How can I use a mind map to plan dance choreography?

dance class teaching ideasAs we know a mind map is a pictorial method of brainstorming and planning. It can be as creative and individual as dance itself and can be done individually, in groups or as a whole class. Choreography is complex problem solving and therefore requires preparation.  In planning choreography, the mind map assists with visualising the range of movement that relates to the theme or idea of the dance.  It is a useful resource in the dance classroom as it helps students to create movement that has meaning, it shows the teacher the underlying planning of the creative work and it assists students when talking about their dances by providing descriptive vocabulary.

In primary dance lessons it is important that students understand how meaning is created through movement.  Sometimes, when students are beginning to choreograph, this movement is quite literal however, as they develop their skills it is often abstract.  The mind map supports the move towards the abstract by providing the framework for movement motifs.  These motifs, which can be a movement, gesture or short movement phrase that contains the essence of the whole piece, provide the vehicle for dancers to convey meaning even in the abstract form. 

The mind map enables students to plan from the literal ideas, by applying the elements of dance and a range of choreographic devices, through to a more abstract representation.

For the teacher, the mind map makes the act of choreography more transparent.  It allows them to see the process unfold and demonstrates whether students are really understanding the use of dance elements and choreographic devices to show intent.  This insight into the students’ creative process is important for assessment, but also allows the teacher to reflect and respond in action to clarify, develop and enhance the learning experience.

The learning experience is also enriched by developing a broader descriptive vocabulary.  It demonstrates ways of describing the act of creating dance and how we link dance specific language to everyday description.  It keeps the focus of the learning experience in the students’ mind by continually providing links to the original concept, reducing mind clutter that can lead to them feeling overwhelmed.  Oral or written responding activities based on choreography using a mind map for planning will improve your students’ ability to discuss dance.creative movement for primary school

You can create your own structure to suit each individual task, with each level supported by a physical activity. After mind mapping each layer the movement should shift further from improvisation towards the finished dance product.  You might also find one of the models on Canva useful as they have a wide range of mind map ideas in a range of themes. 

So how do we use a mind map as a part of a choreographic lesson plan?

  • Start in the middle with the main concept or what the dance is about.  Draw or cut out a representation of what the dance will focus on.  If it’s about the ocean you might also write a short description of what it is about the ocean you are going to talk about; the waves, life at sea, the reflection of light on the ocean or the creatures that live in the sea.   The students can brainstorm this as a group or decide individually.
  • Thick lines will then radiate out from here that lead to the key descriptive ideas about your topic. These may be moods or emotions, colours or even concepts or ideas.  For example, you might be looking at the waves.  Are they choppy?  Are they calm and smooth?  Or is your dance about the contrast of these?  You can put a range of stimulus here; cut out or draw pictures, small objects that relate to the themes or ideas.
  • From each of these key descriptors you will have several more lines to show the dance elements that will best represent them.  For example, for choppy waves you may have percussive energy (Dynamics), small (Space), fast (Time), close together (Relationship), at a medium level (Space), in a range of directions (Space).
  • Keep extending these sub-topics out until the students have a clear plan for their dance.
  • Use the mind map to assist students in structuring their discussion, both oral and written, as a part of a reflective responding activity.  Just like in Maths, students need to learn to show their working out!

A mind map increases your students’ visual thinking capacity that is so important in all parts of the curriculum. 

 It supports the concept of choreography as a planned creative process, that explores ideas as well as movement and shapes them into dance, developing multiliteracies through aesthetically driven creative dance experiences.  But more importantly, it encourages autonomy and independent problem solving for your students.