Categotry Archives: TRS Training

2018 Roundup

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We have been busy bees in the office in the run up to Christmas. As well as celebrations taking place, we’ve had newsletters and Christmas cards to design, print and send. We’re feeling very Christmassy already and can’t wait for Christmas jumper day on Monday (look out for the photos!)

Our newsletter has been going out in all of our classes recently and is also found in the many Christmas cards that Becca and I sent on Monday. We hope everyone who has had the chance has enjoyed reading it, but I’m sure there are others out there who don’t have one so… we have included a copy below for everyone can have a read. Enjoy! Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year!

 

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Improvisation

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The TRS Teachers are always excited by new ideas and trying new things. We recently had our sharing days and the TRS Teachers met for the All Hands Meeting on Monday too so this has been even more apparent.
 
Improvisation is the term used for spontaneously moving. The movement isn’t choreographed, it is usually very creative and it almost always leads to an unexpected and exciting outcome.

Why Use Improvisation?

Improvisation can be used just for fun. In our Educating Dance and creative dance classes we often use improvisation to help find movements around a theme that can be used later in choreography. We can also use improvisation or brain health.
 
It has been proven in both recent and quite old studies that dance is great for brain health. I think the first time I realised just how good dance is for the brain was when I read ‘Use it or Lose it: Dance Makes you Smarter’ by Richard Powers. A fascinating article about a major study that found dance questioned whether physical and/or cognitive recreational activities were affective in protecting against dementia. The only physical activity that proved affective was dance.

The article (read it here: http://socialdance.stanford.edu/syllabi/smarter.htm) goes into greater depth and there is a lot to be said on this subject, but for the purpose of this blog post I will focus on one element… I believe that one of the reasons for the protection dance offers against dementia is the fact that improvisation often plays a key role in dance. Thinking on your feet whilst also taking part in physical activity and, therefore, with the respiratory system working harder seems to have great benefits. Quick thinking, random thinking and making decisions that are not carefully planned whilst the body is also physically moving seems to be excellent for the brain and neural pathways.

The Different Types of Improvisation

In our training for school staff we teach how to give ownership of the movement to the participants. By ensuring they know there is no wrong outcome because they are being creative, the dancers can choreograph themselves and can achieve extraordinary outcomes when supported in the right way. Improvisation to explore a theme and experiment with movement is a great way to do this. Teachers can support students in free improvisation that is often very personal and always open ended or in closed improvisation that has a much more specific aim. 

Ideas for Improvisation

Improvisation Journies are great fun and very exploratory. The teacher has a pre-planned and very simple journey Just a few lines with lots of description ideas. The journey could take place in multiple settings such as for an around the world theme (home to hot air balloon with words such as high, free and clouds, to jungle with words like trees, vines, logs to go under and over or animals. Back to the hot air balloon with the same or different adjectives and onto the desert with ideas such as hot sand under foot, quick skittish lizards and sand dunes and so on.) 
 
If the journey takes place in one setting you can go into more detail. This is great for a topic like Habitats. For a jungle theme the teacher can describe the habitat in much more detail. There are tall trees with branches that spread wide. Vines from the branches for monkeys to swing on. The playful monkeys are jumping, climbing, swinging and picking flies from each other. The flies move from giant plant to plant. There are some fallen trees and you have to go over some and under others.
 
The teacher has the option to be as specific or vague as they like and can alter their words each time they do the journey depending on how the group are responding or if they have done it before. 
 
Improvisation stories are a great way to include the class topic in a cross-curricular dance class and we use it a lot in Educating Dance. In our training, Dance: A Cross-curricular Approach, one of the first journies Sophie (our first ever TRS Teacher) and I did was Water’s Journey. The improvisation can be undertaken as a whole class moving as particles (as one, slowly and quickly etc. depending on the water’s current state), as an individual moving as the water moves through a story that can begin at any point (basically ice to sea to river to water system to tap etc. but this can and should be expanded upon) and can even include a staff member or guest as the sunshine (we always had Sunshine Sophie!) or within small groups with each group having previously been given the water state they will move as. It is a hugely diverse topic!
 
Story improvisation can become a great game for exploring a theme (such as Dinosaur Excavation), as a way to close a session (line up as a…) or as a cool down (Astronaut Suits). It could also be used within the school day if the story is appropriate. Please see my ‘Dancing Day’ blog post for more on that.
 
