Dance ED Tip #38:
A sporty way to start the year with non-dancers!

August 7, 2018 - Olivia Mode-Cater

I think the hardest group of students to teach are novices who don’t identify as dancers. The students who don’t select dance as part of their schedule usually have the least motivation and enthusiasm for dance. This can make deciding what to teach them at the beginning of the year a big challenge, because the dance teacher needs to start the year with an exciting unit to get them on board. For this particular demographic of students, I have had success starting the school year with a Dance in Sports unit.

Novice dancers often feel anxious in their first dance class. They may also feel that they do not belong and that they have little to offer. We, as dance teachers, know that that is completely untrue. Therefore, the quicker we can connect dance to something students already know, are familiar with, and excel in, the quicker they will feel confident in dance. That is why an introductory unit connected to sports can be an excellent solution to this. Most students have had exposure to sports and, as a result, will be able to quickly make connections between sports movements and dance movements.

During this unit, I have students analyze a sport in order to learn about the elements of dance: body, space, time, and energy. Students are led through activities that teach them to recognize the following in a particular sport:

1. the shapes and gestures made

2. the spatial pathways and formations used

3. the various tempos and speeds used

4. the energy qualities required by the players.

As a final assessment, students are asked to choreograph their own dance based on a different sport. In the assessment, they have to include the 4 items described above.  

I have had a lot of success using the Dance in Sports unit with novice dancers. It’s a great way to quickly build their confidence and for them to acquire the basic language to discuss and talk about dance. I highly recommend doing this unit or a similar one in your school!

Happy teaching!

Olivia