Guest Blog: N is for Newt, Y is for Yak

In our art of teaching creative movement class, one of the topics we've been looking at recently is the purpose of warm-up exercises. According to instructor Deborah Damast, program coordinator of the Dance Education Program at NYU Steinhardt School of Education, Culture, and Human Development, a creative movement warm-up should:

- focus the mind
- prepare muscles and joints for later activity
- develop aerobic capacity
- introduce movement themes
- build vocabulary
- introduce/instill class rules and etiquette
- give information or review prior classes

If needed, warm-up exercises can be developed into choreography for showings, performances, or lecture/demonstrations. A few activities Damast suggested (and that have been tested out by my classmates and I to great amusement):

The Name Game: The class stands in a large circle. One person does a movement and says their name while performing it. The class mimics it, and then each student following adds their name on as a tag. By the time you've made it around the circle, the class has performed and said everyone's name. Once you are able to do the whole circle from memory, try repeating the exercise without talking. Not only do you get warmed up, but you learn all of your classmates names in the process.

Animal Alphabet: From A to Z, come up with animals and movements that correspond with them. Perform different level changes and movement qualities with them. This is also a chance to introduce some unusual animals as well, to make sure all the letters are covered. (In case you're curious, Damast uses a newt for N, vulture for V, X-ray fish for X, and a yak for Y. You can only imagine what types of movements might go with those!)

Skipping Dance: Again in a circle, one child is the "leader." Keep track with the attendance list so everyone gets a chance. The leader skips - kind of like Duck, Duck, Goose - tapping classmates on their head who then join the leader skipping and tapping other dancers who are quietly sitting and waiting. You can only skip if you get tapped; if you get tired, you can sit back down, but have to wait to get tapped again to start moving.

Color Dance: Use construction paper and associate the colors with different movement ideas. For example, red might mean the floor is burning hot; yellow might mean reaching for the sun; black might mean freeze. As the students begin to associate the corresponding movements easily, you can start switching in Language of Dance symbols in to help them build their dance vocabulary.

To read last week's entry about the importance of creative movement, go here: http://www.dance-teacher.com/sections/blogs/593

 

Hannah Guruianu is a master's degree candidate in dance education at New York University. She is a freelance writer and editor, flamenco student, and someday hopes to own her own studio. Before returning to school, she was the features editor at the newspaper in Binghamton, New York, and taught ballet classes at a local studio and community college.

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