Sometimes I hear parents mention how many games the students are playing when they are watching their young child’s dance class. We do play games in dance class, so I thought I’d take a moment to explain why!
Games serve a purpose in dance class-not just because they are fun! They can break up the class a bit and give the dancers some time to express themselves so they are ready to focus on the teacher again, much like recess in school! And they also help us teach the dancers. For example, a popular game is freeze dance, where the dancers dance freely, and then freeze when the music stops. This game teaches the dancers to listen carefully to the music while dancing, and teaches them to be in control of their bodies so that they can stop instantaneously when the music freezes. This past week I was working with my younger dancers on pathways, so while the music was on I was giving them directions such as “move in a zigzag pattern” or “move only in straight lines.” Sometimes during freeze dance we might instruct dancers to dance like animals, or superheroes which sparks their imagination and helps them think about other ways of moving! Another favorite game of mine is “Late Last Night.” During this song, dancers are instructed to pretend to sleep, and then dream about having different kinds of shoes on-cowboy boots, space boots, ballet slippers, etc-and then they must get up and dance as if they have those shoes on their feet! This game also encourages the dancers to be creative and think about ways to move, and also allows us to practice what we’ve learned that day-for instance while they are dreaming about their ballet slippers, I might ask them to show me a step we’ve worked on that class.
Our older dancers sometimes play games too as a special treat! One game I like to play with my tap classes involves the dancers standing in a circle. They go around the circle and count, starting from 1. The only catch is that if it’s your turn and your number would include a 3, 6, or 9, you must make a sound (clap, stamp, etc) instead of saying the number. You must also keep time and not hesitate or rush when saying your number. This teaches musicality and focus. Other games focus on teaching terminology or working on improvisation, which is also very important for dancers.
I also feel like games are an important time for me to make a personal connection with the dancers, without having to instruct or correct them. Games are a time where I can dance freely with them so that they can see my love of dance and we can just be a bit silly together! Them being able to tell me their ideas about how a lion might dance, without there being a right or wrong answer or without judgement, builds trust between us which is important in class!
So if you see us playing games in class, don’t worry! There is a reason for each activity the teacher has chosen, and if you’re unsure what it is, just ask!