DANCE: Leading Body Parts

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Modern dance choreographers are constantly playing with innovative ways to move and isolate individual body parts. Children naturally play with isolating body parts as they are learning to move, playing with each other, and exploring the environment around them. This exercise encourages kids to identify, isolate, and initiate movement using individual body parts.

I often use this as an across-the-floor exercise (when small groups move from one side of the room to the other), however, it can also be used in a freeze dance form or with students demonstrating by themselves or in pairs. I will usually begin by explaining that we are going to try and move through the space using one body part to lead our movement. I will then demonstrate by moving through space using my elbow as an initiator. The kids are able to quickly guess the body part. I try a couple more (head, hand, hips, knee), again, giving them time to identify which body part is leading me through space. After I have demonstrated, the kids take turns using one body part at a time to move through the space on their own. 

I like to encourage kids to find new and creative ways of using body parts to lead them through space. Instead of a finger pointing straight ahead and the child simply walking, a finger could lead the child to the floor, which could morph into a role, and then a sharp upward motion could lead them to jump. Kids are given freedom but encouraged to see a wide range of movement possibilities.

You can easily play with tempo (moving at different speeds), levels, moving with a partner (either mirroring each other or making the dance a duet by adding eye contact), or exploring two body parts initiating movement together. Kids can also use one body part partway across the room and switch to another part to get them the rest of the way across. I usually begin by offering body parts, but almost always offer an opportunity for kids to choose the body parts that are leading them through space.