Check out these wonderful classroom partner stretches and stretching exercises from Magical Kingdom of Dance! Our goal for February is to teach our students to build bridges instead of walls. The focus is Teamwork!
“Togetherness is learning to work, play and dance together, for it’s far more fun to share our satisfactions with others. Great things happen when there is TEAMWORK in dance class.”
Partner Exercises for Elementary and/or Pre-Ballet Classes:
Princess Rise – A teacher or “Prince Charming” can help each student rise by offering his or her hand to the “ballerina” princess sitting on the floor with straight backs and one knee up. Each student gracefully stands to execute a beautiful curtsey. (Pre-Ballet)
Hook elbows back to back and sit down together, pushing against partner’s back. Stand up by pushing against partner’s back. (This is good for 5 ages and up.)
See Saw – Face your partner holding hands and pull away from each other. Gently bend knees while gently pulling away from each other to sit on the floor. This is good for ages 5 and up.
Middle School/High School Partner Stretches
Sit back to back – #1 partner sits with the bottoms of feet together and lowers head over to feet. #2 Partner – presses her back with her own back letting her body weight gently hold the stretch. Also, you may use hands to gently press out the knees of #1. (#2’s chest is facing the ceiling) (For Middle school age and high school)
Partners sit facing each other with legs straight and the bottom of feet together. Hold hands. #1 leans back and pulls arms of the #2 partner and vise versa. On all stretches, remember to hold the stretch for 30 seconds. (For middle school age and high school)
Hold hands – facing your partner. Partner #1 puts R foot gently on Partner’s #2 shoulder. Partner #1 leans into a back bend while partner #2 holds her forearms firmly. Switch legs and then switch roles. (This is an advanced stretch)
The dance convention environment is an important component in building strong, confident, adaptable, and resilient dancers. The experience is unique, challenging, and, when approached (and presented) correctly, highly effective and beneficial as a supplemental training opportunity.
Here are 10 Tips for making each dance convention a successful experience for your dancers!
1. Dress to Flatter
Yes, it is important to stand out, but convention attire has become so over the top trendy, that the art of classic, flattering apparel is almost a rarity.
What looks best on you? Are you prepared with attire that matches every style of dance offered?
For hip-hop, do you look like a hip-hop dancer? For ballet, do you look like a ballet dancer? Know your styles and dress appropriately (and professionally).
2. Physically Perform, Mentally Engage
Dance convention classes require physical exertion for performance, but they also require an equal amount of mental engagement and focus.
3. Be Prepared
Arrive early, be well rested, hydrated, and have a plan in place for healthy meals and snacks throughout the workshop. Take care of your body!
4. Remove Yourself from Distraction
Remove yourself from your in-class friends and parents (if they are observing). Find your own spot in the room where you can focus and absorb the information. Leave your cell phones and iPods outside.
When you are in the dance room, you have to be in the zone.
When you are in class, be focused, engaged, and connected with the material being taught. If you disengage at any point, you will likely fall behind in the choreography/instruction.
If you fall behind, do not give up. Work hard to catch up, and keep trying! If you have a thoughtful, relevant question, do not be afraid to ask it.
6. Be Respectful & Kind
Treat ALL dancers, instructors, and attendees with the utmost amount of respect.
Think about how your words, actions, and gestures may be interpreted. Do not leave or sit down in the middle of a class. Stay throughout the entirety of a workshop.
7. Push Yourself Beyond Familiarity
Use the convention environment as an opportunity to explore and attempt new styles. Take EVERY class. Do not sit out.
You will strengthen yourself as a dancer and may realize a new interest or love for a particular style.
8. Thank Your Instructors
Take the time to thank your master teachers. It is a great showing of respect and a resourceful networking tool.
Also, take the time to thank your in-studio teachers and parents for providing you with this wonderful opportunity.
9. Do It for the Right Reasons
Attend workshops for the right reasons– i.e. receiving a scholarship should not be your motivation to attend. Go in with the mentality that you there to work hard, learn, and improve yourself as a dancer.
10. Apply the Lessons & Skills Beyond the Day
Retain the information, tips, and techniques shared at the workshop. Apply it to your everyday dancing and make the experience last far beyond the weekend.
When going across the floor, it is important to practice the right and left iterations of skills.
A few weeks ago in a jazz class, my students were reversing an across the floor progression to the left side, and the groans immediately started. I stopped the music and explained that one-sided dancers are one-minded dancers.
If your students are of the mindset that certain skills can only be accomplished on one side, then that will likely be the case. But, if a dancer is willing to work the weaker side of the body to make it stronger, the results will be evident. It is all about mind power and the commitment to improve!
Training Both Sides Across the Floor
While dancers typically have a stronger and weaker side, it is important to train both sides of the body to make the dancer as strong, versatile, and successful as possible. At our studio, we teach everything on the right and left: flexibility training, balance work, acrobatic skills, extensions, leaps, turns, and more.
Once students are ready to layer more challenging sequences to their progressions, alternate sides within the progressions.
Here are some basic examples for alternating phrasing:
Chasse Step Right Grand Jete, Chasse Step Left Grand Jete
Chaine Right, Chaine Right, Chaine Left, Chaine Right
Right Double Pullback, Left Double Pullback
When introducing more complex across the floor patterns and sequencing, use movements and phrasing that work both sides of the body.
This enhances the students’ well rounded presence and improves their ability to sequence and shift direction/focus. It has made a noticeable difference in our dancers, and I am confident you will see results, too.
We’ve gotten great feedback about our article on Ballet Vocabulary Terms for Beginners, and have put together some ideas for easy class activities that teachers can include in their lesson plans. Do you have other activities that you use to teach the little ones essential vocab?
