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  • Writer's pictureJenny Ferris

The Lion Sleeps Tonight: A Scarf Dance

In one of my previous posts about neuropsychology, I mentioned attending a workshop with the wonderful Robyn Stavely in which she demonstrated the power of teaching through non-verbal gesture by teaching us a whole dance without speaking a word.

Dancing Scarves

The dance involved the use of dancing scarves , which were manipulated in a variety of ways to show phrasing, dynamic variation, form and beat and was set to this interpretation of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight"

The actions were as follows:

Intro (0:00 - 0:07): show pitch contour by wiggling scarf low, middle and high on one side of body, then other (swapping hands) (to match pitch of guitar)

Instrumental (0:07 - 0:21): Raise scarf with both hands and bring down forcefully in front of centre body. (in time with hums).

Verse (0:21 -0:35 ): Hold scarf with right hand and start with arm across body. Do 8 small bounces (every 2 beats) with scarf tracking across body from left to right. Swap hands and do the same from right to left across body.

Chorus (0:35 -0:50 ): Make a rainbow shape across the sky with scarf across 2 bars and then back again. Swap hands and repeat, one way then another.

Then the song completes another instrumental/verse/chorus/instrumental and then there are 4 bars where students may improvise their own movements.

Then we have a verse/chorus/instrumental/chorus/ verse/ chorus/ and finally a coda (same as instrumental actions, but getting smaller each time to echo the decrescendo - eventually everyone winds up on the floor)

What a great activity for teaching through gesture! As you can see, the scarf choreography is full of crossing the midline - SO important for our young students' development.

But most importantly, it's fun! Every adult in that room had a huge smile on their face, as have my students when I have done it with them since.

Why not grab some scarves and give it a try with your students? While you're at it, see what other activities you can teach without verbal instruction. It's good for the brains - yours, theirs, everybody's!

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