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make your day dance

Mid-year: What have we learned, and where do we go from here?

March 8th, 2009 · 2 Comments · Tags: ·····

From September through December, we danced.  January was music and percussion month. This last Friday, we finished a month of theatre (2 sessions of 2 weeks each).  Having played with, discussed, mastered?, explored, and pursued theatre vocabulary and skills, we’ll return to dancing tomorrow.

First & second graders have now developed skills of observation, sensory memory, emotions, and imagining, along with determining characters, setting, and story development in Strega Nona and The Musicians of Bremen.  Third, fourth & fifth graders have delved into voice skills (projection, articulation, rate or speed & expression) & movement skills (gesture, body movement, facial expression & blocking), while creating tableaux, dialogue & action to tell stories (Ming Lo Moves the Mountain, The Funny Little Woman, The Magic Fan & Musicians of the Sun).  My most challenging group will perform scenes from The Funny Little Woman tomorrow morning for the rest of the school.

Everyone knows what an ensemble is — i.e., a group that works together toward a single goal, in music, theatre, dance, fire drills, and classroom learning!  Are we perfect?  No. Far from it. But we do have a common vocabulary.

I anticipate well-projected, emotionally authentic articulations and facial expressions of both joy and disgust tomorrow, when we return to dance.  Joy? — many have been wondering when we’d be dancing again. Disgust? — I find children to be hugely conservative, often needing to be dragged from the pleasure they know toward the pleasures they will soon (re)discover.

Today… lesson planning — a task I always hate to do and am always glad I did. A good plan can turn 40 minutes of teaching from desperate classroom management into an exciting ride on the flow of the kids’ energy.  A thought which is meant to inspire me to get it done! To work.

2 Comments so far ↓

  • Linda Vining

    Thank you for such a wonderful blog, Meg. My husband teaches music theatre K-8, and I have passed your blog along to him.

    I have my own question for you though, about ‘getting started’. Watching my daughter dance has inspired me to at least attempt to reclaim my physical self. I went back to college for a new career three years ago, and now I have about 30 pounds to lose. I’m ok with that, and I know how to go about it (did it once before, after 2 pregnancies in a row). But I am 56 now, and I would like to learn to dance. I have my yoga, and I walk and hike, but at this weight I do not run because my joints complain about the impact. Aside from the weight, I’m otherwise healthy and fit, and we do have good quality dance instruction for people my age in our town. My misgivings are: my weight (should I wait til I’m thinner to begin dance?), and the critical feelings I have toward myself dancing, as well as the embarrassment I feel when I watch the other 50-something beginning dance students. Isn’t that awful of me?! Try as I might to feel otherwise, I think they look awkward and sad, and I don’t want to dance that way! Help? Thought? Dope-slap on head?

  • megrm

    Thanks for passing it along to your husband — I’m sure I’d have a lot to learn from someone who teaches music theatre!

    As for dancing, there won’t be a better time to start. Some ideas…

    Find a studio without mirrors. It’s where I started, and I’ve danced in a lot of studios without mirrors. Mirrors are good for self-assessment and self-correction of alignment and placement… and they can be good tools for performers/choreographers, but they’re overrated and can get in the way of good dancing. Dance is a way to feel and communicate, not so much a way to look.

    Find a studio with other 50-something beginning dance students that look awkward but NOT sad. Find some happy ones. Not only so you can commiserate, but so you can dance with the self-satisfied feeling that you’re lookin’ much better than they are (remember there’s no mirrors). I’m smiling while I say that — dancers are always cued into how they look as compared with everyone else. So smile away, and assume you look great, as compared with them!

    Be sure you find a class with great music and a lovely, welcoming teacher. A class I found a couple years ago called “Positive Sweat” [] was filled with mid-aged women (and a few men) and taught by a previously-professional dancer who’d dropped out — she specialized in music from around the world and kept notebooks of her music library! Her style was African-South-American-Yoga, with a bit of modern dance thrown in.

    Wear whatever feels great — go for color and comfort. A brightly colored length of cloth tied securely and imaginatively can do wonders. Or harem pants in a floral pattern. Be wild and goofy.

    And then, be sensitive to your joints. Warm up well, and quit early if you must while you’re getting in shape. But don’t put it off — start trying studios and teachers. The sooner you start, the more years of dancing you can enjoy!

    Hope it helps…