Moving sculptures are mini-investigations of stillness, movement, and creative use of body parts. Dancers play with creating a still shape, wait for a response, see the work of art build, and finally get a chance to respond again to the inspiration moving around them. A moving sculpture is a human-merry-go-round where the creature you can ride is limited only by the flexibility of your imagination.
I usually begin teaching moving sculptures by reviewing the difference between a still, frozen statue and movement through space. This is the dream for most young children. If you walk into any preschool or elementary school and even mention “freeze dance,” beautiful chaos erupts.
You begin a moving sculpture by having one person freeze in a pose of that child’s choosing, preferably directing the group to one place in the room, such as the opposite side. Another child then comes and finds a gentle way to connect to the first person’s body, while continuing the sculpture in its original direction. A third child then connects to the second child, again, moving the sculpture towards its final destination (in many dance classes, we do this as an across-the-floor exercise). This pattern repeats until all children in the group are connected. Once the last person has joined the sculpture, the first person gets to leave the sculpture and move to the front of the sculpture to make a new shape. Then the second person leaves and connects again, making a new shape. The sculpture keeps moving until the dancers reach their final destination.
I love doing this exercise with three to five children in a group, however, it can be done with as few as two or as many as your group has patience to wait for during the sculpture’s building phase. The sculpture can have an end destination or it could be circular, continuing until the group decides to stop. I often do this as a free improvisation, allowing children to choose their shapes. We also sometimes give our sculptures themes such as mountains, opposites (high/low, over/under, happy/sad), narratives, sports, ballet poses, school, or emotions. I love exploring this exercise in family dance classes where you have the contrasting bodies of children and adults, all playing with levels, body parts, and points of connection. Different types of music can be endlessly inspiring. What variations can you think of?
Some helpful hints include encouraging movers to be creative with their points of connections. How can you connect to someone using your head? Your hips? Your knee? This connection should be gentle and each person should be able to hold their part of the statue when the person they are connected to moves to a new place. We also work to have only one person moving at a time, with the rest of the group working individually and together to hold this ever-evolving piece of art.