“But I can't dance.” This is something you have heard other adults say. Maybe you yourself have said it, sitting on sidelines of a dance floor. But have you ever heard a young child say it? No, because she has never gotten such a silly idea! Humans are born to move, to feel a beat, to express ourselves through movement. In my creative dance classes for children, I honor the truth that children love to express themselves through dance, and I create a space and structure for them to do so. There are no “right steps” in creative dance, no patterns to memorize. Rather, children are invited to explore the different elements of dance while delighting in all that their bodies can do.
We begin every class with a warm up, and throughout the class there may be storytelling, rhythm games, free dance, and quiet movement. Children learn to control their bodies and dance around – instead of into!- one another, and how to communicate with another through dance. We explore different steps, directions, tempos, and energy levels.
Some of the most beautiful dances I have seen came from a class where we were playing with space. Children worked in pairs, with one dancer staying in one spot to dance while the other was free to move around, while still interacting with his partner. The structure of having to dance without moving around the room brought out such interesting, creative, and exciting movements from the dancers. One could feel the magic in the room as the children focused fully – mind and body – on the task at hand: the dance.
In my classes for younger children, toddlers who start out running in happy, erratic circles soon discover for themselves all the wonderful things they can do with their bodies. They can glide, they can gallop. They can slide across the floor on their back, on their belly! They can jump sideways slowly, and then fast. They can move slowly to quiet sonatas, and they can dance their own jig to lively Irish fiddle tunes.
We close each class with a cool down that includes thanking each part of our body, and thanking our fellow dancers. Then – the real dancing begins! Parents tell me all the time about the joyous, creative, and passionate dancing their children do at home all week. This is what creative dance is all about.
- Jenny Foster