dlr Primary Arts, 6th Class Kill Of the Grange National School Ms. Breen’s and Students 2nd Post May 2018

Artist: Robert Connor, Dance Theatre of Ireland,  Teacher: Elizabeth Breen

I asked Ms. Breen to ask the students for their reflections/feedback now,  several weeks on from having finished the dance project.

Here is some of the class feedback:

It’s been quite some time since we had the dance workshop, but I still remember each one of the dances.  I really enjoyed doing the dance workshop, every Monday and Thursday we would go down to the hall and we would start dancing. Whenever I was dancing I didn’t think about anything else. I thought the dance workshop worked really well and it always made me happy. I really enjoyed it.

When it came to the performance I felt like we were all amazing, we all danced like no one was watching.

Just before Easter we finished a dance workshop. I really enjoyed it. I didn’t really like dance before because it made me feel awkward. Now at the end I can say that I am more comfortable with dance. At the end we did a performance for 3 classes and I felt really proud. The dance classes are something I will remember about 6th class.

Dance overall was very enjoyable, I feel that it boosted my confidence a lot. The show at the end was very good. We all did very well. Myself, Hayleigh, Zoe and Anna performed it for our hip hop teacher (Robert’s Friend). I really enjoyed it and would definitely recommend it.

Dance overall was a very enjoyable experience. We learnt loads of parts of it. From how to leap with the beat to choreographing our own dances. We danced to lots of songs and did a performance at the end for lots of classes.

Dancing was really enjoyable; Robert did really well explaining the science behind muscle memory and remembering all of the dances. He knew all of the dance trends.

My favourite part of dance was when we split into groups and made our own dances. I think    we all enjoyed it and worked hard as a team.

Our 6 weeks of dance were probably my favourite weeks of my entire school year so far. We   got very creative and without moves and I feel very proud of myself and  everyone else.

I really enjoyed the dance sessions. From the moment we started to the moment we finished I have learnt so much about dance and all of the different routines.

The songs we danced to were catchy and the dances themselves were memorable.

Robert was a very good teacher, great at explaining different styles of dancing, very patient and overall a nice guy.

dlr Primary Arts, 6th Class Kill Of the Grange National School 11th and 12th Dance Sessions – 19 & 22 Mar 2018

Artist: Robert Connor, Dance Theatre of Ireland,   Teacher: Elizabeth Breen

Coming into the final two sessions, and with our sights set on finishing the choreographies, we work through the warm-up and stretches. Most notable in this part, the students are moving well, making a real dance of this material that gets them focusing awareness on their bodies, the space around them, changing rhythm, direction, and texture, and moving with a sense of unity.

We turn our focus to the two choreographies, “This Is Me” and “Faith”.

The “This Is Me” chorus section repeats several times, so we create some variation in the canon “wave” effect coming forward. Starting from the back of the group, the dancers came forward in lines, each consecutive line joining in until all were moving forward together. It had been a slide, with arms high, as they moved toward the front. We made a variation on this for the last time of the chorus, with a skipping step, and rather than stopping when they reach the next line, do another movement on the spot. This achieves the wave effect and also creates another layer of motion as the wave moved forward.

We practice the whole dance several times, the slow expressive opening, into the more rhythmic lyrics and wave canon of the chorus. The sense of accomplishing the whole is coming into view, and they become more self-reliant in getting through the entire song…the crescendo of their strong “This is Me” shapes each time the line comes in the song…and at the very end.

In “Faith” we review the groups’ choreography for the lyric sections and the choreography for the chorus with the directional movement premise. There is a “break” part of the song, and for this, they travel with rhythmic steps, circulating, weaving around and through each other, to join with someone else who is not a member of their group. The groups were self-selected to begin with, so this idea is to get them to work with someone not in their group. Here they learn a simple partnering routine, and then leave to move through group again, this time to partner with someone of the opposite gender (moving out of comfort zones). Here they learn a second pairs phrase, and with this partner, they make a short 8 count phrase of their own…When the chorus comes back in, each person performs their own group’s chorus movement, so in each pair they are doing different movement, but moving in the same spatial directions.

