Ever stare at an empty canvas and feel absolutely nothing but fear or dread?
A blank sheet of paper, an empty dance studio, a piano? It can be utterly paralyzing. One of the many things I love about being a student is that I love to be given assignments – a jumping off point to get me rolling. I thrive on the structure. It should not surprise me when I see my own students thriving under those conditions but sometimes it still does.
I was recently working with a group of very young kindergarten students who had great difficulty moving as a whole class, even with their own personal big x on the floor to help them stay in their own personal space. Every meeting with them was an interesting challenge. But one magical day I found an activity that worked marvelously for them quite by accident.
We were exploring pathway.
After tracing pathways in the air with different body parts, I invited them to dance along different pathways I had drawn with chalk on the carpet. I drew the lines so they set up like stations and divided the students into four groups; one group danced the straight line, another the spiral, another the zig-zag and the fourth a curvy line. The groups rotated after each student had had a chance to dance along the line a few times so that all the dancers had an opportunity to dance each pathway. The classroom teacher and I marveled as these students, who seemed to have so much trouble with impulse control and spacial awareness, flourished in this activity.
One student from each group followed the line at a time, using his/her own choice of locomotor movement, and danced along the line leaving and returning to the starting point. S/he then took the spot at the end of the line and watched as the other dancers moved along the same line. The only other direction I gave was to choose a safe movement that did not involve walking or running. Immediately I had dancers sliding backwards, skipping, crawling, rolling, frog-jumping, and a variety of other fusion movements too difficult to sum up in a word.
It truly stunned me to see them all taking turns, choosing their own way to move, changing levels and carefully following the pathway laid out for them. This simple structure allowed their own ideas to be channeled and freed and allowed me the opportunity to really observe each child move which can be tricky with very active young bodies!