NDEO’s Guest Blog Series features posts written by our members about their experiences in the fields of dance and dance education. We continue this series with a contribution by Terrel, Author/Publisher of Creative Movement Stories and Kids' Dance Books at OnceUponADance.com. Guest posts reflect the experiences, opinions, and viewpoints of the author and are printed here with their permission. NDEO does not endorse any business, product, or service mentioned in guest blog posts. If you are interested in learning more about the guest blogger program or submitting an article for consideration, please visit this link.
Social Distancing in Creative Movement Class: Ideas for Keeping Little Dancers Spread Out
By Terrel, Author/Publisher at OnceUponADance.com
As the U.S. slowly opens up again, creative movement teachers will crave activities that keep each little dancer in their own separate space. Here are some ideas, offered by Terrel, who fine-tuned her curriculum over decades’ teaching thousands of young dancers. Sidelined by COVID-19, she partnered with her daughter—a professional ballerina—to create Once Upon a Dance, with a mission to keep housebound kids connected with movement.
Photo by LM Sorenson Photography
Terrel is an award-winning teacher, recognized by her city council for "embodying the spirit of partnership and commitment to children in our community" for her work with young dancers. She’s breathed ballet from every angle: child to pre-professional to adult ballet student, dance mom, competition mom, recital planner, and Pacific Northwest Ballet Board member.
These are kid-tested and approved activities, mostly for use as a supporting activity after warm-up and technique sections.
1.) Start with hoops on the floor. "Let's visit different planets. Countdown: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and blast off." Blast off by holding the hoops waist high and moving around the room to visit a variety of themed planets:
Build vocabulary, like "planet plié", planet tendu, planet relevé, etc.
Think about speed and keep it silly: “fast like a bolt of lightning” and “slow like a blade of grass growing.”
Use a variety of general movements: jumping planet, turning planet, kicking planet, etc.
Practice levels: I like to start low and move up so I could get to "as tall as possible" and "even taller." They’d have to jump.
Kids love to show off their position knowledge by visiting the position planets (4th-position-feet-2nd-position-arms planet).
Combine a bunch and throw in random ideas: the cold planet, the water planet, the honey-covered planet, etc.
Let the kids choose the place and help them create movements for their ideas.
2.) Have everyone do a warm-up from inside a hoop. You can make it extra fun by adding creative elements such as:
Start outside the swimming pool, test the water with toe taps (“ooh, too cold”), pour in imaginary hot/cold water until the temp is just right, and then jump in and swim.
Tiptoe around the outside of a dragon’s cave looking for the secret entrance.
Imagine you're a baby bird in a nest waking up and exercising your wings.
3.) Mirroring: have kids partner up and stand inside the hoops a few feet apart and let them unleash their movement ideas.
4.) Use a magic wand to turn each student (in their imaginary cage) into a different animal.
5.) Play Simon Says or Twister (or both at the same time) while students practice translating instructions such as:
Stand in front of your hoop and do a passé.
Lift your hoop up and touch your knee to the hoop.
Put one foot on each side of the hoop and touch the floor in the middle of the hoop.
1.) As each child comes in, let them pick their favorite small image. I used butterflies, flowers, stars, hearts, etc., cut out of blue shelf liner. Paper could work if your floor is not too slick. This marks their spot that they return to or stay on. You could spread them out around the room and have dancers find a spot they like when they come in (be sure to put out extras).
2.) Carpet Squares: These can become their own personal stage, boat, bathtub, castle, tower, etc. A great activity for their "stages" is reading a story to act out or telling your own made-up stories.
*You can use place holders to ensure that the circle doesn't shrink.
1.) Have each student make a pose or movement for everyone to copy. You could also connect the ideas into choreography.
2.) Get a rubber or beach ball and write dance terms on it. Bounce, toss, or roll (maybe roll so the kids don't gather) it to someone and whatever move their thumb touches, everyone does. Help ensure every child gets a turn.
The Statue Story (a persistent favorite)
Have the dancers, pretending to be statues, spread out in first position.
"Every day a woman (or man) walked past the first-position ballet-dancer statues.” (Walk past.)
“One day when she went past, they had all changed to second position.” (Look away so they can sneak into position.)
“The woman did a double-take, ran back to her house, and went to bed early.” (Bring out your inner actor.)
“But the next day when she went past, they were all in third position. She mumbled to herself as she ran home."
After a few more rounds, say something about realizing she could tell them what to be, (turn around and call out shapes for them to turn into before you turn back around): ballet words and/or other things like trees, strawberries, ice cream cones, etc.
Set up an obstacle course and a placeholder for each child waiting their turn. Have them wait for the train crossing gate (your arm) to lift before the next person takes their turn and the line shifts forward. Obstacle ideas could include:
Balance on a sandpapered/painted board with attached sticky surface (shown upside-down in picture), foam pieces, or rolled carpet. Advanced students could try sideways or a spin.
Leap over/chassé around carpets (Ikea ladybugs worked great), boxes covered with themed wrapping paper such as sea-life.
Belly-scooch under a chair, laundry hamper piece with party-fringe attached (pictured was a carwash or waterfall) or spider (the kids could pet George before I put him in place so they wouldn’t be scared.) Advanced kids could try without their feet touching.
Crawl through a tunnel (I used a hamper with bottom cut off for a mini-tunnel)
Jump in different ways from spot to spot: “frog jumps on the lily pads.”
Star jump on a star or “Jump up so high you get stars from the sky. Tell me how many you found.”
Pose on the stage (sturdy stool on top of sticky surface, carpet square, etc.): passé, arabesque, their choice, etc.
*Adapt as needed using lasted recommendations, possibly leaving out floor contact.
Pictures Using Online List of Ideas
Print pictures of dancers, and use our Ideas for Individuals or adapt Classroom Ideas from Konora’s Shapes Ideas for Classroom/Individual Use.
Once Upon a Dance was created in 2020 by mom-daughter pair, Terrell and Konora. Mom (Terrell) was an award-winning dance teacher. She was honored to be chosen and recognized by her local City Council (2014) for "embodying the spirit of partnership and commitment to children in our community" for her work with young dancers. Her ballet training included BalletMet and The Louisville Ballet, and she's breathed dance from every angle: child to pre-professional to adult ballet student, zoom student, dance teacher, dance mom, competition mom, ballet-school parent guilder, audience member, recital planner, business owner, and board member. She’s also worked in early childhood education, for non-profits supporting kids, and as a university English and dance teacher. Konora, her daughter, climbed the pre-professional ballet ladder up to Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Professional Division and is an apprentice with Ballet Idaho. Along the way, she danced iconic roles such as Sugar Plum Fairy and Cinderella. She’s danced professionally with Aspen Santa Fe Ballet and Texture Contemporary Ballet. Her past highlights include a YAGP regional first place and choreographing for Seattle International Dance Festival. The pair’s first book has won multiple awards including a 2021 Independent Press Award (Winner).
Headshot by Erin Elise Photography.