Teaching Dance to Children with Additional Needs

 

One of my members who is a special needs teacher has asked me if she can teach her children how to dance, how can she do this?

My answer is absolutely yes you can, the idea is nothing about learning steps and movements rather than waking up the vital life force and energy – the energy of life within each child.
So how can you do this?

We all of us have within us the luminosity, the force of light that is unique to who we are, to our identity. The problem is that religion, education and the social systems train this out of us and we all exist under the radar if you like. Just existing, not shining, not with the principles of life as the foundation. We were born with the human right to be happy, to love; to have friends, to enjoy.  Children are born into this society without this vision or template that puts life and love and happiness at the forefront.

  1. Firstly you need to be beautifully ‘in-tune’ with yourself and with the principles of life and love then with your clients/children/groups to be clear in your own energy and with ‘antennae’ to see/feel/sense the subtle energies of the children

How do you do this?

Prepare yourself with care, why do you want to teach them to dance, can you connect with the spirit of dance within yourself and how important this is? Can you be child led and forego any rigid structure and trust the process without directing it? Can you be like a bird to feel the air and sense the energies available to you there?

  1. You need to be able to ‘spark’ the electricity within them through your own senses and part of this is having your music ready / your aims for your class / session and embody the dances that you wish to pass over.

How?

Moment to moment awareness in movement, using the correct music for the specific dances and the emotions you are aiming at stimulating. See them in their spontaneous, embodied movements and build the link with them from here. Not from their behaviours or dramas.

  1. Have a theme for your dances and once ready focus on the rhythm of this theme using gentle stretches and contact with the body in a game of patting and clapping on the body

An example of a theme might be love (I say this because we have just had Valentine’s Day last month and for sessions on that day this was the theme). So, choose the appropriate music rhythmic for warming up the body and then as the dances progress (perhaps you will do five in a session) use more melodic music, especially if you are working with the aim of having the children come together in friendship as an example.

  1. Once you have gone through an animated and fun warm up then introduce the first themed dance….. You dance alongside your children letting them just be freely moving and responding

What does this look like?

It looks like you being your inner child and dancing with the energy and enthusiasm and strength, speed, shape, focus that you want to impart and awaken in the children. You do it all together.

  1. Next…you are going to use your ‘antennae’ to pick up the spontaneous movements and sounds that have energy behind them. It might be a smile / it might be a feeling of she’s the dancing queen or he’s the rock n roll king or she’s shy and he feels like he’s angry etc., etc.

Respond to this with all your authentic and sweet presence with words or not. This will depend on the situation and the moment to moment intuitions and senses.

  1. The next theme dance (piece of music) is to explore this further. Perhaps split the group, perhaps work individually

Here you elaborate more with a little choreography if this helps to build the fun levels. Creativity has many shapes and forms and shapes and colours and so you could give an example of different ways to move here and then let them explore. Think space, weight, time and flow

  1. Then come back as a group and continue with a focus on ‘this is my body, I can dance’……’this is me, I can dance with you’, ‘we are dancing together’

Meet and greet other bodies / children to say goodbye for today with a goodbye dance

Have fun with this because this is what will enable them to learn to dance. Do this each week. Remember you are training them to find the spirit of dance within them. Warm up / keep everything focused on the body and then go into your theme.

To keep it more formal you could just work individually and not introduce any partner dances and elaborate on each child’s contribution in each dance through this vital, life energy that shows itself in authentic smiles, sparkly eyes, becoming emotional etc.

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