Deirdre Moore | January 2018

One Fail-Safe Strategy to Elevate Movement and Performance

Have you ever had that experience of watching your students create a tableau or perform movement they choreographed? Did you wonder how to improve the quality of the creation?  Did you ever get that feeling that the performance lacked specificity or nuance?  I have one answer for you.  Images.  Over the years I have found that video or other forms of visual image are the strongest way to inspire and elevate the quality of movement in my students.  In fact, as I considered the topic of techniques to share, I searched through past articles and realized I have written on this topic more than once.  I smiled realizing that even though movement is my favorite form of integration, I keep learning the same lesson over and over.  Images inspire movement. This is a solid strategy.


Earlier in the year, I talked about using images with tableau (students creating frozen pictures with their bodies) to help students illustrate a concept or event.  Having an image as a jumping off point gives students a model for that specificity or nuance that you are looking for.  When I am teaching facial expression, gestures and posture, I have the students study photographs of people experiencing different emotions. Although they can study the faces and body positions of their peers, looking at photos allows them time to study facial and body expressions without students having to hold a pose. It allows students to start to make generalizations like the stronger the intensity of the emotion, the larger the expressions.

Recently, I had an experience with some 4th graders that reinforced the power of a video strategy when teaching movement.  The students had been engaged in experimenting with the concept of cause and effect through movement.  For several weeks I gave them different challenges to evoke the illusion of one dancer causing the other to move without actually touching the other dancer.  I enjoyed watching the process of the students experimenting with movement but I felt like the movement could be elevated. That there was more they could achieve.  So I searched for a video clip from my favorite source, So You Think You Can Dance.

YouTube to the rescue…

I found several but I chose one that was particularly intense and gave several examples of the technique.  After viewing the video once, I played it again. However, I had the students stop me when they witnessed a cause and effect movement.  They were so motivated and inspired!  They discovered that the focal point of the dancers was a huge factor in creating the power of the performance.  After viewing the video, I had the students get into partners and have the hands of one dancer act as a magnet moving a body part of the other dancer. In other words, the dancer’s head or feet would follow the leader’s hand.  They moved in silence completely focused on their partners.  It was truly beautiful to see the intensity and the focus.  The students overwhelmingly agreed that watching these professional dancers helped improve the quality of their own movement.

After having a model for the initial inspiration, photographing and videotaping student work allows students to review their work and critique their own performance.   There is nothing like a good model to elevate the level of student performance. For theatre and dance, that means images.

About the Author

Deirdre is a teaching artist and AI coach in the San Diego public schools dedicated to helping classroom teachers make arts an integral part of their teaching. Deirdre has an MEd in Arts Integration and over twenty years of classroom and performing arts teaching experience. Email Deirdre.