While attention is being given to the daily practice of the dance form(s) being studied, students also investigate different compositional forms. The activities enhance the students’ understanding of composition by relating it to movement, vocabulary, words, images, texture, sound, and objects. In addition, students explore the use of creating a mood or atmosphere in composition by using props or objects. This activity challenges their decision-making skills through solo, duet, and group works.
- Explore the use of various stimuli to develop movement sequences.
- Apply the creative process to the development of dance combinations
- Prepare visual stimuli (reading materials, text, objects, pictures, video)
- Prepare video clip samples of compositional and choreographic works in the dance form being studied as well as in other dance forms so that students are exposed to a broad spectrum of dance
- Prepare observation materials (video documentation, observational checklists, compositional rubrics for assessment)
- Drawing materials (markers, chalk, and pencil crayons)
- Prepare several styles of music (classical, world music, percussion, pop/alternative, jazz, soundscapes, sound effects)
- Prepare a corner in the room for prop collection such as different sized balls, fabric, hoops, balloons, cups, chairs, etc.
Minds On (Approximately 15 minutes)
- Lead a warm-up (for each class) that uses improvisational or movement technique drawing from the dance form being studied.
- Include breathing to focus on important factors such as body and spatial awareness, to calm or prepare the body for movement, and to develop a sense of working from the inside out.
- Imagery could be used as a source of inspiration and motivation for the movement (which is an important factor in composition).
- The following exercises bring students’ attention to concepts and help spark students’ imagination.
- In addition, it allows them to focus on the experience instead of on dance steps or phrases.
- It is recommended that the atmosphere created in class be one of acceptance, support, and safety.
- Finally, stress that there are no right or wrong choices in the exploration exercises.
Action! (Approximately 30 minutes)
Thinking about Space
- Show a short video clip that relates to space.
- Show pictures of dance as another example of space. For example, dance photography by Lois Greenfield would be useful and her photography as another art medium would be a rich addition to the unit.
- Facilitate a brief discussion on what the students noticed in the video and photographs that relate to how space is used.
- Students respond to the space in the room with guided suggestions:
- See empty space,
- move into it, around it, through it…
- Mold or sculpt your body,
- around the space, in the space…
- Hold your shapes briefly…
- Then move to the next space,
- Find ways to inhabit the space in the room,
- Inhabit the chair, the bench, the doorway, a wall….
Exploring in Pairs
- Students pair off and label themselves A and B:
- Partner A moves into the space and creates a still shape/body sculpture.
- Partner B moves toward Partner A and sees the space created by their shape and creates a shape within or around the space Partner A has created.
- Partner A moves away to create another sculpture in the room and Partner B responds.
- This repeats several times.
- Leaders switch roles with Partner B leading first.
- Encourage students to continue to explore their space in unexpected and safe way.
Change the Perspective
- Pairs join up to make a group of four. One pair moves, one pair observes.
- Play three contrasting pieces of music while moving pairs are exploring.
- Students explore the space, as before, with one partner leading and the other responding; however, this time they respond to the music as well.
- Students observing move around the room looking at their partners from different perspectives, e.g., under a chair, on top of a bench, from the doorway, from close up, from far away, from behind, or from the side of the room.
- Switch the pairs and repeat with three different pieces of music.
- Construct a simple movement improvisation focusing on body parts in the technique being studied and using words as imagery for the movements they do.
- Constantly reinforce the connection of language/imagery and movement:
- twisting, folding, circling, reaching, pausing…
- Twisting the upper body against the hips,
- Folding the spine slowly towards the floor,
- Circling the arms in port de bras fast and slow,
- Reaching battements,
- Pausing to balance in first.
Introducing the ABA Form
- Introduce the concept of the ABA form:
- Students choose two movement words; for instance, bending and circling.
- Instruct students to create a quick shape on the spot of their first word (this is A).
- Instruct students to create another quick shape on the spot of their second word (this is B).
- Instruct students to repeat first shape (this is A).
- Students use their two words to create a movement phrase using the ABA form with the following parameters:
- A - a frozen shape on the spot;
- B - traveling in the space;
- A - returning to the original shape on the spot in a different place in the
- Four or five students, at a time, share their studies with the class.
- Students gather in a circle on the floor.
- Ask students to think of one word they saw in any of the studies they observed that particularly stood out for them.
- Each of the students shares in the circle the word that stood out for him/her, while he/she was watching the studies.
Introduction to Compositional Terms and Manipulations
- Distribute the glossary of compositional terms and manipulations to each student.
- Reads through each of the terms with the students.
- With each form, encourage broad examples, for instance: canon - the wave at a baseball game; theme and variation - Beethoven’s fifth; repetition - rap music.
A Study using One Compositional Form
- Pairs of students begin the next choreographic study.
- Students choose one form to work with and combine their independent studies from last class into a duet (approximately a minute long).
Sharing and Reflecting on the Study
- Students present their work two at a time for the class.
- Direct a discussion whereby students identify the compositional form they observed.
Creating with Props
- Have a collection of simple props or objects available for use in the classroom. Include a variety of stimuli such as balloons, balls, cups, fabric, hoops, chairs, etc. Emphasize safety in using all materials. Sample: Teacher demonstrates with silk fabric
- Students gather in a circle with eyes closed:
- One student at a time takes a short period of time to feel the fabric.
- Encourage students to think of its texture, shape, size, etc.
- On the count of three students open their eyes and begin to move like the object.
Improvisational Movement using Texture and Shape
- Teacher-led exercise:
- Begin to move like the fabric…
- How would you move? Lightly? Strongly?
- Move in circles; create lines in the space.
- Would you move directly in the room or indirectly?
- How would you shape your body and use space?
- Explore all movement possibilities…
- Students gather in circle once again to discuss their movement explorations and their individual impressions of the fabric. Qualities of movement and texture are discussed and related to movement vocabulary.
Movement Conversations with a Prop
- Students choose one prop:
- In partners, students pass one prop back and forth to one another in silence.
- Each time, the students find a new way to pass it back and forth that reflect its qualities then switch props and repeat.
- Encourage students to use object in different ways while discovering new relationships between each other and the prop.
- Stress the use of various body parts other than hands to pass object.
- Students share verbally their reflections on this exploration.
Arranging Props in the Space
- Students choose a variety of props/objects to work with.
- Students divide into a group of 5 or 6.
- Students find an empty space in the room to explore together, a teacher-led improvisation:
- In silence, look at the empty space. What do you see?
- Working as group, create an atmosphere with your props….
- keep adding, moving, removing your objects in silence.
- Take turns to fill the space.
- Work slowly so everyone can see what is happening,
- watch how the atmosphere changes, keep transforming it….
- keep your space occupied and energized, try smaller changes now.
- How does this alter the space?
Consolidation (Approximately 20 minutes)
- Students gather in their groups of four on the floor with their journals and discuss the experience.
- The class gathers on the floor and reports briefly on what they discussed in their small group.
- Record the words used to describe their explorations (later to be used to create a warm-up using the students’ words as imagery) on the board.
- Assess students’ approach to class work and material.