6 Props for Creative Movement

Keeping your little ones interested gets a whole lot easier when you bust out the prop box.

Tactillos These rubbery stepping stones make for great tactile discovery—students will love walking on them with bare feet. Best for: toddlers Where to find them: tfhsensoryactivities.com; $99 for a set of 5

Scarves Use multicolored juggling scarves to demonstrate movement quality (smooth versus sharp, free versus bound). Best for: ages 5–6 Where to find them: discountschoolsupply.com; $15.99 for a set of 12

Hoops Create a mini-obstacle course—have students jump over, crawl through or step in and out of them. Bonus: Get collapsible hoops to make traveling with them a breeze. Best for: ages 3–6 Where to find them: orientaltrading.com; $9.99 each

Shakers Students will love having a hand in the class’ musical accompaniment—but be aware that your littlest ones might have a hard time keeping the shakers out of their mouths. Best for: ages 4–6 Where to find them: westmusic.com; $1.50 each

Dots Help your youngsters master spacing by assigning them each a dot to stand on. Or pile the dots up and practice balancing by having your students step on and off the pile. Best for: toddlers Where to find them: musicmotion.com; $24 for a set of 35

Parachute Sure to be the all-star prop in your arsenal, the parachute can become anything, from a Twister board (to work on spatial and body awareness) to a storytelling aid (small shakes equal a bumpy road; ripples become an ocean’s waves). Best for: ages 4–6 Where to find it: wayfair.com; $35.99

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Despite worldwide theater closures, the Universal Ballet Competition is keeping The Nutcracker tradition alive in 2020 with an online international competition. The event culminates in a streamed, full-length video of The Virtual Nutcracker consisting of winning entries on December 19. The competition is calling on studios, as well as dancers of all ages and levels, to submit videos by November 29 to be considered.

"Nutcracker is a tradition that is ingrained in our hearts," says UBC co-founder Lissette Salgado-Lucas, a former dancer with Royal Winnipeg Ballet and Joffrey Ballet. "We danced it for so long as professionals, we can't wait to pass it along to dancers through this competition."

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Robbie Sweeny, courtesy Funsch

Christy Funsch's teaching career has taken her from New York City to the Bay Area to Portugal, with a stint in a punk band in between. But this fall—fresh off a Fulbright in Portugal at the Instituto Politécnico de Lisboa, School of Dance (ESD), teaching and researching empathetic embodiment through somatic dance training—Funsch's teaching has taken her to an entirely new location: Zoom. A visiting professor at Slippery Rock University for the 2020–21 academic year, Funsch is adapting her eclectic, boundary-pushing approach to her virtual classes.

Originally from central New York State, Funsch spent 20 years performing in the Bay Area, where she also started her own company, Funsch Dance Experience. "My choreographic work from that time is in the dance-theater experiential, fantasy realm of performance," she says. "I also started blending genres and a lot of urban styles found their way into my choreography."

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Courtesy Meg Brooker

As the presidential election approaches, it's a particularly meaningful time to remember that we are celebrating the centennial of the 19th Amendment, when women earned the right to vote after a decades-long battle.

Movement was more than a metaphor for the fight for women's suffrage—dancers played a real role, most notably Florence Fleming Noyes, who performed her riveting solo Dance of Freedom in 1914 to embody the struggle for women's rights.

This fall, Middle Tennessee State University director of dance Meg Brooker is reconstructing Dance of Freedom on 11 of her students. A Noyes Rhythm teacher and an Isadora Duncan scholar, Brooker is passionate about bringing historic dance practices into a contemporary context.

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