In the final session, we have a short time to rehearse each of the dances, and without prompting from me…they take ownership of the choreography. They are nervous, excited, which is a good thing. I can see they have grown in their abilities to work together, to focus in ways they might not have before, to understand musicality, moving rhythmically, multi-dimensionally, and to feel more confident in their movement expression and believe in and experience their creativity in dance. It’s really a joyful performance.

Well done, 6th Class!  Thank you!

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dlr Primary Arts, 6th Class Kill Of the Grange National School 9th and 10th Dance Sessions – 12 & 15 Mar 2018

Artist: Robert Connor, Dance Theatre of Ireland  Teacher: Elizabeth Breen

Ms.  Breen and I discussed whether there could / should / would be a performance to culminate the project.  Knowing it’s an option, and isn’t required means there is a choice to be made, and we ask the students would they like to do this.  They seemed at first shy about the idea, but as more spoke individually, they warmed to it, and Ms. Breen suggested inviting the class which gave up their PE time so that 6th class could have the hall, Senior infants, and the students thought this was a good idea, so overall they decided performing would be a good thing.

Over the course of the next two sessions we move through the warm-up and stretch with efficiency, and focus most of our time on the two choreographies, “This Is Me” and “Faith”.

In “This Is Me” there is a chorus section, and I wanted to use the idea of a canon in movement to create a “wave” effect coming forward.  Starting from the back of the group, the dancers came forward in lines, each consecutive line joining in until all were moving forward together.  It had the right effect, in some ways, but it got over-crowded as they moved toward the front.  One of the students suggested that rather than continuing to move forward, when one line reached the next, they would stop and the next line would continue the motion forward.  This achieved the wave effect and solved the crowding problem.  Thanking the student for the idea, this is what I call “thinking like a dancer”, and we incorporate this very positive idea.

In “Faith” we review the groups’ choreography for the lyric sections.  Next we begin work on the choreography for the chorus.  For this I give a directional movement premise that would result in all the groups moving in the same spatial directions, but in their own way.  Each group works to make a phrase that goes forward, back, high, low, side, side and pose.  This takes the 6 measures of 4 beats.  They are given time to find their solution, and in this case, I encourage them to take turns within the group proposing movement, so that each member is a contributor.

By now there is less shyness or hesitancy about tackling the task.  They are more expansive in their choice of movement, and more efficient at organisation and decision making.

Even though their newest choreography may still be a bit under rehearsed, we put it all together, incorporating the new chorus movement.

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dlr Primary Arts, 6th Class Kill Of the Grange National School 8th Dance Session – 5 Mar 2018

Artist: Robert Connor, Dance Theatre of Ireland  Teacher: Elizabeth Breen

Today, following the warm-up, I introduced a new song/choreography as a change to the routine of how we have been working.  “Can’s Stop the Feeling” by Justin Timberlake.  The dance I teach to this song has several parts, and it’s clear that the students are more adept at picking up – learning – new movement.  There’s also an interlude of moving through the space, traveling quickly, skipping, gesturing, free-styling and this revisits their skill of dancing between / among each other in a constantly changing spacing.  We speak briefly about quick decision making, using peripheral vision and quick reactions in order to keep the space moving and open while also avoiding bumping into one another.

We developed this as an improve further, by staying with this moving, weaving, circulating, traveling with their own rhythmic steps, rather than only skipping…encouraging the students to explore different stepping / locomotive combinations within the beat.

Because we missed one session due to the snow storm, we took time to reconstruct, review and rehearse each group’s own “Faith” sequence.

We continued working with “Faith”, placing each group in a specific spacing configuration for the start, and giving them a chance to rehearse.  For the very start of the song, I asked the girls to all line up together, on one side of centre and the boys in a line on the other, all facing each other “with attitude”, and when the music starts, in the first few bars they all travel quickly to the starting positions of their groups.

