CEDAR SCHOOL PHYSICAL EDUCATION, HANOVER, MA
What is Dance?
Dance is masterful movement in a rhythmically coordinated, and expressive way. It is a vital part of a child’s movement education. When students apply the aspects of the movement framework to create dance sequences they are learning how to dance.
Creating dances means exploring the movement framework, selecting movement elements and refining dance sequences. Here, learning is on a higher level than simply repeating a dance that was created by another. It is important to note that “traditional” dances such as square, folk, and social/ballroom do have an important place in physical education. These dances can be broken down, by the teacher or the student, into body, space, effort and relationship aspects. Students can use these pieces of dances to create their own unique dance.
Cedar school offers learning experiences in three types of dance: creative, cultural/folk and social. In creative dance, children create or select movements and sequence them for a dance segment or complete dance. For example, second grade students create movements that correspond to each stage of the butterfly life cycle. In cultural dance, students learn dance movements and gain an understanding of a people’s heritage, traditions as well as the place a dance originates. Some refer to cultural dance as folk dance. Finally, social dances often come from popular culture and popular songs. They represent a particular period in time.
Students participate in three types of learning experiences during dance: creating, performing and responding. While creating students use the cognitive processes of application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation to create dances. During performance, students recall and reproduce movements from existing dances. When responding, learners observe, interpret, analyze, and evaluate as they describe movement, qualities of movements, compositional structures and their feelings and understanding of a dance. Finally, students can also assume the responsibilities of a performer, creator or observer during a dance lesson.
Dance and the Movement Framework
Rudolf Laban created a structure for organizing human movement in order to guide teaching and learning in dance. This framework includes four aspects: body, space, effort and relationships.
Beginners should spend much time using whole body actions such as curling, twisting and stretching, walking, running, galloping, skipping, and jumping. We can encourage more expression by using such action words as shiver, melt, collapse and slither. Non-locomotor movements such as gesturing, rising, sinking, opening, closing and stillness can be used by dancers to communicate their ideas and feelings. A gesture (a movement of a body part that does not support body weight) for example, is an important part of a dancer’s message. Stillness can signal the beginning or end of a performance. Dancers should be mindful of which body parts lead a movement, support weight, or move in isolation. Further, the flow of movement from one body part to another contributes to a dancer’s performance. Students can also use body shapes to tell their story. A twisted shape, for example, could communicate inner turmoil.
Early in Laban’s study of dance he suggested that dance students focus on effort after the body aspect. Here, students can explore time, weight, space and flow. In other words, they should have experiences moving: suddenly and sustained; strongly and lightly; directly and flexibly; and freely and bound. A lesson on bound flow might include words and images such as trudge, plod, stiffen, grind or like a robot. The purpose of using such words and images is always to focus students on an inner attitude toward movement. Here, the attitude is toward bound flow.
Dancers should move in general and personal space through different pathways, directions, levels, planes, areas and extensions. Varying the ways we move through space adds interest and meaning to dances.
Most dancers must maintain important relationships as they move. These relationships include maintaining a proper position in relation to a partner or a group. Dancers must also be able to lead, follow, mirror, match, copy and move in unison and canon. Moving toward and away from another or a group is a common element in dance choreography. Dancers must always move in relation to a rhythm or a sound (beat competence). Here, students can move a body part or the whole body in relationship or agreement with a beat. These experiences should begin with a slow and regular beat like that of a drum. The tempo and drum beat pattern should increase in difficulty with student proficiency. Students could also choose movements to interpret stories, poems, aspects of science and visual art work. Last, dancers should place body parts carefully in order to create body shapes and tell a story through movement.