February 2014 | Classroom Connection

34 Classroom Connection
Improv Freeze Dance

One day I had 15 minutes to spare at the end of a beginner jazz class for 7- to 11-year-olds. “What am I going to do for 15 minutes?” I thought. Then I remembered my days teaching 5- to 6-year-olds and it hit me: freeze dance! I needed to create an older version of this kindergarten hit, on the spot. I recalled the improvisation class I’d taken from Derrick Yanford at the 2011 DanceLife Teacher Conference, and it came to me: improvisation freeze dance.

“OK,” I said, “I am going to play the music and you can dance any way you want to. When I turn the music off, freeze. Then I will give you a new challenge.”

With challenges inspired by Yanford, I first asked them to dance with one arm behind their back. After 20 seconds, I told them to freeze and changed the rule to only floor work. Next were all jumps, all turns, favorite animal, giraffe, anger, sadness, happiness, etc., with freezes after each. When I said, “the color blue,” the students looked at me, puzzled. I responded, “How do you think the color blue would dance?”

The kids loved it. Their natural expression and creativity flowed. The entire class danced with complete abandon. This game encouraged the kids to be expressive, confident, and creative. It was such a hit that the kids started requesting it every class. I now end all of my 7- to 11-year-old classes with five minutes of this exercise.

—Holly Derville-Teer



Out of Site

Site-specific dance is increasingly popular, and is fun and simple to introduce to students of all levels. Leaving the classroom to dance opens up many possibilities for creative learning. Your facility and its surroundings may make this challenging. But if you have access to playgrounds or other common areas, you can easily incorporate site-specific dance into your lesson plans.

First, explain what site-specific dance is: movement that is created for a particular place, usually not a traditional performance space. The location is both the stimulus for the dance’s creation and an important part of the experience for both dancers and viewers. The material or movement might not be possible to do—or would be very different—somewhere else. Show video examples to help students understand the difference between dancing at a location and dancing “with” the space.

Next, take your students to the location and have them do a classroom exercise. Afterward, ask questions to begin developing their aesthetic awareness. How did they feel dancing there? Did they feel a sense of freedom? Isolation? What sounds were they aware of—leaves rustling, traffic passing, crowd noises? How was dancing on grass or pavement different than the studio floor? How did they need to adjust their movements?

Designate groups and have each group select an area in which they will create and perform movement. Identify areas that are out of bounds for safety reasons. Have them incorporate benches, sculptures, railings, fountains, bushes or trees, slides, and stairways into their movement studies. The time they have to work depends on the length of the class; having time for discussion is an important part of the activity.

After each group performs its study, ask the dancers which movements they needed to practice most, and why. How did the environment affect their choice of high, low, or middle levels and the dynamics they used? How would those choices have been different if they’d danced in a different area or utilized different environmental elements?

Finally, have the dancers who were watching describe how the environment played a part in their experience as audience members.

—Debra Danese