What are Dynamics in the dance? How we move.

Dynamics in dance is the interaction between force and time that results in action in the dancer’s body. It is sometimes referred to as one of the Elements of Dance.  It is HOW we move.

Dynamics in dance

However, around the world the terms Dynamics, Energy, Force, Weight, Flow, Effort, or even Quality are used, together or separately, to describe dance. What is important is that Dynamics describes how the dancer is moving.
Dynamics is the most complex of the dance elements.

It is difficult to separate Dynamics from the Dance Element of Time. This is because the tempo, rhythm, accent, duration, and beat of the music or the movement will affect the dynamics of the movement.

Dynamics forms the basis of any dance lesson in the Primary/Elementary classroom. It enables teachers to talk about how we make and view dance and is an essential component of dance vocabulary.

The Origins of Dynamics in dance

Dynamics has always been an essential part of any style of dance around the world. However, Rudolph Laban, (1879 – 1958), a choreographer and theorist, developed the basic movement vocabulary that is central to how we describe dance. This vocabulary is a feature of dance education in Primary/Elementary school. The Dance Elements that form the building blocks in modern choreography are adaptions from his original categories.

Laban also developed choreology (dance analysis) and a system of dance notation known as Labanotation. This was used for recording choreographic works.

dance dynamics

Why are Dynamics important in dance?

Without dynamics movement lacks texture. The flow of energy through the movement give it the quality that communicates the intent of the dance.

From very young dancers through to professional performers and choreographers, dynamics help to give purpose and imagination to their movements. We use the words to describe our dance dynamic to explore more than just dance vocabulary.

Teachers will often use the language of dance dynamics to explore contrasts. For example, heavy/light, lively/inactive, intense/subdued, powerful/weak, sharp/smooth, press/release, strong/soft.

However, they could easily use more imaginative words to describe certain movement’s dynamics. For example, ooze, squiggly, robotic, squeezy.

This vocabulary can be used to describe any dance style across all year levels. It is important that we acknowledge that it is fundamental to interpreting, creating, and describing dance.

I have often found when teaching less confident children that focusing on dynamics and how we describe them is a great starting point. As they grow their vocabulary their movement become even more creative and layered. They explore how the quality of the movement relays the dances intent.

Examples of Dynamics in dance

Experimenting with different dynamic as they create their own dances is how we form the basis for choreography. Their joy at discovering different and new ways to move, and spontaneously exploring movement qualities that may feel foreign to them is a part of improvising as a component of the creative process.

Activity 1

Make cards with Action words (‘What’). For example, jump, stretch, hop, roll, twist, spin. And another set of cards with Dynamics words (‘How’).

Shuffle the cards and take one from each pile. The children perform the movements for the combination of ‘What’ and ‘How’. Shuffle after several times so that they get a variety of combinations.

Activity 2

The teacher is the conductor and the children must sing a particular song following the dynamic that the conductor is performing with their body. You could try it with Row, row, row, your boat. The conductor can do it by changing the accent with their arms, or volume by facial expressions and large movements, or increase the tempo by the speed of the movements, or the quality by the movement of the body and arms (sustained, jerky).

Repeat but instead of singing the children dance to a piece of music. Once again they must keep an eye on the conductor to see the movement quality they are directing them to take.

Activity 3

Teach a set piece of choreography to the class. It does not need to be very long. In groups of four they are given dynamics describing words that they use to adapt parts of the choreography.

They then perform in their group for the class and the audience must guess the words they were given.

Primary dance classroom
Where to from here?

These are some very simple ideas for you to try before exploring more complex activities that will enhance the children’s movement, vocabulary, and choreography. You could use them as a warm up before a more in depth look at using Dynamics.

Many of the dance activities that are available as a part of the DTI Premium Membership are designed to explore and understand dynamics as a part of making, performing, and responding to dance.

Showing children how other choreographers have used dynamics also can be an effective way to explain and demonstrate dynamics in the classroom. Try to use a variety of dance styles that include cultural and social dances.

Focusing on using dynamics will encourage children to be more adventurous and experimental in their choice of movements. You will be surprised by the amazing ideas they come up with!

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