The 3 girls’ groups perform their sequences first, the boys strike a pose in their groups and watch the girls.  Then after the chorus, the 3 boys’ groups perform their sequences, while the girls strike a pose and watch.  We do this several times, each time perfecting getting into place and performing their sequences.

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dlr Primary Arts, 6th Class Kill Of the Grange National School 7th Dance Session – 26 Feb 2018

Artist: Robert Connor, Dance Theatre of Ireland,  Teacher: Elizabeth Breen

We start, as we do each session, with the warm-up and stretch.  I re-emphasise that this part is particularly for each one of them individually to connect with their own physicality, their movement, breathing, technical coordination, their connection with the music, it’s rhythm and texture, their awareness of the space around them, the feeling of dancing together as one…in unison.  As dancers, we ourselves are the instrument, and this part in particular is designed to focus at the start on these elements, to enter the space of dance.

We revisit and review the choreography for “This Is Me”.  The newest part, the slow section, we look at in more detail.  It contains a “hitch kick”, a jump that takes off one foot, then the other, the legs throw back and change, landing one foot then the other.  Meanwhile the arms circle back and overhead during the jump.  We take time to examine, break down the elements and practice this.  This slow section also changes facing several times, so we look more carefully at how this is done…to not be facing forward.  They may be used to following me, or the person in front of them, but now that’s changed.  Dance teaches self-reliance, to dance the choreography fully, one needs to know it for themselves.

Our work on “Faith” starts with a circle improvisation again, in the structure of everyone copying one person for 8 beats.  Then we focus on an idea that we’ll use for the chorus – a pattern of moving forward, back, high, low, side, side, hit a shape.  We do this several times, taking each element as a premise for the improvised movement.

We then spend more time with the task from last session, each group working on their 6 x 4 beats composition.  I circulate to each group, coaching them to check that their sequence is fitting into the time structure, how to edit if it’s too long, are they clear in their movements, has everyone in the group been able to contribute, does everyone in the group grasp it.  We practice them and then perform them, with 2 groups going at one time.

Gradually the students are having more opportunities to perform for each other, to create, remember and perform their own material, working together.

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dlr Primary Arts, 6th Class Kill Of the Grange National School Ms. Breen’s and Students 1st Post – 22 Feb 2018

Artist: Robert Connor, Dance Theatre of Ireland,  Teacher: Elizabeth Breen

6th Class from Kill o the Grange school are one third of their way through their dance programme with Robert from the Dance Theatre of Ireland and they are loving every minute of it!

Robert has been visiting us on Monday and Thursday mornings. The dance sessions are split into two parts. For the first hour they have been developing their dancing technique by dancing to routines that Robert has choreographed. They have been able to add their own moves to parts of this and they get to dance in pairs and groups. For the second half of the session they have been exploring creative dance moves and freestyle (which they can’t get enough of!!!)

During Robert’s first session he introduced the children to the three main components of a dance; space, rhythm (timing) and texture. Since then the class have been exploring these in all of the different styles of dance that they have been learning.

Before they began dancing he discussed that in order for the workshops to be successful each of them will need to have self discipline, respect and be willing to work as a team. The fact that each child has taken personal responsibility for this has allowed for some really enjoyable, creative and rewarding dance lessons with Robert.

Each lesson begins with a warm up dance routine to the song ‘How Deep Is Your Love’ by Calvin Harris. It has been  amazing to see how the children’s coordination and confidence has grown as they dance to this every week.

The class have also learnt a dance routine to Justin Beiber  ‘Sorry’ during this routine they break into groups and it looks very impressive.

In in the last two sessions they have been learning a very powerful dance to the song ‘This is me’ from the movie ‘The Greatest Showman’. They have been building on this each week and the class want to perform this at their end of year assembly.

Robert asked the class to choose  a song that they would like to dance to. The song that got the most votes was ‘Faith’ by Stevie Wonder. He is teaching them how to choreograph a dance to the song. They began by counting the beats of the song to determine the rhythm. They have also explored the lyrics and worked as a whole group and in smaller group to create a dance to the song.

