Breathing For More Power in Your Dance

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Breath is not only life, it is also an important component of dance. Consciously linking breathing to our dance enhances each movement and makes them more powerful. Breath evenly also gives us another way to maintain a rhythm while we move.
The simplest way to test this theory is to begin with focusing on the breath, focusing our attention on each cycle of inhaling and exhaling. After following a few cycles, begin to move one way on the inhale, and a different way on the exhale. For example, rise on tiptoes with the arms reaching toward the sky while inhaling, and then bend the knees and let the body sag on the exhale.
As always, experimenting with a new technique will help you gain mastery. In general, inhaling makes us more buoyant, so this part of the breath brings more power to expansive poses, like stretches and jumps. Exhaling brings power to poses that involve contraction, or folding parts of the body together, such as bending, kicking.
To teach the technique to children, begin slowly and simply. Have them come into a standing position, and close their eyes so they can begin to focus on their breath. After a few breaths, have them open their eyes, and move the arms first, reaching them up to the sky, fingers spread wide while inhaling, then letting them float down to their hips on the exhale. From there, you can make it into an inhale/exhale breathing game. The teacher will be the first leader, showing one pose for inhale and a different pose for exhale. Switch leaders every few minutes until everyone has a turn.
Breathing brings oxygen to our muscles and power to our dance. Take a deep breath and begin.

Mirror Your Partner

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Mirroring movements is a short, fun exercise to try whenever you have a few spare minutes. Just like in cartoons, it’s guaranteed to get a few laughs, but it’s also a great way to foster connection between partners. Connection is so much of what dance is about, anyway, whether it’s connection to our own emotions and experiences, connection with our Higher Selves, or connection with others. Watching a partner’s movements and mimicking them with our own bodies is a playful way to learn about focusing attention on someone else.

Each child needs a partner, so either have them choose for themselves, or divide the class into two lines, and pair up one child from each line. Next, partners face one another and decide who will lead first and who will follow. Initially, you may want to have them stand in one place and simplify the movements, using one body part at a time, such as the arms, legs, or head. Before starting the music, remind children to proceed slowly in the beginning, so the followers are able to keep up with the leaders.

Once they have mastered simple mirroring, begin to encourage them to explore moving multiple body parts, expanding their shapes, and moving around the room. In the spirit of equality, be sure to set a time limit for the leaders, such as five minutes, and then switch so that leaders will get a chance to be followers and vice versa.

Next time you need a quick break, or a simple exercise to fill in a few extra minutes, try mirroring; it’s guaranteed fun.

I hope you’ll visit the next blog in this week’s blog chain: http://www.terri-forehand.blogspot.com/

Teaching is an Ongoing Experiment

OpheliaIpod

It has been said more than once that great teachers are continuously in the process of learning. After all, it is only by evolving our knowledge that we will have things to share with students, and the way to come up with new ideas is to experiment. In other words, we have to walk the walk first to be able to demonstrate it later.

This means that if we are looking to share dance and movement exercises with children, the best place to begin is with ourselves. First, set the intention to incorporate movement experiments and play into your day to day routine, and then be sure to set aside time and space to enjoy and explore. The fact that you are simultaneously learning and doing something good for your body is a huge bonus.

Inspiring music that speaks to your heart and a little bit of floor room are the only required ingredients. It can be helpful to have a wall mirror to evaluate what you are doing from time to time, to see which shapes and movements work better together. Seeing your movements helps with remembering later on.

The best teachers are enthusiastic about their material, evolving dynamically in their own quest for ideas and inspiration. Setting aside some time for playful experimentation is a rich source of value for you as a teacher and for every student you meet along your path.

Please be sure to visit the next blog in this weeks blog chain: http://www.terri-forehand.blogspot.com/

Feeling Tired?

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There are some days when feel tired and heavy and all you can think about is crawling back in bed. However, these symptoms can indicate either inertia or fatigue and sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference, especially when it’s cold and dark outside much of the time and half of the world’s creatures are sleeping it off until spring. Here are some simple questions to ask yourself to figure out if you need a workout or a nap:
1. How many days has it been since I’ve exercised? If it’s been more than three, chances are you have been overcome by inertia. A body at rest tends to stay at rest, and the longer you wait, the harder it is to get yourself moving again. It’s okay to skip a day here and there, but regular exercise keeps us fine-tuned and ready to race.
2. How much sleep have I had the past few nights? If you’ve been up with sick children, or burning the candle at both ends for work or play, then you are dealing with real fatigue. Eight hours is the recommended daily allowance of sleep, and some of us need even more than that.
3. How much stress have I been under? If the answer is “more than is sustainable in the long term” then you may be dealing with a combination of fatigue and inertia. Lots of work and no play (or exercise) does not do a body good, and can lead to illness if allowed to continue unchecked. Try to find ways to add physical exertion to your day: climb stairs instead of riding in the elevator, grab a quick walk or workout at lunch hour, meet a friend and go for a stroll before (or instead of) having a glass of wine. Add some stress-reducing techniques such as taking a long, hot bath, stretching, meditating, or deep breathing with your eyes closed.
Feeling lethargic and tired is no fun, but it is a very effective way for the body to send the message that something needs to happen. It’s up to us to take a minute and really listen to that message. With a quick checklist of the right questions, you’re sure to get the right answer and then make the right move to feel better fast.
This week, I am participating in a blog chain sponsored by the National Writing For Children Center, http://writingforchildrencenter.com/. Please visit the next link in the blog chain, by nurse and writer Terri Forehand, www.Terri-forehand.blogspot.com.