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Rehearsal: skill development for kindergarteners

June 18th, 2009 · No Comments · Tags: ····

Performance over, there’s finally time to review the process…

There’s a lot to learn in the process of rehearsal, if the dance is built for continuous learning. And although the goal of rehearsal would seem to be a more perfect performance, it’s not.  It’s growth.  There’s a limit to how perfectly kindergarteners are going to perform, no matter how much rehearsal.  My dances for kindergarteners are structured not choreographed, aiming for growth during the rehearsal process. As they learn in rehearsal, the dancers change and improve.

The kindergarteners prepared two dances:

The Shoemaker dance alternates a gestural passage with a locomotor passage. The musical version I use has 10 repetitions (here’s a version of the music with 4 repetitions), which allows for a lot of practice on developmental & locomotor movements. The gestural passage is always the same, although they can perform it standing, sitting, or lying down. For the locomotor sections, we sequence through developmental & locomotor skills: gallop, hop, jump, skip, chasse, bear walk, crocodile, frog jump, crab walk, ending with a free choice.

[Note: “Bear walk,” “crocodile,” and “frog jump” are developmental movements, using body-half right & left, cross-lateral crawl, and body-half upper-lower respectively. “Bear walk” is a body-half move on all hands & feet, with right and left alternating. “Crocodile” moves on the belly with arm and opposite leg advancing simultaneously and pulling. “Frog jump” moves both hands, then both feet, then jumps with hands and feet in the air. If you ever run across the 1994 Feldenkrais video for children Move Like the Animals, check it out for with kid-friendly demonstrations of the “bear walk,” “crocodile,” and “frog jump.”]

So the skills that are drilled during rehearsal are:

  • body organizations and locomotor skills foundational to academic development,
  • listening and responding to musical cues in an AB pattern,
  • moving & choosing pathways freely & safely among other dancers.

Our second dance was called Dream Story, a narrative based on emotions, which the kindergarteners helped develop. What were they practicing every time they did the dance…?

  • juggling & hand-eye coordination,
  • listening & responding to musical cues,
  • associating emotions with nonverbal expression,
  • cycling through and changing their emotions on cue.

Details of the narrated story:    Once upon a time there were children who were happily juggling (juggling two scarves). After awhile, they got sleepy, lay down for a nap, and began to dream (the scarves become pillow & blanket).  In the dream they woke up in a strange land and began to explore… they saw soft popcorn clouds (scarves in curvy pathways), beautiful candy rainbows (scarves arcing over heads), and white diamond moons (scarves tossed high). Suddenly, the dream became scary when ugly monsters, fiery dragons, and biting scarecrows appeared (scarves are gathered into the hands, with movements tight, close, sharp).  Monsters were small, large, behind, and all around (changing focus & directions)! The children put on brave faces, took their magic wands, and turned the scary creatures into sunlight (2 scarves held in one hand as a magic wand, with slashes to work the magic).  Finally, the dream ended, and the children slept soundly (pillow & blanket). When they woke up, they felt happy and began to juggle again.

Music: “Fairytale,” in 7 parts, from Eric Chappelle’s , Music for Creative Dance: Contrast & Continuum, volume 3.

No matter how much practice, there will be one child who discovers that downstage center is a great place from which to locate Mom and Dad. Another might be taken by the urge to run laps around the stage. If rehearsal has succeeded, the first dancer doesn’t fall off the edge, and the second one avoids both bumps and blood while dodging other dancers. And everyone’s skills improve.

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