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.