Saturday, October 30, 2010

Movement Lesson Plans From PBS

 Just found this. Check it out!

Creating Color Dances

I just finished creating my next two creative movement classes for the after school program. The theme for the next two weeks is color as inspiration for movement. Through this theme, I am able to include the literacy and language component by reading "Color Dance" by Ann Jonas  in week one, and making lists of words and phrases related to color words in week two. For instance, I will ask students to think of a color - blue. What images come up? what do you think of? what do you feel? Then, I will write their responses. I bring a travel size dry erase/paper-pad easel which makes this possible. I purchased this at Staples and I have to say, I love it. It's easy to carry, very light, easy to prop-up, and works ideal for the traveling teacher.

Incorporating literacy into my dance programs has become a very important feature to the design of my classes. In the past when I would incorporate literacy and language, it happened pretty organically. Now I am very deliberate.

Through the theme of color, the classes will focus on bodies-in-space, bodies-in-space-in-relation-to-other--bodies-in-space, boundaries, levels, size, and patterns.

Creating shapes and movements inspired by color is very much influenced by Boal method. Augusto Boal, one of my biggest influences, encourages the spect-actor to embody many abstract ideas in many different ways. By creating physical images of abstract ideas with our bodies, we can play with, explore, transform, and become more attuned to our environment and ourselves in it. The experience of making concrete images with our bodies of larger abstract ideas allows us to make discoveries about ourselves and our world we may otherwise be unaware of. This process is captured in one of my favorite Boal quotes:

“The human being perceives what it is, discovers what it is not, and imagines what it could become.” - Augusto Boal

 Yeah, that's why I do this. Through dance, drama, and movement, we are actually thinking about thinking. As a teacher - of anything - this is always, I believe, the desired outcome. That regardless of  subject or age you teach, you are teaching your students to be creative, higher-level thinkers.

Monday, October 25, 2010

I Love My Local Library

I am a proud patron of my local library. I walk to it fairly weekly and often use the outside drop-off to return my books that are probably overdue. I will happily pay late fees to support my local library and I also bought one of their nifty book bags for five dollars cash money and proudly sport it about my day. I recently took out some CDs from my library to try out new music for my creative movement classes. Tonight I used "Moving with Mozart: Movement Activities for Young Children" by Georgiana Stewart. There is a track called "Mirror Moves" which I played during the mirror dance exercise.

Oops...I Ended Class Early

Today was a great class, however, it ended a little abruptly and 10 minutes earlier than planned.

My little tough nut, who is actually 6 not 8, did come back this week and was way more engaged than last week. She was also much more responsive to me which was a huge step, but hung off to the side as much as she could. The class was a little bigger this week with three new students. Before we could begin the warm-up, I asked them to make a circle. Sometimes this is a challenge. So I challenge them. Make a circle. Once they got the shape made, we started the warm-up.

Next we played "Magic Soup." This is not my game, I got this game from one of the teachers I worked with at Dell'Arte, but I tweak it a little for my needs depending on the class.  The "ingredients" are different movements. This was our second week exploring the theme of Autumn as inspiration for movement. I asked the girls to think of movements from last week and we added a few new ones - jump, kick, flat, skip, side-slide, gallop, zig-zag, reaching for the sky, crab-walk. Then we started the dancing. I would "taste" the soup and call out the movements I tasted. Then, I went around and had each student taste the soup- and then called out that movement. This game works great for preschoolers and also worked for my older 8 year olds in the class. 

After a water break, it was time to go into our performance scores. We used mirroring. We began with partners and practiced moving slow with the music, making eye-contact, and passing-off leadership. Then we created an audience for the performance score. We worked in trios creating a triangle shape. Leadership passed around the triangle while the other two dancers mirrored the leader in front of them. This is one of my favorite performance scores with any age group because it always works and looks awesome.

When it was time for my little tough nut to go in the stage space, she started off great. She was the first leader, her movements were awesome, and it looked so cool with the other two dancers following her. But then, she noticed and ran off the stage space. She was smiling, but there is some shyness in her about being out in front, about being noticed. She seems way more comfortable participating off to the side. I could not get her to come back out to dance, but I did give her tons of positive praise for what she did do. I don't mind her being off to the side a bit because I know she is feeling it out still and will join us. Unfortunately, one of my new younger students decided to join her, and this is where things got wonky.

