if you are like me, just a little bit burnt on the edges!
Invite the dancers to improvise inspired by these adjectives, for about 16-32 counts with each. At the end, ask them to describe the movements they chose and how they embodied the adjective while dancing. How did they make their dancing crunchy? Maybe they used sharp, quick, and percussive movement qualities. How did they make it gooey? Maybe they used sustained and slow movement, with some muscular tension.
Choose a piece of choreography that you have been working on in class, whether it is a progression, combo, or routine. Practice the choreography using each different movement quality. Next, practice it “s’more style:” the first movement “crunchy” like a graham cracker, the next gooey like melted chocolate, the next squishy like a marshmallow, then the fourth crunchy again like the graham cracker on top, and so on. Continue this pattern or mix it up with your own combination of movement qualities.
Check out The Holistic Collection of Dance Games for the Summer Season, a ready-to-use collection of 15 educational dance games to keep your students engaged, learning, and having fun all season long! ach game listing includes a description of the primary learning objective, detailed instructions, ideas for adapting the game for multiple uses, Covid-19 considerations, and music recommendations. The activities can be adapted for use with students of all dance genres and skill levels, and are recommended for students age 5-7 and up. Many of the games are suitable for in-person, socially-distant, online, and hybrid dance classes.