Non-tech Arts Activities at Home: Dance

Tired of tech? Sick of screens?
Try these non-tech DANCE activities! 
Non-tech arts activities provided by professional educators in dance, drama, music, and visual arts on the BYU ARTS Partnership Leadership Team. 

Do I really have to move my body? 
Why can’t I just sit and watch movies or play video games?
Why can’t I just read all day? 

Most of us have been at home constantly over the past weeks. Have you, your students, or your children been asking these questions lately? Here’s some information to support moving your body, especially during a time when sitting and screen time have increased.

Dr. Joan Vernikos, the former director of NASA’s Life Sciences Division, is the author of “Sitting Kills, Moving Heals: How Simple Everyday Movement Will Prevent Pain, Illness, and Early Death — and Exercise Alone Won’t”. She states: “The human body is designed to be much more physically active than most of us are today. Yet we have an understandable craving for comfort, and [new] inventions provide comfort to a degree previously unknown to even the wealthiest humans. As with any craving, our technological addiction leads us on a never-ending spiral of wanting more and more gadgets to do things for us that our ancestors used to do for themselves.”

She describes the health problems that result from these tech cravings: obesity, diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, muscle degeneration, arthritis, balance and coordination issues, poor sleep, and a lack of energy. Even in a highly developed world, consequences like these that used to be associated with aging are now appearing much earlier, even in children.

Despite the many advancements designed to make our lives easier and longer, these same conveniences can make our bodies age more quickly! Sitting isn’t a new invention, but it is a fast track to aging according to Dr. James A. Levine, co-director of the Mayo Clinic/Arizona State University Obesity Solutions Initiative and the inventor of the treadmill desk. His research provides evidence on how sedentary lifestyles directly connect to sluggish brain function and wandering thoughts.

Dr. Levine writes, “The true cost of sitting disease is even greater than the litany of medical illnesses. Most at stake is your sense of well-being. We all have a capacity for happiness. Sitting somehow suppresses it. Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV and is more treacherous than parachuting. We are sitting ourselves to death. How did no one notice?”

Dr. Levine wants us to despise our chairs, claiming that sitting is a sickness. We agree. However, chairs can make great dance partners. Movement is life! If we aren’t moving, we aren’t living. So don’t pull up a chair, pull out a chair! Or a broom, or a vacuum, or a blanket, or a scarf. (Really anything you don’t have to keep 6 feet away from is a good option for a dance partner–including family members, especially children.) Move your body and live a long life!

Okay, you get it. On your feet! Stand up, grab a family member and try out some of these fun non-tech dance activities.

Non-tech Dance Activities

Chair Dance: Pull out a chair and explore all the ways you can safely dance around, over, through, and under your chair. How many ways can you connect different body parts or find balancing shapes with the chair? Partner with a friend or family member and take turns teaching each other what you’ve discovered to create a chair dance. Take your chair to a neighbor’s front yard and perform for them!

Imaginary Dance: Children can write about and illustrate a dance they imagine creating if they had unlimited time, money, and resources. They can draw a picture of the dance and describe how it would be performed, the costumes, what the sound accompaniment sounds like, who would be in the dance, and why this dance is important to them.

Handwashing Dance Choreography: Use handwashing as inspiration for a choreography project! Invite children to explore all the creative ways they can wash their hands. How fast or slow can they scrub? What if the sink was on the ceiling or on the wall? What if they had to wash their hands backwards or between their legs?

Movement Scientist Log: Have children write down movements that they see each day. Depending on their age, children can draw pictures of the movements or record information about the movements. Their pictures or writing can describe the object or person moving, the setting, the energy qualities (how the dance makes them feel), and the motion, timing, spatial elements, or body parts involved. Children can then create a dance phrase from the movement they captured.

Family Dance History: Invite students to interview family members about their dance backgrounds and interests. What dances do they know? What does dance mean to them? What is their favorite dance and why? Children can record the responses they get and document their own answers as well. Children can also create their own dance based on the responses of their family members, and share the dance with that person the next time they are together.

Dancing Journal: Play a new song each day and invite children to dance along. Afterward, children can draw or write about what they explored and how they felt. They can dance along to a recording, make the movement up themselves, or dance with their family.

Texture Dance: Children, family members, or students can choose four objects with different textures in their environment. List three adjectives to describe the texture of each object. Then, choose three axial or locomotor movements. Together, explore four variations of each movement by using the adjectives for each of the four objects. Each person can use their favorite movement variations to construct a dance to share.

Obstacle Course: Have children use objects and materials found in the home to set up an obstacle course. After completing the obstacle course, layer challenges such as going backwards, traveling through holding the same twisted physical shape from start to finish, or completing the task without their feet. See how many challenges you can think of!

Name Choreography: Students can create movement for each letter of their name by using a different body part to draw that letter in the air. “Draw a “J” with your leg, an “o” with your head, an “h” with your elbow, and an “n” with your knee. Choose a partner, and swap drawing each other’s names!

Found Sounds Dance: Children can find or create different sounds around the house and explore the movement they feel inspired to make when they hear those sounds. Kitchen pots and pans, toys, toothbrushes, plastic trash, or even their own bodies can all be used to create singular sounds that inspire unique movements.

Muscle Madness: Identify six to eight different muscles of the body to explore through flexing and creative movement. Spend about 30 seconds with each, exploring as many movement ideas as possible. Identify which movements require the most effort and would help strengthen muscles the most. Consider learning the scientific names for the muscles you explored!

Breathing Through Space: With or without music, use your breath to direct your movement. When you inhale, you can grow big, and when you exhale you can shrink your body. Or, perhaps your inhales uplift you to the tips of your toes and your exhales push you into the floor. See how you can move when inhaling or exhaling in quick, small spurts. Can your breathing make you travel to a new place in the room?

Moving Elements: Pick one of these main elements: earth, air, fire, or water. Make a list of the adjectives, verbs and adverbs that describe the element. Using the list, explore how your body can move like the chosen element. Consider choreographing a dance about the element to perform for your family, or to record and share with others! What props could you use? How does dancing like each element make you feel?

Written and compiled by Chris Roberts (Provo City School District Arts Instructional Coach), Heather Francis (Dance Educator, BYU ARTS Partnership Staff), and Rachel Marie Kimball (Dance Educator, GAINS Coach, Nebo School District). Find more resources at AdvancingArtsLeadership.com 

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