Past drama students of mine have noted that "Ms. Julie gives good speeches." My "speeches" are when I have to use my strong voice to discuss good character and behavior with the students. In drama and dance, whenever there is an audience, there are usually some big lessons to learn about respecting others. And so, out came one of my speeches. This was not how I wanted to end class at all, but because I misread the clock, I ended my speech with " come see me for stickers."

I wanted to end the class with free dance with the leaves. Instead, I gave out star stickers and to each student said something affirming. I was sooooo bummed when I realized I had 10 more minutes that I could have used. But, I also think everything happens for a reason. So, maybe it was exactly what they needed.

 Next week begins the theme of color for inspiration for movement, and what they really want - scarves!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Theatre. Yes, That's Right. Theatre.

Yes, I write t-h-e-a-t-r-e. Yes, Word tries to correct me all the time, but I will not, I say! My husband and I have a joke that when you write it this way, you must then say it in your most theatrical, melodramatic, Shakespearean voice while extending your arm outward and upward with strength and conviction.

Really, is there any other way to say it?

Cracking A Nut

Last Monday was the first day of my creative movement class at the local girls youth center. Some of the girls knew me because they had taken classes with me before. Then there were a few who I was meeting for the first time. The girls' ages range from 5-8. One of the girls who I was meeting for the first time appeared very hard. Her arms were crossed, closed-off. She looked angry. I went around the circle doing attendance asking each girl her age, what grade she is in, and how they liked school so far. She was 8 and she gave very short quick answers. Then we began the warm-up.

I asked the girls to sit criss-cross, hands by their sides,  with their spines long and straight. This one sat next to me slouched, arms crossed, no smile. Breathe in through your nose, out through your mouth. She kept her eyes with me participating as much as she was willing to at that moment. A little breath in and out, and she was not going to be uncrossing those arms or sitting up straight. I didn't make any big thing about it. She was participating at her level. I accepted it fully and we continued the rest of the warm-up.

Our movement inspiration for this class was Autumn Leaves. The first movement exercise we did to instrumental recorded music.The girls created improvised movements to leaf-related words - shake, rustle, bend, jump-in, twirl, kick, and flat. This particular student had been participating with very little enthusiasm up until then. And then the drum came out. This changed everything.

They were instructed to create a leaf shape with their bodies when the drum hit. Bam! an image. In between I would play the drum in various ways encouraging them to use the movements from the previous exercise.  During this entire exercise with the drum, she had the biggest smile on her face. She was 100% actively participating. She was unclenched and open and free. She danced with other people.She made contact. And then, I think she noticed.

She started to walk away from the dance space to sit out. At that very moment, someone arrived to take her home, and she left before finishing the class.

I hope she comes back next week.

What Makes Me Want to Blog

I come home from teaching one of my classes at the local youth center and I am energized and excited. I want to talk about it. I want to tell other teachers about it. I want to call all the kids' parents and tell them how amazing and awesome their children are. I want to share my experiences teaching dance, movement, drama, and theatre, and share the creative process of creating these classes. I want my friends and family not to be confused anymore about what it is I do.

I started teaching performing arts as a theatre education student at Emerson College. The summer after I graduated in 2001, I spent two weeks in Blue Lake, California at the Dell'Arte School of Physical Theatre intensively studying commedia dell'arte. This was a life changing experience. I moved to Blue Lake two months later and was hired by Dell'Arte as an assistant teacher in their Education Through Art program. There, I worked along side master teachers of physical theatre and continued in my training as a physical performer.

This is where my teaching style comes from. I love physical theatre. As a performer, everything for me begins in the body. This is where I begin with my students. I have taken the things I love about being a performer and what I value as a teacher to create a class structure.

Many of my classes end with a performance score. At the youth center, I am typically the only person who sees the performances of these young students. I am so often amazed and typically floored by what my students produce. I feel honored to witness their creations. I want to share those experiences here.