One of the most incredible things about dance, in my opinion, is its capacity to bring people together in real and powerful ways. In our age of social media, Zoom meetings, and FaceTime, dance provides a unique opportunity to connect in real time and real space, face-to-face and heart-to-heart. We have an opportunity, as dance teachers, to help our students make meaningful connections that will support their overall well-being and lead to lifelong friendships. With just a little effort and creativity, we can build strong, supportive communities in our dance classes, companies, and teams.
Honoring community is one of the Core Tenants of The Holistic Dance Teacher Approach, and honestly, the opportunity to help my students realize that they are an integral part of their community is one of my most cherished parts of being a dance teacher! One of my favorite ways to foster community in my classes and rehearsals is to play team-building dance games. Team-building dance games help students develop collaboration, communication, and creative skills as they work together to meet a shared challenge. Not only are these skills important in the dance studio, but they will also serve our students well in their lives outside the studio. When students tap into these skills sets and learn to be part of a community, they grow as artists and individuals. Making time for team-building dance games is an important way that we can set our students up for success in their art and in their lives.
Starting a new dance class or rehearsal process? Check these blog posts: My Favorite Introduction Games for Dance Classes and Four Habits to Start in the First Six Weeks of a New Dance Class. You’ll also be interested in The Holistic Collection Introduction and Team-Building Dance Games, with 15 unique and educational dance games to help students grow in technique, artistry, and overall well-being through social and emotional learning as they get to know one another and create a strong community! It’s perfect for back-to-school season and on sale for just $8 through August 31st!
Here are a few of my favorite team-building dance games to help create a strong and supportive community in your dance classes, companies, and teams:
Describe a Dance
The primary objective of this team-building dance game is to help students develop communication, imagination, analysis, and cooperation skills. To begin, arrange students in pairs. Assign each person in the pair a dance step that they would be familiar with. (For students who are brand new to dance, you can use pedestrian movements like skip, hop, or run.) Each dancer will have a few moments to think about how they would describe the movement to someone who is not familiar with dance at. They cannot use any dance terms to describe the step, such as codified names of other steps or body positions. They can only use basic movement words that the “average” person would be familiar with. You can give the dancers time to write down their description if you think it would be helpful to them. Have the pairs take turns describing their step to the other dancer, using just the basic movement description. They may not show the step or any parts of it. They may not use any dance-specific terms or vocabulary. After the first partner describes their assigned step, the other dancer will try their best to do it. If the “doing dancer” does not get it on the first try, they can ask their partner for further description – again, not using dance terms! When the “doing dancer” successfully performs their assigned step, it will be their turn to describe their assigned step to their partner.
- Allow the dancers to choose which dance step they want to describe to their other person.
- Try using the same concept with the student describing a phrase of movement rather than a single step.
- To make this a team-building activity, have one dancer describe a step to the entire class. Each student will try to recreate the step at the same time. The one who gets closest will get to take the next turn describing a step.
- Did you prefer to be the one describing the dance step or interpreting it in movement? Why was this your preference?
- What lesson can you take from this activity and apply to how you approach rehearsals and learning choreography?
Get in Shape
The primary objective of this team-building dance game is to encourage spatial awareness, communication, collaboration, and group creativity as students work together to solve a movement problem. This game works best with larger classes of at least 6 students. If you have less than 6 students in class, you can have the dancers hold a scarf, ribbon, or piece of string between them, with one person holding on to one end and the next dancer holding on to the other. This will make their line a little bigger and easier to manipulate. To begin, direct the dancers to hold hands and make a long line in the dance space. Direct them to work together to turn their line into different shapes, such as a circle, triangle, square, figure 8, heart, peace sign, star, or letters of the alphabet. The only rule is that the dancers must hold hands the entire time, they cannot let go to make it easier to “get into shape!” The variations below make this game more fun and challenging once students have the hang of it.
- Allow dancers to communicate verbally, using their words to help one another get into the correct shape.
- Play the silent version: Dancers may not talk or use their words to help one another get into the correct shape.
- Have the dancers close their eyes as they get into the shape. For safety purposes, you will want to watch attentively and stop the game if students are about to bump into anything or hurt themselves.
- Play the speed version: Dancers must get into the shape in under 5 seconds!
- Assign a locomotor movement for the dancers to do as they get into their shape, such as gallop or hop on one foot!
- Have one student step out of the line to be the director. Tell the director what shape the dancers are to make, but not the other students. The director must use verbal cues only to help the dancers get into the correct shape. They cannot use the name of the shape itself as part of the directions.
- This game does not necessarily translate to online or hybrid classes. To help maintain social distance and prevent student-to-student hand contact, have the students hold scarves, ribbons, or pieces of string between them as directed above.
- Did disagreements or differences of opinion arise as you worked with your team to play this game? If so, how did you work to solve them?
- When you heard the directions to this game, did you think it would be difficult or easy? How did the game match your expectations? What made it more or less difficult than you imagined it would be?
Read the Room
The primary objective of this team-building dance game is to help students develop observation, interpretation, and analysis skills as they communicate with one another using movement only. To begin, direct the dancers to look around the room and choose an object that is interesting to them. They should study the object closely, noting its size, shape, color, texture, lines and angles, height and width, and any other identifying features. They will then create a short movement phrase inspired by the object. You can determine an appropriate length for the phrase, such as 8-16 counts, or allow the students to make it as long or short as they’d like. When the students are finished creating their phrases, have them share with one another. The observing students will watch carefully and guess what object the dance was inspired by.
- Play the same game, but using objects that the dancers find in their dance bags. It makes it a little harder to guess when the other students have an idea of what may have inspired the phrase (such as bobby pins or tap shoes), but can’t actually look around the room to see it themselves.
- Divide the class into teams. Have each dancer create their own phrases as above, but only let the opposite team guess the inspiration. The team with the most successful guesses wins!
- If safe to do so, take a field trip to the parking lot, alley behind the studio, hallway, or nearby park to play this game. Students may enjoy having new and unusual sources of inspiration to use as they create their movement phrase.
- How did you decide what object to use as inspiration for your movement phrase? What strategies did you use to help translate that object into movement?
- Did you prefer making your own phrase or watching the other students’ dances and guessing their sources of inspiration? Why was this your preference?
What are your favorite ways to help students create a strong and supportive community in your dance classes, companies, and teams? Share your favorite team-building dance games in the comments!
For even more team-building dance games, along with activities that help you get to know your students, check out The Holistic Collection of Introduction and Team-Building Dance Games! This ready-to-use collection of 15 educational dance games is perfect for the busy dance teacher who wants to get to know their dance students, help them learn more about one another, and create a strong sense of community in their classes, companies, or teams …. without having to do a lot of extra planning. The detailed explanation of the learning objective and instructions for each activity make it easy to use these games in class, while the list of ways to change up each activity over multiple uses keeps these games fresh and interesting all year long! It’s perfect for back-to-school and on sale for just $8 through August 31, 2021!
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