Ballet and Dance Move Alphabet
This one is great even for lots of students, and can really work at any age (granted, the students need to be able to spell).
Have everyone line up, and go down the alphabet: A, B, C. For each letter, have a different student name a ballet move that begins with that corresponding letter. Then, have that student (or all of the students) demonstrate that dance move.
This activity helps keep students on their toes (no pun intended) since they’ll need to know their vocab in order to answer the question. Plus, they’ll reinforce that ballet vocabulary with some muscle memory!
Mystery Ballet Move
Super easy, and has the element of surprise for dancers.
Write out ballet moves on pieces of paper, index cards (maybe laminate these items so they last longer), and put them into a hat, box, or container where the kids can’t see them.
One by one, have the kids in class draw a card from the hat, and tell the class the move! Everyone must now demonstrate that ballet move.
(Note that this can still work with younger kids who can’t read yet: just have them hand you the index card they’ve chosen, and you can announce which ballet move was picked. Easy workaround!)
Super fun, and keeps students active and moving!
Use white boards, or tape pieces of paper around the room with ballet vocabulary written on them. Then, start the music, and have dancers go around the room like they’re playing musical chairs! Ideally, ask them to use a traveling step (like chasse). When the music stops, they have to get to a sign.
Once they’re there, they need to demonstrate the move! You can go around the room quickly to check their form, and can make any corrections or use that opportunity to praise a dancer who has done a great job.
For studio dancers, input typically comes in the form of dance practice (rehearsals, solo lessons, cleaning sessions, technique, conditioning, etc.).
Input = Output is an important concept to accept and embrace. When results are measured, it is important to consider this equation. Did you invest the work (input) that was required to produce the outcome (output) you desire?
Beyond taking the initiative to contribute input, you must also measure the productivity, quality, and value of the input.
The tips below encourage a productive practice environment:
1. Be Prepared
Students should prepare for dance practice sessions. Whether they are rehearsing a single piece or a repertoire of work, they should review the material and be mentally engaged and ready when they enter the rehearsal room. Students should: (a) know the music, (b) know the choreography, (c) know their formations and blocking, and (d) know their strengths and weaknesses.
2. Be Open to Honest Feedback
In the dance practice environment, students need to be physically and mentally prepared for constructive criticism. While sometimes it is difficult to hear, the feedback will make your routine as stage ready as possible. Keep in mind that you would rather receive the feedback in the comfort of your home studio versus from a judge in the competitive environment.
3. Be Ready for Repetition
You will likely practice your routines A LOT. Some days, you may practice certain segments or moves A LOT. Be ready for this level of repetition. It may be frustrating at times, but ultimately it will give your routine the polish and cleanliness it needs.
4. Every Person Counts
Know that every person in your routine is a contributing factor in the success, look, and polish of your overall performance. Be a leader and encourage others to step up. If every person is committed to the success of the routine, it will show.
5. Details Matter
Be serious about details. Precision, fluidity, timing, performance skills, and lines of the body are details that matter in the overall appearance of a routine. Do not underestimate their power.
6. Embrace Adjustments
Sometimes, choreography has to be tweaked and adjusted. Be open minded to these changes.
7. Take Technique Seriously
Your routines will be weak without technique and conditioning. Do your part to make yourself a strong, technically proficient dancer.
8. Show Up
Attend your classes. Attend your rehearsals. Be sure to attend everything you need to attend. Consistence attendance is a key factor in the success of dancers and their routines.
Remember your corrections in class. Retain corrections for choreography. Apply corrections from your performances.
10. Make It A Habit
Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Make excellence your habit.
Chasse is a basic, fundamental skill for dancers. Here are some tips for teaching the chasse step progression.
Chasse Step Progression
1) Younger dancers begin learning the chasse as a gallop. We pretend to ride our horses, placing one foot in front of the other and chasing it around the room. Even with my youngest students, I encourage them to practice changing the foot in front at varying moments throughout the exercise.
2) Once chasse moves into an across the floor progression, we begin with a side chasse and transfer into a right or left foot led chasse across the floor.
3) As students mature and their coordination develops, we transition to an alternating foot chasse- right foot goes, left foot goes, etc. I encourage the students to say “Step-Together-Step-CHANGE” as they execute the exercise.
4) Once students accomplish the alternating chasse, we add arms. For ballet, we will use a port de bras. For jazz, we position our arms in a “L” shape, boxing in the foot (opposite arm from leg- we call this “wrapping up our present”).
Things to Watch For
As students go through the varying stages of the progression, it is important to encourage them to:
(a) Be Aware of Their Hip Placement
(b) Connect Their Feet Through The Appropriate Position
(c) Lead with a Pretty Pointed Foot vs. the Heel
Of course, in teaching this move, pronunciation is equally important. 🙂
To complete the arm lines on the body, the fingers must be placed and engaged. One of the most prominent and noticeable choreographic errors may be found in “sloppy, floppy fingers.” It breaks the line of the body and is terribly distracting. Thankfully, with some specific critiques and dance instruction, we can fix that!
First, it is important to specify the placement of the hands and fingers.
For example, when a teacher says “hands on hips”, does the phrase mean:
No specification? (all students will likely do it differently)
Blades on hips with the thumb separated from the fingers and the fingers pointing down?
Fists on hips?
Or, if arms are directed to be placed in a “high V”, are the expectations:
Palms in? Or out?
Fingers together? Or apart?
Thumb connected or attached?
Specificity is key to uniformity. When students struggle to grasp the placement of the fingers, take pictures. Show them the difference.
When the fingers curl or move from their placement, a student may not even realize it.
Take the time to encourage specific, purposeful, and detailed movement. It will encourage your students to take direction and pay attention to detail, which will improve their overall performance!