Playing games in dance class feels taboo. Other teachers have said it feels like cheating, as if you’re taking away class time from drilling technique or teaching choreography. It’s a common misconception that dance teachers need to have every minute of class jam packed with brand new combinations, across-the-floor phrases, and an awesome, new, playlist for each and every class.
It’s simply not true. Your students love your creativity but they also need brain breaks and activities that aren’t direction instruction from their teacher. Sometimes too much information can be overwhelming for dancers trying to grasp certain concepts and we need to switch up to regain their attention. We also need to remember that every now and then, having fun and intentional “playing” is still a high form of learning and can help dancers remember the information.
We want to be specific about what kinds of games we’re talking about, though. Playing “Hide & Seek” and “Tag” are probably not going to teach skills pertinent to dance (Unless you have put a fun dance spin on them. In that case, we would love to hear more!) We’re talking about educational dance games! Popular dance games, such as freeze dance or moon dust, can actually be a GREAT way to keep your dancers excited about coming to class while also continuing their education.
Turning dance concepts into games does several things for your dancers:
Let’s break each of these down a little more to help you become confident in introducing more dance games into your classroom.
When was the last time you got excited about something? Were you excited to see a friend, to try a new hobby, or just take the day off? Chances are you most likely remember details about that day, event, or activity because you were excited! Our students are the same. When something is exciting to them, they remember, go home and tell their friends and family about it. Likely, they’ll be excited to come back to class and learn what’s next!
For example, instead of having your students learn 45 seconds of choreography that you created, give them a chance to make up their own choreography for a few counts of 8 by using a choreography prompt and turning it into a game! Not only will they be excited about expressing themselves, they’ll be excited to show what they’ve created! If you need them to follow a specific quality or style, use our Movement Cards as a way to structure their choreographic process to fit the overall goal of the piece. They’ll have fun choosing cards, putting them in a unique order, and solving the dance problem you’ve laid before them.
It’s just as important for us teachers to be excited about what we’re teaching. Remember, “Bueller, Bueller, Bueller…” Let’s be honest, we all know what it’s like to have a teacher like that. But when we show excitement, it can be contagious to our students, too. Playing dance games is a great way to keep us teachers engaged just as much as our students. It also takes the pressure off of us from having to come up with new moves all the time. Burnout is real and valid, but playing choreography dance games can be a great way to prevent it from happening.
What’s our ultimate goal as educators? Answer: to create lifelong learners by showing that learning is fun! Creating that brand new combination is fun for you, but consider your dancer’s current mental state. Do they learn new movements quickly? Are they catching on to the other material you’ve taught? How are they doing in their academics and other areas of study? How long have they been standing in front of the mirror watching you teach and demonstrate? They may need a break from a direct instruction teaching style. .
Playing fun dance games provides that mental break for them while still teaching dance technique. It also switches up the teaching style you’re implementing and allows students to learn in a group setting through interaction with you and their peers. DET has so many different options to get you started. If it’s the beginning of the season, use our Welcome Games as a way to meet the students and introduce them to dance studio culture. Maybe it’s October and you need to channel that crazy candy energy? Our Holiday Games Bundle has 6 games that will work for the entire holiday season! And one of our favorites, the Dance Games Variety Bundle, teaches choreography, expression, levels, terminology, and more in a fun and engaging way!
Once you’ve established a fun learning environment, we guarantee your students will be excited for each class and will be begging to play more games. They’re also more likely to remember the concepts you taught through the game, which is a win-win for you and your dancers!
As dancers and dance teachers, we know muscle memory is a great tool! However, when we get into an ongoing cycle of doing the same things every single day, we tend to get bored and lose focus. Switching it up doesn’t have to be complicated! For instance, have your students do the same movements, just structure it differently. Instead of starting at the barre and doing the same plie and tendu combinations, play “Simon Says” with our Ballet Vocab Cards! Having a good warmup is important but if your students know what to expect, they’ll get bored and no one wants to lose their students' focus at the beginning of class. Another idea is to use our Warm Up Cards to have your students create and lead their own warm up or help you lead them through a fun, interactive warm up. With our Warm Up Cards, you’ll be able to come up with endless variations and versions of getting the body ready for dancing!
Anne Green Gilbert’s BrainDance is another excellent resource for incorporating both the brain and body into one cohesive way of taking class. Oftentimes, dancers get so used to the same movement that they’re doing the steps, but mentally they’re elsewhere. Priming the brain through movement is an incredible way to kick-off the dance class and get your students ready for whatever you throw at them. Allow this research to help inspire your next class!
Lastly, one of the best skill sets learned through dance is teamwork and collaboration. As teachers, we know that the life lessons learned in dance class are the most important takeaway and will follow the students for the rest of their lives. Learning to work together is a constant development for all of us. Playing dance games in groups brings the students together around a common goal. They problem-solve together and present together, which increases their engagement in class. Grouping the students with those they don’t normally work with can help establish a more inclusive environment and help them build new friendships.
These social skills will help them develop their emotional intelligence. They’ll develop a healthy sense of competition, and learn how to win and lose gracefully.
Here at DET, we are the industry leaders in dance games and activities. We are all dance teachers ourselves and use our products in our studios and classrooms, as well. We believe in dance games as educational tools and know that they work! Not only are dance games an excellent way to keep education fun, they give us breaks, too. Just like our students, teachers need to be inspired by the material in order to portray excitement to the students. If we are having fun teaching, the students are more likely to have fun learning.