The first ever story improv I wrote was one I use just for fun as a game in dance clubs, but that is also great for gross motor skills development… I invented Pumpkin Soup whilst sitting on a train because there was a cafe at the station that had a similar name. Whilst the teacher says the story (and hopefully moves a little themselves as well) the children improvise. It’s quite a closed improvisation and due to that can be done with a whole class. I will create a full download for the story and instructions soon (in our new section of the website), but for now suffice to say that there’s a bowl of soup, a sudden mess and some sliding, tip toeing and sticky feet followed by a big clean up operation.
 
Carnival Dance is a wonderful way to inject colour and excitment into a class and works especially well within Active Armchairs. It can also be easily adapted for different themes. This is basically when the whole group moves, everyone is moving individually, but is occasionally inspired by someone else in the room. For carnival dance we would all have colourful feathers or scarves to dance with. When the facilitator sees something they particularly like they can commend the person who created it and incorporate it into their own movements. This also means that those who are shy, new to improvisation or struggle to improvise can still join in because ‘copying’ is welcomed and encouraged. An extension to this is when the facilitator begins to pick some of the movements and sequences them to choreograph a motif (small section of dance).
 
Although this is called carnival dance, the theme doesn’t have to be carnival. At Christmas I’ve used tinsle, jingle bells or silly hat voguing for a similar affect. 
 
Strike a Pose is a way to introduce a moment of improvisation into lots of different aspects of the dance class or school day in general. They could strike a pose at the end of a dance or exercise (you could give warning or spring it upon them depending on the group) or and the start before the music begins (this is a great way to get a group of young children to stay still!). 

It is an important part of travel / stop games (where the teacher shouts travel and then, after a while, stop and the participants move within a theme). It can also be done when improvising with props. It is very exciting when done with a giant elastic! 
 
 

Partner Improvisation is great for relationship building. Of course it can be done in schools and is brilliant for PSHE themed dance lessons, but my two favourite examples of partner improv are found in Active Armchairs, the dance together (holding hands as the participant leads the facilitator) and the Floating Material (a person at each end of a long piece of material wafting it in various ways). 

 

The photo on the left is of spontaneous improvisation with a participant who asked me to dance during Active Armchairs. We were supposed to be copying Georgie (leading her warm up in the background), but this particular lady became so excited by the class that she just got up and went for it! She led me and I had to follow. This is the best type of improvisation, when some one lets go and just goes for it. 

 
Improvisation is clearly a subject that excites me and I could go on and on about things we can do, but my biggest tip is to just give it a try. You’ll never guess what the group will come up with and in the highly unlikely event that they don’t know what to do, you can always move to the next bit more quickly or change tact slightly so the theme changes.

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Proprioception and Vestibular Sense

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Proprioception is the body’s unconscious ability to sense the position, location and movement of the body and it’s parts. In dance this is often referred to as spatial awareness. In ‘Every Child a Mover’, Jan White describes it as “An awareness of the body, knowing where our limbs and ‘edges’ are and where our body is in space.”
 
The Vestibular Sense refers to the body’s vestibular sensory system that monitors and adjusts it’s sense of balance and orientation to the world. This sense is what keeps the us upright while standing, sitting or walking and it is primarily located in the inner ear.
 
Together proprioception and the vestibular sense allow us to move purpose, grace and without knocking into things (sometimes!), but as with all our senses and most bodily functions, we have to learn how to use them and they can be developed and improved slightly throughout life. Babies and toddlers, have to develop these skills from scratch and they are still developing through primary school. Young people, teenagers through adolescence, often suffer temporary loss or impairment of proprioception and the vestibular sense.
 
In general, for young children developing these areas of body awareness is achieved by doing as many different movements in as many different ways as possible. This blog post will explore some specific ways in which we can support these areas of development and changing needs within our dance classes. This blog post does not refer to when there is a medical need for improvement. For these times professional medical advice should be sought. This blog post is designed to support those who work with children and young people.

Mariinsky’s Swan Lake The corps de ballet must be keenly aware of where their bodies are in space.

Balancing
Balance is associated with the vestibular system as well as the motor and visual systems more so than with proprioception, but they still work in tandem.
 

Travel stop is a good game to improve balance. The participants move around the room in a way that relates to the class theme or using a travelling movement such as a gallop. When the teacher shouts stop and/or holds up a sign to signify stop, the participants hold a still position in a similar way to musical statues. The next stage of this game is to call out a position for participants to get into. For example, in an opposites theme you might ask them to make a low shape and the next time a high shape. This is where the balance comes in, state that they need to be on one leg or show them the balance position you want them to do.

You can use balance to bring everyone back to focus anytime during the school day or at the end of a cool down as a calming item. Just ask the group to stand with their feet slightly apart (in ‘place’) and the  slowly rise up onto the balls of their feet. They could hold their arms out to the side or on the hips to help them. Closing eyes emphasises the affect on their balance development  as well as their focus.
 
