"What exactly is a story dance?" a friend asked recently. "It's not an easy answer," I said. "It's a little bit of many things - moving to music, story-telling, pretending, listening, responding, and imagining."
I've been using story dances with young learners for many years. It all started during a preschool dance class where I was having trouble keeping the students engaged. The usual routines and activities were not keeping their attention. One day, I all of a sudden stopped what I was doing and quietly said, "Once upon a time..." (long pause, as I tried to figure out what I'd say next) "there was a dance teacher and her students sitting on the floor of the dance studio." As I continued, I sat down, and they also sat down listening intently. I used each of their names, and I made up a story. A simple story describing what was happening - a story that eventually got them up and moving along with the words.
Ever since, I've been doing what I call, "story dances" with students. Sometimes they are planned out story lines with costumes and props, and other times they are impromptu events that evolve out of what we're doing in the moment. The children are welcome to join in on the story-telling and add to it or change its direction. And nine times out of ten if I ask students what they like best about class, they say, "The story!".
A new story dance is evolving that incorporates a tiny tree and one hundred of the little stuffed hearts that I sew. Not sure yet how the story lines will play out, but a blue bird and a yellow bird are possible main characters, and there will surely be lots of dancing and pretending.