Artist: Robert Connor, Dance Theatre of Ireland, Teacher: Elizabeth Breen
At the start this session, as we talk through the warm-up, I ask the students “what’s next?” so they are relying on their recall of the sequence. Each part has an identifying “tag” and leads into the next, and thinking it through aids the memory. Then we dance it through without me prompting them, a chance to focus on moving with the music and experiencing dance as the “non-verbal” art form that it is.
With “Sorry” we review the sequence from last week, Skate, kick-step-change, and ripple. We add a twist-wrap, rolling grapevine and a parallel swing, repeating to the other side. This utilises elements of second position and parallel, and teaches the students to use their focus to get the full range of motion in the swing. For the skipping section, we divide the group in 1’s and 2’s, with half skipping around and through the others, who are holding still in their own “amazing” shape. After 16 beats, they reverse roles. First time through, everyone finishes in their own space of their choosing making sure there is ample space around each other. Next time through, the second group ends near a partner, and mirror their shape. We are building a choreography in which elements will be the learned movements, other parts are individually improvised and parts will be in pairs.
We close the first session with the sequence of circular movement and deep stretches.
With a focus on space, after the break we do a group improve on moving in space together, walking “on the beat” (this task of putting ones body in time with the music is challenging for some), focusing on moving through the spaces between each other, weaving, changing direction, going one’s own way, not following anyone. Focusing on walking only in straight lines, turning on angles, like a grid…then contrasting this with walking only in curves…then reducing the available space by half, resulting in closer proximity and then to one quarter, challenging the sense of body boundaries, while avoiding bumping anyone.
Another “space” improv – focusing on positive (the shape one makes) and negative space (the spaces in between). The 6th Class artwork on the walls of the hall was remarkable, and I was able to use some of the pieces as an example to illustrate positive and negative space. So in our dance improve, we work in pairs, one person holds a shape with as many straight lines and open spaces as possible. Their partner moves around them, exploring with their arms, hands, other body parts, the open spaces of the still partner, without touching them. This also enhances awareness of body boundaries, movement control (both holding still and moving closely without bumping) and engaging closely with another.
To strengthen their sense of play in improvising, and to practice moving in a rhythm and time structure, across the floor I asked the students to move forward on the beat, for 8 beats, and then hold any pose for 8 beats. The movement can be anything, as long as it respects the beat, and any shape as long as they could hold stillness for 8. Many variations emerged, as they realised the only restrictions were to do with time. However, the freedom also challenged their focus, so reminders of being on the beat were frequent, and holding the full 8 beats challenges their patience for holding completely still. However they develop both of these after several passes.