Another fun balance game is sitting on a ball. This works with balls of lots of different sizes, but they can’t be spongey because then they squash flat. Ask the children to pick a ball and take it to their space. The aim is to sit on the ball for the duration of the song. If they find it easy the task can be developed for body parts or types of balance. This is great for a creative dance class where balls are used as a prop or for one of our ball skills classes (all sorts of ball props and creative dance coming together! Imagine soft squishy snowballs, shakey cat bells and giant balloon balls all in one very fun class for under 5s!).
 
Bare feet!
Have you ever wondered why babies prefer to be in bare feet? My daughter spends a great deal of time removing shoes and socks and she was one of the reasons I began learning more about the vestibular sense and proprioception because refereed to a lot when researching physical development in babies.
 

Going barefoot helps to map the body and, although many dance styles require shoes to be worn in class, tap, character and street come to mind, we can help children in their development by encouraging them to move barefoot in creative dance or for sections of a dance class.
 
 
Part of a creative dance class could explore different ways the feet come into contact with the floor… stamping, jumping, sliding, tip toes, feet edges (being extra careful!), light taps and stronger taps etc. Barefoot races with different forms of travelling such as running, hopping, galloping or slime slid
es (when the floor is covered in slime and you have to get through it but sometimes it’s slippery and then suddenly it’s sticky and then it’s back to slippery again).
 
Going barefoot can also apply to our Active Armchairs sessions with older adults, many of whom spend most of their lives in slippers or shoes. Perhaps we could organise a barefoot class with sensory boxes for the feet (sand or tiny fluffy pom poms), a giant elastic to signify the edge of the sea for dipping toes in and a ball to try and keep under the foot.
 
For a little bit more about Barefoot Babies you can read Dr Kacie Flegal’s article: 
http://www.naturalchildmagazine.com/1210/barefoot-babies.htm
 

Body pressure

This involves stimulating the receptors in the skin and is great for developing an inner ‘map’ of the body. Movements like rolling, crawling like a baby or a bear, army crawling, crab walking or being a worm or snake are great. All you need is an empty space like a dance studio or school hall!

Props can also help. Games with lycra such as when the group holds the lycra and an individual makes shapes underneath or all sitting around the lycra pushing the feet and hands up to make shapes.
 

 
Move With Others
As well as moving by themselves, children develop their vestibular sense by being moved by others. This includes everything from being thrown in the air by a fun uncle to giving and / or receiving a great big bear hug! This links in with body pressure (above).
 
Some rhymes and games can be done with a friend or as a group and these make a great brain break during the school day or a quick, related or unrelated section in a dance class. Some to try include Row, Row,Row Your Boat, Ring a Roses, In and Out The Dusky Bluebells and many of the songs that involve horses, but performed with a partner or sitting on an adults lap (perfect for our TRS Tots classes!). Try Mother, Father and Uncle John, This is the Way The Lady Rides or Horsey Horsey. 
 
Be Creative
In our school staff training programme, Dance: A Cross-curricular Approach, we teach staff how to give ownership of the movement to their pupils. Although this does make it a lot easier and more enjoyable for school staff who are teaching dance as a subject, it is also very beneficial for the pupils. It has been established that children learn through play and at their own pace. When developing body awareness, children have to go through a process in their own time.  A creative dance class supports this order of development because it both gives young children the opportunity to move in the way their body needs to move on that day and also includes sections of taught movement that provide examples of other things they could do.
 
 
 

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Sharing Is Caring

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By Georgie

Over the half term we held some sharing sessions for the TRS Teachers. Both for our schools dance classes as well as our Active Armchairs classes. It was lovely to have so many teachers involved, and from all different levels of the TRS team. Sharing ideas and collaborating with one another is a vital part to The Right Step’s ethos and we enjoy it so much.

Firstly, we started off with our Schools Dance sharing. Becca, our Schools Dance Co-ordinator started us off with a great warm up to Bamboleo by the Gypsy Kings. This was a warm up she had done for a carnival theme in a school, so she included the use of bright feathers. Whilst we had the feathers out we discussed different ideas to use them for, for example using them to tickle different body parts. As well as talking about behaviour management within the class. As feathers and any sort of prop can be a slight distraction, especially with younger children. So, using ideas such as ‘Put your feathers on your head’ to keep them still and focused works really well.

20180213_114336Next Georgia shared her ‘weather’ game with us. We created different movements to represent the different types of weather, from sunshine to rainbows to twisters to lightening. You can start off by giving a couple of examples then get your class to help you come up with the rest. A great way to build up movements to use throughout your class. Then you walk, jog, skip and gallop around the room. When the teacher shouts out a weather you do the action that represents this. We discussed how you can use the main idea for this game and change it to the different themes that you may come across in your classes such as superheroes of jungles.

