Author Archives: Grier Cooper

A Dictionary of Dance

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Title: A Dictionary of Dance
Author: Liz Murray
Ages: 9-12
Publisher: Blue Apple Books, 2007
ISBN: 978-1593546137

Learning to dance means learning an entire new language, and this book covers the dance ABC’s, from arabesque to zones. Colorful, expressive line drawings add a dynamic, playful quality that makes learning fun.

The Human Alphabet with Pilobolus

 

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Title: The Human Alphabet
Author: Pilobolus, John Kane, photographer
Ages:4 -8
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press, 2005
ISBN: 978-1596430662

As a dance company, Pilobolus is cutting-edge and thrilling to behold. Part dance, part acrobatics, the performances often showcase groups of dancers working together to create sculptures and shapes with their bodies. The Human Alphabet is a celebration of this unique technique and will inspire any young dance enthusiast to learn their A,B,Cs with style. />

Dance as Expression

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When we dance, we use our bodies to express feelings and ideas. Movement is a powerful alternative to speech, and can often say much more in a shorter amount of time. Helping children learn how to use their bodies as an expressive tool can give them an entirely new emotional outlet to deal with feelings, which at times are intense or overwhelming. It is important and healing to have positive ways to deal with feelings and to move that energy out of the body, instead of squelching or repressing it.

Naming a feeling is the first step. Help the children get in touch with what they are feeling by standing still in one place, closing their eyes and focusing on their bodies. Ask the following questions to help them get in touch with their emotions. Do they feel heavy or light, hot or cold, hard, or soft? What is their face saying right now? Are they smiling or frowning?

There will probably be a range of answers, and of course, the ubiquitous, “I don’t know”. Use whatever clear answer comes first and work from there. As an example, suppose the answer is “Mad. My friend said something that I didn’t like.”

As a teacher, any feeling that arises is something to work with. Put on music and let them create a dance about how they are feeling. The response can be, “Great. That sounds like a very clear feeling. You are mad. How can you show that with your body? Can you show that feeling with movements instead of words? What does your body want to do when it is mad?”

We all need healthy ways to deal with intense emotions, and dance is a potent alternative to hitting a pillow or yelling from the peak of the nearest hillside. Humans are emotional creatures, which is both our greatest blessing and our largest challenge. Having the proper tools to ride those powerful currents can help make the ride a whole lot more fun.

Trance Dance To Beat Winter Blues

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This past summer there was a stretch of time when the sun did not make an appearance for thirteen out of sixteen days. It felt like the sun might never return. Things began to get a bit squirrely when cabin fever began to set in. Something had to be done. The Facebook entry for the day read, ”I am all about frantic trance dance in the living room in order to combat cabin fever”. Several friends gave it the thumbs up, and the ensuing daily trance dance in the living room truly became a key element in the preservation of sanity. Plus, it felt good. Real good. It was a successful experiment, because, let’s face it, we humans have hundreds of joints in our bodies for a reason: namely, to move. Even more importantly, the old adage “move it or lose it” applies directly to us moving our bodies, often, and every day. When we don’t, we feel it. Maybe not right away, but over time heaviness, fatigue, lethargy, and inertia build until they simply can no longer be ignored.

At this moment we find ourselves in the dead of winter. While a great many creatures are busy sleeping it off, for the rest of us there is an overwhelming feeling of wanting to either stay in bed for as long as possible, or just get the heck out of dodge to someplace far, far away where the sun is shining. Since neither is possible right this second it’s obviously time for the Daily Dose of Dance.

Thus is born The Living Room Challenge, a no-holds-barred, simple-to-do exercise, where there are no excuses and no rules…except one: for thirty minutes, each and every day, crank the music (whatever makes you want to move your butt), and move your butt. Be forewarned, it’s contagious. Kids, dogs, and husbands might just jump into the game, too.

How about you? Are you up for the Challenge?