1. What is the benefit of teaching children about “creating shapes” when it comes to dance?
Interesting question. I don’t really think I teach kids about creating shapes. We all create shapes when we move, we do it naturally. I teach kids to become aware of their bodies and become aware that they are creating shapes. We break down shapes into straight lines, angles and curves. What does a straight line feel like and look like? Bend the line and create a point. Now it is an angle. How is that different then a straight line? Soften that angle, make it round. Now you have a curve. Dance freely around the space, now stop. What kind of shape are you in? Are there angles, curves and straight lines? Are your arms in one shape and your legs in another?
If kids understand the elements of movement then learning and perfecting technique can be a natural progression in their dance education. If you ask a child to keep her leg straight when she turns and her arms curved, well this is not that difficult because you have explored shape already. The young dancer has the resources and experiences to pull from.
The benefit of learning about creating shapes is learning about what the body can do, as well as learning about the images and ideas the body can invoke. If you ask your students to tell you about a tree, they might say it has a big trunk, the roots go deep into the ground and it has branches reaching upward. Have the dancers create the tree shape in their bodies. Next, have your students then observe a tree. Discuss the shapes, the curves, the bulges and knots in the trunk, the branches that bend down to the ground in an angle. Now have your students create the shape in their bodies again. You will have shapes that you probably have never seen your students create before.
2. What age group do you like working with best and why?
This is going to sound like a cop-out but any age that is in front of me. Each age has its own challenges but the important thing is to have an objective and to be aware of the developmental milestones of each age. I actually love teaching various ages together. It is very challenging but there is something so beautiful when all ages can move together, connected by a physical experience.
3. How has having a daughter impacted your work as a dance teacher?
I would never have created Up Down & All Around, the creative movement DVD for kids and parents. It was because I wanted to teach and create and I had to find a solution to teach without being in a studio all the time. Also, my focus changed. I wanted to reach out to more families and explore teaching families the joy of moving together. I dance with my daughter all the time. I danced with her ever since she was little. But I never taught her how to dance. Kids know how to dance. I guess my philosophy deepened when I danced with her. Teaching dance is about teaching body awareness, spatial awareness, the elements of movement as well as technique and placement. Yes, there is a correct way of spotting or stretching but there is no wrong or right way of moving.
Watching my daughter dance, and dancing with her solidified this in me. Dance is organic. I appreciate this more now.
4. In your experience, what types of ideas are hard for young children to understand in dance class?
Hmm. Space is difficult. I always start with spatial awareness. I find for a successful and safe movement experience this is a must. This is a difficult concept for kids to understand because they have to be aware not only of themselves but the people and things around them. And developmentally this can be challenging.
5. If you could tell people who have kids one thing about finding a good dance teacher, what would it be?
I would tell parents to find a dance teacher that is a good teacher. What I mean by this is find someone that is focused on the development of the child, on the overall learning experience of the child. It is not just about a great performance at the end of the year, but a wonderful experience throughout the year.
Bio: Stacey is the Founder and Director of Leaping Legs Creative Movement Programs. The focus of Leaping Legs Creative Movement Programs is to help people regardless of age, experience or ability, become educated about their movement potential, develop kinesthetic awareness, and become more physically fit and healthy together as a family, and community.Leaping Legs promotes its goal through the original Up Down & All Around DVD. Utilizing the elements of movement, the video entertains as it motivates kids and their families to exercise together using movement games, silly exercises and challenges. The DVD received Dr. Toy’s 100 Best Children’s Products 2009 Award and 10 Best Active Products 2009 Award. The DVD has also been featured in many magazines. In its August 2009 issue, Dance Teacher called the DVD “an essential tool for teaching the fundamentals of movement.”
Stacey received her BFA in dance performance at Montclair State University and her MA in dance education from Teachers College, Columbia University. She has taught as an artist in residency and guest artist in public and private schools for over twelve years.