Hayley, one of the newest members of the TRS team shared an exercise where the idea is to walk around the room, but you are lead by a certain body part; for example your hand. Using this to ‘pull’ you around the room. Then you can switch to different body parts! The more interesting the better! We had elbows, bottoms, knees, and ears. A great way for children to learn about themselves and their bodies!

I then shared some cross-curricular ideas. I had chosen some words from some of last year’s book week books such as ‘The Extraordinary Adventures of Mr. Ben’ and using these I laminated individual letters, and had the students create as many different words as they could within a set time. This promoted team work as well as using Literacy within a dance lesson.

We discussed lots of different ways to which we can use these ideas throughout our lessons. Coming up with more ideas, for example with the letters. You can then get the children to make the shape of the letter using their own bodies. We also looked at cool downs, how you can take movements which you have learnt in class and repeat them but slowly to start cooling the bodies down!

Overall it was a very successful Schools dance sharing! And we can’t wait until the next one.

 

The next Sharing was for our adult dance classes, mainly focusing on Active Armchairs.  Again, a lovely turn out, we had a good mix of previously trained Active Armchairs Facilitators and our new trainee’s too.

20180214_153431_001I shared my warm up to ‘Love and Marriage’ by Frank Sinatra. This has been used for various themes within classes and as it is a well known song, most participants enjoy it. I also shared my  ‘around the world’ theme using a blow up globe. This is great for conversations, discussing where they have been, where they want to go. You can also use it to practice co-ordination for example throwing and catching or rolling across to another participant. Finally, I shared a dance to ‘Let’s twist again’. This is a great song to use again as most know it and it encourages participants to twist, which can be something that they use less as they get older. It also included the hand jive and jazz hands for an all around fun dance!

20180214_152503Clare shared a few of her favourite things she’s been doing recently. She brought in her stretchy material to show us. These are great as they work like resistance bands but aren’t as strong so anyone can use them. She used pieces of lycra material and cut them into strips. We then went around in the circle and came up with a movement each, which we then put all together to create a dance! She also shared with us her lovely cool down to ‘You are the Sunshine of My Life’ which is such a lovely song and a great way to finish a session.

20180214_154416Georgia shared some of her exercises that she has been using in class. She showed us her foot exercise to ‘Jailhouse Rock’ another great upbeat, toe-tapping song to which most people know! This works really nice as a foot exercise as it’s a nice steady beat, and she even included a bit of a wiggle and boogie for the chorus so that participants can have their own creativity in there. She also shared her dance to none other than ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’ by Bon Jovi. Again, a fantastic sing along that most know. This was really fun as we got to play the drums, rock out on a guitar and throw our arms in the air! She also included circles throughout to work through the whole body. Like wrist circles, ankle circles, shoulder circles etc. It was a really fun and beneficial dance.

Again, we had such a great time sharing our ideas, you can see how much by having a quick look through our video below.

Thanks to all that came and shared, looking forward to next time!

 

 

 

 

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Fitness Tips

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Steph and I have a bit of a fitness focus at the moment (we’ve been training teachers at Balfour Infants School!) so we thought we’d share our TOP FIVE TIPS AND IDEAS for getting fitness into the dance class.

1_green-svgExtend it bit by bit:

Teachers can add a little more onto the warm up each week to increase stamina and fitness levels. Perhaps doing an extra count of 8 each week or adding an extra stop in a Circuit Warm Up.

What’s the Circuit Warm Up??
A warm up that gives pupils ownership of their movement and encourages them to work as hard as they think they can.

  • Go around the room showing dancers the pictures / objects and the movement that relates to them.
  • Dancers are divided between the stops on the circuit.
  • When the music starts pupils do as expected for their stop.
  • Teacher signifies when to move to the next stop on the circuit.
  • Continue this process until everyone has been to every stop.
  • If time, ask pupils to choose their favourite stop and try to do even better than last time (competing against themselves)

Here’s our dinosaur example!
Diplodocus stretch, Iguanodon strength (plank), Confuciusornis flying jumps with wing arms, Eoraptor speedy run on the spot, Ankylosauras tail swing (laying on tummies swinging legs), Tyrannosauras partner balance using short arms (glueing elbows to tummies)

Or you could ask the pupils for movements instead!

The photo on the right is the Diploducus stretch!

 

number-2-clipart-dc6aeamc9Sneak in the Healthy Living Knowledge:

Teachers can talk about changes to the body after a particularly vigorous warm up and ask questions like, what do you notice about the heart beat?

