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The Energy of Conviviality & Imagination

The impulse and experience of dance is innate in humans, an essential part of our bodies and mental biology. Infants ‘talk’ with their bodies from birth – with feeling for movement and for its dramatic message. They can co-ordinate all their body to another’s moving, to share its purpose in a dialogue or conversation. Babies excite affectionate parents to dance with eyes, voice and hands; toddlers dance together with arms, trunk, legs and feet, overcoming gravity, capturing its power to run, leap and fly.                 

Colwyn Trevarthen, Professor Emeritus, Edinburgh,  in 'Movement Languages in Early Childhood Education' 2007 (available from Sightlines Initiative bookstore)

This documentation is from a 2007 project of Sightlines Initiative with Walkergate Nursery School. There are two parts: an article and a short video. We are making these viewable to Network members (login to continue to these) and below is an extract. The article is published in ReFocus Journal 6 which is available from our online bookshop. Here is the opening extract:

How can we enable children to explore and develop their own ideas in dance?

conviv 1This was the starting point for our work together, which took place over the summer term of 2007. A dancing session took place each week and between sessions Maria worked with the children at the nursery helping them to develop their ideas further. Each week after working together with the children we met to discuss and interpret what had happened, and plan how we could continue the work in future sessions.how can we enable children to explore and develop their own ideas in dance? This was the starting point for our work together, which took place over the summer term of 2007. A dancing session took place each week and between sessions Maria worked with the children at the nursery helping them to develop their ideas further. Each week after working together with the children we met to discuss and interpret what had happened, and plan how we could continue the work in future sessions.

Dancing was already very popular with many children in the nursery: Maria had worked with many of the children exploring dance and movement over the previous two terms and had used a wide variety of recorded music, encouraging children to explore different movements, use of space and ways of expressing themselves through dance. She often incorporated themes which the children had shown an interest in. For example there had been a developing theme of play around aliens, so Maria used a story about aliens where children could explore different characters and scenarios to specially chosen music.

Developing an environment of enquiry

Although most children were very interested and engaged in this themed-dance approach, it meant that if a child had other ideas which weren’t part of the story then these ideas couldn’t be explored or developed easily. How could we develop our approach so that children exploring and sharing their own ideas became much more central to their experience of dancing?

In order to develop this environment of enquiry and interaction, we rethought our roles as adults: instead of leading the children we could observe them and engage with them, helping to develop and explore their ideas together. Instead of using recorded music we experimented with Cath playing live, improvised music, in response to the children’s dancing. This meant that children’s movement ideas could be reflected back to them in music as they were dancing. Maria decided to dance with the children, interacting with and imitating their movements.In order to develop this environment of enquiry and interaction, we rethought our roles as adults: instead of leading the children we could observe them and engage with them, helping to develop and explore their ideas together. Instead of using recorded music we experimented with Cath playing live, improvised music, in response to the children’s dancing. This meant that children’s movement ideas could be reflected back to them in music as they were dancing. Maria decided to dance with the children, interacting with and imitating their movements.

Most sessions were filmed by another member of staff, which meant that we were able to look more closely at the children’s dancing and also show the footage to the children for them to reflect on afterwards. Although Cath had played improvised music for adults to dance to before, neither of us had previously worked in this way with a group of children. We felt both excited and a little nervous about how the dancing might turn out.

Not everything we tried was successful but, on the whole, we found that the project was an extremely exciting and rich learning experience both for us as educators and for the children.

log in to download the pdf of the full article, and to view the video.

You may also be interested in related publications: The Drama of Sound', a form of which is recently re-launched on Youth Music's website, and  'Dogs, Bones & Dancing.'

The following section  is available for our subscribers: log in first to read. If you aren't a subscriber, click here to subscribe to a subscription plan to read article details. 


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