Last week I asked the class to write a review of the workshops so far. It was wonderful to read about how much they are enjoying dance and hearing their own personal reflections on how much they have learnt and / or developed. Here are some of the quotes from their copies:

‘Robert has explained the concepts of contrast, movement and space to us.’

‘I have definitely gotten better at dancing in front of people and being more confident in my dancing.’

‘Robert is a great teacher and makes dance fun even for those who don’t normally dance’.

‘We have gotten lots of courage to dance in front of everyone and on our own.’

‘The part I like the most is when everybody stands in a circle and each person gets a chance to move to 8 beats of a song and everyone copies.’

‘Robert is very informative, he taught us that in dance there are 3 main components; space, timing and texture.’

‘I enjoy dancing in the big circle and individual freestyle’.

‘Robert has taught us how to look confident in our dance and how we express ourselves’.

As their class teacher it has been amazing to watch them become less self conscious and more free to explore and share their own dance moves each week. Being able to dance really is a life skill!

dlr Primary Arts, 6th Class Kill Of the Grange National School 6th Dance Session – 22 Feb 2018

Artist: Robert Connor, Dance Theatre of Ireland, Teacher: Elizabeth Breen

Today we start with the warm-up, everyone is happy to “just do it”, and I note everyone is more confident in their movement and in particular, freer in the freestyle moment.  Following the stretch sequence we work again on turning technique.

Following, we revisit “Sorry” choreography, and in the skipping section of 1’s and 2’s people find partners, and have 4 beats to freestyle together in pairs.  Once they establish who their partner is and where they meet, we repeat the choreography and this freestyle section gives a chance for people to perform for each other and others to watch, 3 pairs dancing at a time.

We continue working with “This Is Me” reviewing the first phrase they learned, a rhythmic cross-body gesturing, like striking a drum, while stepping using the front of the foot and heel in rhythm.  This sequence concludes with striking their own 3 quick shapes, turning and striking a strong “This is Me” shape.  We go on with the next part, 4 forward “punch” gestures, 4 marching movements, with strong arms, and a slide/drag opening to each side, the repeat the 3 shapes, turn and “This Is Me” shape.  This part is more staccato, compared to the smooth quality of “Sorry”.

The song has a slow introduction, and we next add this choreography, which is quite gestural and follows the meaning and timing of the lyrics.  The movement reflects the strength of the lyrics and the melody/rhythm and I see the students’ connecting with it, their expression growing through the dance.

With the “Faith” piece, we get started with improvising in a circle again, with everyone copying one person at a time.  This gets them moving in their own way, and getting accustomed to performing for each other, as well as focusing on the one who is leading, picking up each other’s movement.

Next we work on a composition exercise in smaller groups, using the time structure of the lyric section, 6 measures of 4 beats.  Each group works together to create a phrase of this length, with the task of including four elements: a turn, a jump, level change, and contact.  We ask the students to divide into 6 groups, 3 boys groups and 3 girls groups.  I discussed with Ms. Breen that I want to divide the students by gender at the start (normally I wouldn’t define groups by gender) with the idea that eventually the choreography would mix the boys and girls.  The lyrics have 2 sections, one with Stevie wonder starts “see the girl…” and the second lyric section start with Arianna singing “see the boy…”, so this is reflected in the choreographic structure.

The students are given time, with the music playing in the background to work together.  I encourage them to work collaboratively, so each person contributes to the making.  For example, as a method to work, each person in the group could have a chance to improvise or propose a movement and the others help them “trap” it or learn it. I also point out that they have choices to make about the spacing, ie how they configure the shape of the group, and also whether they move in unison, or mirror each other, or move in contrast to each other.

dlr Primary Arts, 6th Class Kill Of the Grange National School Fifth Dance Session – 19 Feb 2018

Artist: Robert Connor, Dance Theatre of Ireland,  Teacher: Elizabeth Breen

With the mid-term break, it has been a week since we last met, so we do a quick review of the warm-up. I remind the students that this is the part of the class to tune into themselves, to observe their own bodies and connection with themselves.  We dance the warm-up, the concentration is palpable and continue with the stretch sequence to “Tilted”.