If you’re extending the content each week (see number 1) noticing an increase in stamina would fit perfectly. What about food for a healthy dancer?

 

number-3-clip-art-at-clker-com-vector-clip-art-online-royalty-free-j2uq8g-clipartThe Fitness Six…

There are so many warm ups, games and cool downs that require a selection of different movements. The Circuit Warm Up, Plates!, Travel/Stop, Sets of Eight and the list goes on. Next time you use one of these warm ups why not try using one of each of the following? It will force the movements to be varied and the dancers benefit from all the different areas of development.

Strengthening, Balance, Cardio, Agility, Stretch and Teamwork

imag4543What is Plates!??
This is an extremely versatile warm up that can also be done as a game or a section of warm up if the teacher prefers not to use all the warm up elements in it. The teacher will need to use paper plates with small pictures and a few words on them to represent each movement.

  • Go around the room with the dancers placing the plates in spaces and explaining the movements. The items on each plate must relate to the theme.
  • Dancers space out in the room, away from the plates.
  • When the music starts the dancers move around the room.
  • When the tea
    cher waves the tambourine or shouts ‘plates!’ dancers go to the nearest plate and follow its instructions.
  • The next time the teacher waves the tambourine or shouts ‘walk’ pupils go back to walking around the room and so on.

Our Animal Opposites (High and Low) example:
HIGH: Giraffe Tip Toe Balance, Flying Eagle, Frog Jumps
LOW: Wiggley Worms, Clawing Tiger, Spikey Crab

In the photo… Our Medieval Castles (Castle Parts):
Battlement Jumps, Butress Counter Balance, Drawbridge Press Ups (adapted for pupils’ level for safety), Swimming in The Moat, The Tower Stretch, Rampart Star Jumps

 

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Choreograph It In…
When it comes to the choreography section of a class or workshop, sometimes the pace can slow. To keep the fitness focus why not set tasks that encourage the dancers to include certain movements?

  • Ask the dancers to include at least one jumping movement.
  • You could use The Fitness Six of the 5 (or 6!) basic actions.
  • Give them a time limit for their choreography (see tip number 5)
  • Add an opposites theme such as fast/slow or high/low.

 

5Use Music to encourage fitness…

There are obviously some songs that lend themselves to being used in a fitness focused dance class (carnival songs, drumming, instrumental pop or hip hop songs), but there are also other ways to use music to increase fitness in the dance class.

  • Zorba the Greek is a song with a clear beat. It starts slowly and gets faster and faster. Even just using it in the background during choreography can make dancers work faster. Try putting a set of eight easy movements to this music. By the end it will be difficult, really silly and a lot of fun!
  • The Countdown Timer is a famous sound clip and you can get the 30 second long one.
    Why not set a task such as create the starting position, play the song and then move onto the next task straight away. This way the dancers have to work fast so choreography can be completed really quickly, but it also gets them excited! Dancers created the freeze frame on the right in 30 seconds and even included levels and thought about hands and heads!

 

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Pound Shop Christmas Props

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Why we love the pound shop!
by Clare Wilders, Level Two TRS Teacher and Level Two Active Armchairs Facilitator.

As dance teachers we are always looking for innovative ways to spice up our dance classes. From using YouTube videos to show a piece of choreography, pictures so children can visualise the theme of our class, to props to give the actual dance element of the class more impact. In fact in our Active Armchairs classes, a prop is a compulsory element to the class, bringing an added element of interaction and assisting older people in maintaining their dexterity.

In an ideal world we would have an unlimited budget to use for our props, however as self employed teachers, we have books to balance, so a little creativity goes a long way.

Many an hour can be whiled away shuffling through bargains in the toy department, or as I was this morning, wandering up and down the Christmas aisle of the pound shop looking for potential Christmas props for my Active Armchairs classes next week.

I found some items with potential. I nearly bought a whole bundle of Christmassy cat teasers… with feathers, santas and little bells on each, only to find that they tangled up really easily just hanging up. Imagine the delay to my class trying to drag them out of my dance bag after they had turned into the inevitable spaghetti of strings and santas!

Finally I settled on a few random items showing potential:

In previous classes I have borrowed the TRS “Jingle sticks” with great success, and these are inspired by those, but a little different. Using a pool noodle, we could have a softer “stick” element so they could easily be patted against a hand or leg.

So far so good:

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I also found some wreath hangers that bore great gold bells… so of course the Cat got little curious:

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Things were looking jingly. A touch of gift ribbon, and the results are below. I can’t wait to try them out to “Jingle Bells” next week.

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