Walking to my classroom one Wednesday morning, I heard my name. The call came from a colleague and parent who wanted to share a comment from her son, my student. Her relaxed and proud countenance reassured me. I have been teaching social dance in second and fourth grade Motor Movement classes. Naturally, my students had been expressing concern about partnering with the opposite sex, including holding hands or doing something “romantic” like a classic waltz. This parent, however, shared a comment that made my day. Her son had shrugged and declared, “Dancing with girls isn’t that bad.”
I have mused all semester about my mission to bring dance into our class. The goal has been for students to learn coordination, balance, body control, strength, and the more nuanced benefit of enjoyment and fun through dance.
The year began with line dancing. Slowly but surely, students who had stood in the back of the room began to join in, some even practicing at home. These students were ready to move toward the adventures of interactive dance. It was time to break down barriers and become acquainted with square dance! I introduced this in an exercise called, “Sashay the Donut.”
When I pitched the idea of a new type of dance, the students warily asked if they would have to partner the opposite sex. Did they have to do it? Couldn’t they just watch? Brushing onward and encouraging growth, I taught them calls, or steps, that are similar to square dance moves.
They learned “do-si-do,” and “single circle round,” among other easy moves. Seeing the simplicity, they joined in and participated well. Then we came to the complicated part. From the form of a double circle, each dancing couple passes through the middle of the circle in turn. There is an energetic galloping movement that carries everyone though. The first time we tried, students let themselves get carried away with the fun. Bodies went flying out of control. Some pulled their partner too fast; some forgot to make room for their fellow dancers. It was a great debacle. After watching a video of others performing the dance, the students were freshly motivated to improve their steps. They learned to listen while moving, instead of losing themselves in a raucous moment. The students worked together, with each one doing his or her own part. Soon there was a new energy in the air. I was hearing shouts of, “Let’s do it again!” and “This is fun!”
Seeing that the students have survived, and even thrived with the progression of dance, we are now ready to begin the basics of square dance. I am confident that my students will grow in many areas through this experience specifically. Fun, self-control, friendship, and confidence are in store for them in the Spring semester when we begin our next phase of learning square dance!