Kids love to jump. My students share with me images of flying through the air like a bird, plane, or butterfly and blasting off like rocket ships. They love being air borne and I love that they are experiencing gravity, momentum, and suspension first hand. The lovely Ashley Horn inspired this lesson plan, and I am sure many dance teachers are using most if not all of its components at some point in time in their class. I think the use of language is key is sustaining an interest of its repetition throughout the year.
There are five ways of jumping, this is not dance specific and can apply to any form of movement. In parenthesis I have included one example from dance.
I like to spend time in each class exploring different ways of performing one or all of these types of jumps. I do not teach these movements as specific steps with precise beginning and endings, shapes, or in turnout. We DO describe the take off and landing for all jumps and talk about using demi plié to give ourselves power to propel in the air. We talk about landing softly and quietly; this automatically encourages toe, ball, heel landings, and helps protect their joints. We talk about stretching the feet and knees in the air when appropriate. I remind the dancers to start and finish on a certain number of feet. I often ask dancers to tell me what I need to know about jumping. This gives them an opportunity to review these basic jump "rules" on their own, and gives them ownership of the material.
It helps my young dancers to have something concrete to relate to when jumping. You can use any variety of props. I like to use circle, square, or star dots, bean bags, cones, and hula hoops. This is an example of how we might explore "jump" in class:
I also like to present multiple ways of jumping together as an obstacle course. You can use any variety of props- as long as there are different types of items for different jumps. I try and emphasize ballet vocabulary when we do obstacle courses. Since the dancers have to take turns, using the vocabulary gives them something to focus on and learn while they are waiting for their turn. We will say the French vocabulary as each student performs the jump.
How do you incorporate jumping into class? I would love more ideas on how to work on these skills!
My young dancers want to experience as much "grown up dancing" as possible. I am finding that many dance studios introduce ballet vocabulary much earlier than I think is appropriate. My students discuss ballet with their friends at school and often show me steps their friends have taught them. Sometimes, my students have another dance class at school where very different material is being presented. I want to teach developmentally appropriate material but at the same time keep my students excited and engaged. I find myself searching for material that feels both new, "advanced", and exciting but at the same time is building the strength and pathways my dancers need to be successful.
One way I like to challenge my young dancers is by teaching ballet vocabulary. We discuss that the language of ballet is French, and we practice using the French vocabulary. Each week I quiz my students on the vocabulary. "Who can raise their hand and share with the class the name of this step?" "Who can raise their hand and share with the class what the word "tendu" means?" "What language is the word "tendu"?" Generally, for my students aged Pre-K through 1st grade, we learn the words:
My students feel proud for knowing and using these words in class. Many of these movements are even done at school in gym class (hop, jump, leap, gallop). However, by using the ballet vocabulary, the students are adding another layer of knowledge, and are approaching the movement with a different mind set. This keeps them excited about practicing hops in our obstacle course instead of saying, "I know how to do that, that's easy!" Stay tuned for more descriptions on how I approach teaching this material! I would love to hear what ballet vocabulary you introduce to young dancers.
Lately I have been thinking about the difference between facilitating a class and teaching a class. I believe that I can have a more lasting impact as an educator if I can learn how to present class in a way that shifts the power into the hands of my students. I want students who feel empowered in their role as a learner as it is my hope that my students will continue to pursue learning and education once they leave my classroom. I am trying to find ways to facilitate their process and help them identify how to approach the material and delve deeper on their own.
In the past, I have taught a movement phrase describing it with set vocabulary, action words, directions, pathways, and tempo. Then, the students would perform the movement. Afterwards, I would share thoughts on what I noticed and address movement that needed extra attention. The students would then theoretically apply that information as they repeated the movement another time.
The past few weeks I have attempted a new approach. I have started by teaching the movement phrase and describing the mechanics and offering different verbal cues just as I have in the past. However, now, after the students have had the opportunity to try the movement, I open the floor up to the class. I ask the dancers to share any thoughts or observations about the movement. This can be questions, statements, or opinions. Instead of sharing what I have noticed, the students are directing the conversation and addressing the learning process themselves. I still contribute to the conversation, but now every student has the opportunity to act as the role of the teacher. I have noticed that this has encouraged curiosity and deeper investigations in each of my students, as well as an eagerness to share their perspective with their classmates.
This also helps the students articulate what they are feeling in their bodies- bridging the body-mind gap. It gives them practice talking about dance, and discovering the language they use. I have learned so much about how my students see movement, what aspects they concentrate on, and what they are thinking when they are dancing. It has given me a window into their thought process, which in return helps me prepare my upcoming classes. I think it also emphasizes that I don't hold all the answers- that movement is a process of trial and error, and finding how to make connections in your body. Since the students know to expect this process, I also feel that they are more invested in what we are doing, knowing that they are responsible for continuing the learning process.
Another way I have been trying to shift the power in the classroom is by allowing the students to make choices in the class. I ask the students questions about the sequencing of class. For example:
Those are two examples of how I am trying to shift the dynamics of my classes with my college students. I'd love to hear your thoughts and ideas on facilitating classes? How do you include your students in the class process?
I have so much I want to share, discuss, and process, and right now I do not feel that I have the community to express these thoughts on a regular basis. I want to get in the habit of writing more as I feel this is a crucial step in my ability to articulate myself as a teaching artist. This blog feels like the best place to accomplish this at this time.
I took modern class with the lovely Jamie Zahradnik today at San Jacinto College, where I also teach modern technique. I teach the students on Monday/Wednesday, and she has them on Tuesday/Thursday. I think it is important for our students to see their faculty at work as a student, and to set an example of learning in action. Jamie helped me solve a problem I've been having as a dancer for a while now. I have always struggled with descending into the floor. I like to use the excuse that it is due to my height, and that I have a lot of body to organize. However, the problem really lies with a lack of grounding and a disconnect between myself and the floor. In class, Jamie taught a phrase that sequenced a sequential linear turn into a monkey roll. I felt my torso trailing behind me as I descended into the floor, and the movement felt disjointed. Yet, even after I adjusted my alignment, the descent into the floor still felt delayed and jarring. So I asked for help. Jamie pointed out that my feet were loosing contact with the floor- instead of sliding and staying connected and grounded, my feet were moving through the air and searching for where to land. The idea of skimming the floor with my feet or sliding into the monkey roll, helped smooth out the hiccups. I now have another cue to use when approaching descending into the floor- finding a slide or chasse action with my feet- skimming the floor rather than stepping out.
This is a blog of processes. Through the sharing of media and writing I am following my impulses, teasing out and unpacking, translating, solidifying, and making concrete my investigations into something that can be shared.