Responding in dance as a part of the Australian Curriculum is often difficult for students and teachers alike. Many people think there are definitive answers to the questions that are a component of these dance activities.
More important than being right or wrong, is the confidence we develop in our students to deal with the abstract and to address problems that may have multiple solutions.
Responding in the dance classroom
What we need to ensure is that the questions we ask will:
- Encourage children to explore and express their feelings
- Articulate and extend their ideas and understandings about dance
- Clarify their understanding of how movement creates meaning
- Encourage more actively engaged talking and writing about dance
And if you think this sounds familiar its because they are the basics for why we encourage reader response strategies. The use of responding activities in dance support literacy and encourage student confidence in interpreting different ways of communicating.
Responding activities in dance are an important stepping stone for children developing creative writing, reading and general writing skills.
There are many ways to get our students talking about dance. Asking questions is just one way. Not all of these questions will be appropriate for every activity or dance work but they are a starting point for how we can supercharge our dance responding activities.
Questions for Dance Responding Activities
Write a three sentence summary of what you saw. Write the details of the choreography in order.
If you could ask the choreographer one question what would it be?
If you were the choreographer what is one thing you would change about the dance?
If you were going to create a dance about the same topic, what would you call it?
Describe the setting of this dance, either real or imagined?
If you were going to give one of the dancers an award who would you give it to and what would the award be for? Name the award.
What lesson did you learn from watching this dance?
Did your feelings change through this dance?
What were some movements you found interesting? Why?
What were you wondering about as you watched the choreography?
First, I thought… Now, I think…
What were the ‘clues’ that made you understand the dance?
Does this dance remind you of anything else?
What did the music tell you about the dance?
Did the dancers connect with each other with their bodies? How did they do this?
What was the most beautiful moment and how did it make you feel?
Was there more than one meaning for this dance?
Strategies to implement these questions
There are many ways that the children can respond to these questions. Each may use a different method of communication or can be a part of a dance activity or game.
Using illustrations as a part of how they answer a question can be an opportunity for students to form their ideas. This may come in the form of a worksheet but may be part of a group activity such as making a Graffiti Board.
In this learning activity the students, as a group, write and sketch their thoughts about the dance.
They could include quotes, pictures, comments, connections between ideas or sketches. It is like thinking out loud on paper.
The best time to do it is immediately after viewing the work and can form the beginning of a more detailed discussion.
They could write about it as an example of persuasive writing. Here they form arguments to support their interpretations of abstract ideas.
A teacher led discussion is always a good place to explore the ‘wisdom of the crowd’. It gives the teacher an opportunity to aid in exploring topics like the effect of a particular Element of Dance in creating meaning.
A sticky note activity can also help when it comes to remembering what happens next. As the students watch the work they write on a sticky note when the key moments of the choreography occurred.
Create a timeline on the wall that charts the piece of choreography. You will find many different ideas in this type of activity! Ensure they can say why they think this showed a change in the choreography. Another opportunity to talk about the Elements of dance.
Creating a Photo gallery can also link the choreography to the ideas or stimulus presented in the dance. After viewing the dance, the students take photos that reflect the main ideas, moods or emotions of the dance piece. If they haven’t got access to cameras they can find images online and create a PowerPoint with a few titles or descriptions of their ideas.
Dance Responding Ideas
Here are a few ideas for dance games and activities for a range of age groups.
The Responding Game
Show a piece of choreography by a professional company. An example that may be interesting is The Mad Hatters Tea Party from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon for the Royal Ballet.
You then stop the video every now and then and ask the students to make predictions about what might happen next. You could also get them to comment on the dance so far. Keep going with this process until the dance has finished.
This piece of choreography is good for this activity as there are appropriate places to stop the video. For example, when the curtain closes or when Alice takes the Mad Hatter’s hat.
In this dance responding activity each person gets a strip of coloured paper and they have to write what they think is the essence of the dance through descriptive word and images. They may either draw the images or cut them out to create a collage.
The strips are put on the wall to reflect the interpretation of the dance.
All of these strategies and activities may be used when reading a book. These dance and movement responding activities prepare the children for thinking in the abstract.
The skills developed are particularly useful as there are often no wrong or right answers only ideas. Responding in dance builds children’s confidence to speak up and express opinions through creative practice.
(Some activities have been adapted from Creating Classrooms for Authors and Inquirers, Kathy G. Short and Jerome Harste Heinemann, 1996)