Body Awareness,  Education for Life,  Experiential learning

Winter Dancing

As winter has returned to Oregon, we are taking fewer field trips and spending more time inside. Dance is one of the indoor activities that we’ve started doing more of around here. The Primary (1st/2nd grade) students learned an Indian (Garba) dance from our intermediate teacher, Sonali, to perform at our Winter performance. The Intermediate and Upper Elementary students (3rd-6th grade) are learning some choreographed dancing for a Spring performance.

Tenzin Raina Indian dress

Dance is a remarkable learning experience because it so naturally uses all the Tools of Maturity.

There is, of course, the body. Students gain a growing awareness of their body, how they move in space, and how they can communicate using their bodies. I’m sure some students would be overjoyed with an all-dancing curriculum, since they would never have to sit in a chair!

Then, there are the feelings. When the primary class was learning their dance, I had them, first of all, just listen to the music, and move their body as they thought it should be moved. They were tuning into this unfamiliar form of music, and practiced expressing with their body what they were hearing. They came to appreciate the music for what it inspired in their own hearts.

Next is the will. When the Primary students started complaining about practicing, we sat down and had a chat. We all agreed that practicing is boring. So, why would we do something so boring? We talked about the performances we have enjoyed and how important it was for those performers to practice in order to bring such a great performance. Then, we made a list of our goals – what we wanted to make sure we did on the night of the performance. These goals activated their inner motivation (will) and they were intent and focused for the rest of our practices.

Finally, there is the intellect. Dance is an incredible practice of the intellect. There are sequences and patterns and timing of steps. We break beats into fractions, and a hands-on (rather, bodies-on) understanding of parts of the whole is developed. We understand space between ourselves in relation to other people and calculate how fast or slow we must move to meet another body. Our bodies become pulleys and joints and we explore force and trajectory.

All of the tools of maturity are covered, and there is an added bonus (as there usually is with well-rounded activities). Dancing is fun! We get to dress up and entertain folks on the performance night, and our lessons are filled with dancing!

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