I teach many students throughout the week, from different areas of New England, different ages, and at different points on their dancing careers. I have students with passion driven towards college and professional companies, and I have students who want to be placed out of their comfort zones and try dance for the first time, as well as every student in between.
I'd like to share with you a dance activity which is based on the creating process. I’ve used it to help my ballet dancers of all levels to branch out of their comfort zones, especially if ballet is their primary class. This activity could be used for any student and does not have to use ballet vocabulary as I have used.
The dancers are divided into groups. Each student in each group is given a ballet vocabulary word; pas de chat, changement, fondu, to name a few. They are asked to define those words. As a group, the dancers are also to come up with one word that has 3 letters; cat, mix, sew, for example. I then ask that they write this word a variety of ways.
Example: Group 1
Pas de chat – step of the cat
Changement – to change
Fondu – to melt
3 letter word: (written in different ways; BOLD, italicized, also large, small or in cursive.
The vocabulary words are used as the bases for choreography, and the 3 letter word is used as a bases for formations and travel. I tell my students to create a dance using their words, but not to use them as literal ballet terms but instead to explore their meanings. A pas de chat is a jump that travels with both legs moving through passe. But if I simply said, step of the cat, how would you move? This encourages the students to move differently and explore new levels.
By writing the 3 letter word in different ways they are seeing how movement patterns are created. I then ask that they use this as a basis to change their formations during their choreography. This can be anything from creating the letter with their bodies, or moving their bodies to create the pattern of the letter, or maybe they dance around the letter.
I find this activity creates successful and engaging choreography. Students feel confident because they are not just told to create and choreograph, they are given a guideline. It encourages them to work together as a group to problem solve, explore the space around them as a group, and expand their movement vocabulary.