Dancers are nothing if not resilient. We walk confidently into classes, rehearsals, competitions, auditions, and performances, knowing that no matter how difficult the combinations or how stern the choreographer, whether we get platinum or get cut in the first round, if the audiences love us or the critics pan us – we’ll get back up and dance another day.
But right now, in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak, many of us are likely starting to question that. We physically can’t get into the studio, so we can’t connect with the students we love or the dancers who bring our choreographic dreams to life. Many of us are worried about how we’re going to pay the bills. Some of us are also terrified for loved ones who are at a higher risk or work in the medical field. Our students are also feeling anxious, confused about what they are hearing in the news, on social media, and even from family and friends. They are missing out on the competitions and performances for which they worked so hard for so many months. Even worse, some are desperately missing the only place they feel safe and secure, whether that is their school or studio.
With all this in mind, I’ve created a series of #ChoreographyAdventures designed with resilience in mind. It is my hope that these prompts for choreography or improvisation remind you how incredibly persistent, empowered, and amazing you are. I invite you to share them with your students and use the questions provided to engage them in discussions of grit, determination, and hope for better days to come.
The focus of these choreography prompts is OVERCOMING CHALLENGES, and explorations include physical challenges, emotional check-ins, and dances to foster community even in the face of isolation. Use the prompts to create informal “dancettes” wherever you are able: in the kitchen, the backyard, the hallway, etc. Share the prompts on social media with your dance community and use the hashtag #ChoreographyAdventures to connect with other artists across the country who are also participating!
1.) Make a dancette using only 2 body parts. Be specific! What did it feel like to move your elbow, for example, and not your shoulder or wrist? How did restraining your movement encourage you to make different choices?
2.) Make a dancette in the smallest place available, such as under a table, in the closet, or behind the couch. How did it feel to dance in this constrained space? How did it encourage you to make new, unexpected, and exciting movement choices?
3.) Make a dancette with 3 appendages (head, tail, hands, or feet) touching the floor at all times. How did having such an extreme physical challenge affect your creative process?
4.) Make a dancette using only your feet and the muscles in your face. Don’t move any other body parts! What was it like coordinating those two body parts?
5.) Make a dancette in which you repeat a difficult movement many times. Perform the dance 3 times in a row. How did it feel to keep moving even as you got tired?
6.) Make a dancette using just your arms. Then, try to perform the same movement with just your legs. How does changing which body part is moving change the quality and feeling of the dance?
7.) Make a dancette with any movement you like. Then, try to perform the same dance in a chair. What did you learn from the process of performing the movement with the physical limitation of being in a chair?
1.) Make a dancette inspired by this phrase by Karen Bradley: Breathe and keep your knees loose. How can breathing deeply and keeping your body relaxed make you feel more calm when dancing and in life?
2.) Make a dancette inspired by a time you felt “stuck” – physically or emotionally. How did you help yourself get unstuck? What did you learn from the experience that you can apply when you find yourself feeling stuck now or in the future?
3.) Make a dancette based on the idea of rising up. Use levels, the movement of body parts, or gestures to show the theme. Does moving in an optimistic way help you feel more hopeful?
4.) How are you feeling today? There is no right or wrong answer! Whatever emotion you are feeling, show it in your body and in the movement for your dancette.
5.) How do you move when you are worried and anxious? How do you move when you feel calm and hopeful? Make a dancette that starts with worried and anxious but ends calm and hopeful.
6.) Think of a peaceful place. Why is it peaceful to you? How do you feel when you are there? What do you see, hear, smell, or taste when you are there? How do you move when you are there? Make a dancette inspired by this place.
7.) Make a dancette based on the idea of flexibility. As dancers, how can we use what we know about physical flexibility to also help us stay flexible in the rest of our lives?
1.) Work with a friend via FaceTime, Skype, or social media to create a dancette together. What are the challenges and joys of working with others in this way?
2.) Spend 10 minutes watching a family member’s movements around the house. Create a dancette inspired by their movements. Share the dancette with them and talk about how you included their movement in your dance.
3.) If you are able, create a dancette outside. Be inspired by the sights, sounds, and smells of your community.
4.) Create a dancette using any movement you’d like, then teach it to a family member or friend. Use FaceTime or Skype if you can’t be together in person! Ask them what it was like to learn the dance.
5.) Write out directions to a dancette using words, pictures, or diagrams, and ask a friend to do the same. Swap directions and try to recreate one another’s dances by following the directions. Video yourself performing your friend’s dance and share it with them.
6.) Crowd source inspiration for a dancette by asking friends and family for action words and adjectives. You can ask those who live in your household or use text messaging or social media. Make a dancette using only the words provided. Share a video of it with the people who contributed, and ask them to see if they can find their word.
7.) Make your own “party dancette” – a simple line dance like the Electric Slide, Chicken Dance, or Cupid Shuffle. Choose a fun, upbeat song to perform the dance to. Teach it to friends and family so that you can all dance together and celebrate when this time of social distancing is over!
Do you want even MORE ideas for incorporating improvisation into your dance classes? Check out The Holistic Collection of Dance Improvisation Prompts & Activities, with 25 ready-to-use ideas for dance improvisation, from solo explorations and prompts to games and community building activities, designed to help students grow as dancers, artists, and individuals. Each activity listing includes a description of the primary learning objective, instructions, ideas for adapting or changing the exercise, and discussion questions. Learn more here.
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