Artist: Robert Connor, Dance Theatre of Ireland
We started the first of 16 dance sessions at Scoil Cholmcille, a new experience for most of the expectant 5th class boys and girls. On introduction, we discussed rhythm (time) texture (the feeling of movement) and space (where dance takes place), and how every movement can be described according to these three basic aspects of the language of dance. We also introduced “non-verbal” – referring to the aspects of communication that are other than the words we use; e.g. facial expression, gestures, body language and voice intonation. Dance, being largely a non-verbal activity draws on the human capacity to create and communicate non-verbally.
We started with a “non-verbal” warm-up, emphasizing the rhythm and movement patterns, and then we did it with music. We also used four different texture based actions “stretch, squeeze, shake and point” and 4-beat rhythm to introduce moving in their own way to specific ideas, and keeping track of the beat.
Following the warm-up, and a stretch, to introduce learning/building a dance, we started a short dance routine to Will Smith’s “La Fiesta”. This has elements that the group does in unison, moments that utilize voice, and changes of rhythm and texture. The intro and bridge have improvised or “free-style” moments, both their own dance moves and making quick, sharp shapes. On session two we reviewed the phrase and added other elements, namely changing their location in space (skipping for 8 beats) finding a partner (non-verbally) and learning two different rhythmic hand patterns with two different partners. And a dynamic start that challenges each student to keep the beat through a silence in the music.
We also did “traveling steps” across the room, in groups of four which also included improvisational elements. Starting with walking “on the beat”, in their own style, each student had the chance to do their own walk, resulting in great diversity and fun. We then skipped, and each student improvised their own upper body gestures while keeping the beat and traveling across the room skipping. Spatial directions “high and low” and “changing facing” added to the menu of task ingredients that they could include in their skipping improv. Finally, they were asked to weave around each other in pairs as they skipped across the floor, with improved gestures, making their own dance in the moment.