We work on a new dance skill, turning.  To build up to this, we do a sequence of side to side movement and then balance on one leg.  The balance position is the position we use in the turn, and we do the same side to side movement into turning.  With this, the concept of “spotting” helps find front and stopping the turn at the right moment.

We start working with a new piece of music, “This is Me” from the film musical “The Greatest Showman”.  The lyrics and music combine to make a very strong statement of valuing oneself, ones identity, despite put-downs and critical voices.  As a dance, the movement is percussive, a contrasting texture to the choreography to “Sorry” that we worked with before the mid-term, and also reflects the sentiment in the music, connecting to the lyrics more directly than the earlier piece.

The music that the students suggested included “Faith” by Stevie Wonder, featuring Arianna Grande, from the musical “Sing”.  To make a start on working with this, we analysed the musical structure, looking at the musical phrases in the structure and number of musical bars that each part takes.  Roughly there is an A section of the lyrics, a B section of the chorus and a C section of the musical break.  The piece is structured in an A, B, A, B, C, B, B format.  The A and B sections can be counted as 6 measures of 4 beats, the C section is 11 measures of 4.  We drew this out on a whiteboard to be able to see it as a map of the music.  Throughout we listen to the music, so the students are able to identify the beat, the measures, how to identify the sections of the song.

Having done this, we improvise to the music, everyone standing in on large circle.  We have a structure within which each person dances for 4 beats, while everyone else copies them.  After a couple times through this, it seems 8 beats would be a better length of time for each one to improvise, and we work to go directly from one person to the next without dropping a beat.  Everyone gets a chance to dance, everyone gets many chances to follow another’s movement, and to value their own and each other’s movement.  The circle keeps everyone’s focus central to the action, and even accidents (someone overbalanced and fell) become part of the copied action.

It gives me an opportunity to speak about appreciating that a fall or loss of balance is a moment of taking risk, going for it, moving beyond ones boundaries, and while we need to be safe with our bodies, we can also trust in the lessons of taking chances in our movement.

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dlr Primary Arts, 6th Class Kill Of the Grange National School Fourth Dance Session – 12 Feb 2018

Artist: Robert Connor, Dance Theatre of Ireland, Teacher: Elizabeth Breen

Today I ask would the students like to talk through the warm-up or just do it.  “Just do it!”  So we dance the warm-up and go straight through the stretch sequence as well.  It’s gratifying to see how they dance the warm-up, without prompting, and engage fully in it.

With the “Sorry” sequence we add on another small section, of sweeping arm movements – throw, sweep, slice, a side gallop and “fountain” diagonal opening.  The movements connect in a smooth unbroken quality, and then we connect all three sections together.  Following on from last week’s skipping section, the pairs were given time to each make a 4 count phrase together.  We then perform these with 2 pairs dancing at the same time, while all the others hold their poses, then repeat these with half the pairs dancing and half posing.

Across the floor we travel with side slide facing a partner, dancing in time with each other, and keeping together in space.  Then we add a skip with three slides, and on the skip, changing facing, to face the opposite direction, and a new partner.  This challenges that all pairs move forward together.

We then improve across the floor, with any rhythmic movement of their choice.  After several times, I ask them to copy with a partner.  The copyist is challenged to be as accurate as possible.

After they do this several times, each partner having had a chance to lead, the task changes to dancing their own movement, and choosing moments when they will copy, i.e. be in unison.

Then, dancing their own movement, they are to make a weaving path, changing places and using the space around each other.  They are clearer in this now than they were two sessions ago.

Finally we do a cool down to Pachelbel Canon in D, a famous classical piece of music.

We discuss music, and agree a plan for the students to give music suggestions to Ms. Breen who will screen them and give me a shortlist, with a view to creating a new choreography together.

Being roughly one third into the project, I ask what they like:

Making their own movement, they would like to make longer phrases.

Doing the warm-up quickly and getting on to the other dances.

Learning new things.

dlr Primary Arts, 6th Class Kill Of the Grange National School Third Dance Session – 8 Feb 2018

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.