I love using folk dances to teach musical aspects such as form, metre, steady beat and melodic contour.
Some great dances you would have seen before include Trepak, The Seven Jumps, Dandiya Raas, Sasha and Froggy Went A Courtin'
I have previously posted about several of my favourites, but here are a few more to add to the collection!
This tourion is great for understanding simple progressive partner dancing. Simply number off around the circle, assigning each person either number 1 or number 2 then begin!
In the A section, everyone is doing the same movements (a step to the left, to the right, in and out) then in the B section, each number 1 will rotate in front of their partner to the left and wind up on their other side (over 2 bars) then again everyone steps in and steps out. This repeats several times over.
The next time you come to a B section, the number 2s will rotate to the right instead!
Here is a demonstration video:
I have already written about how much I love this folk dance for teaching 3 metre. I also stumbled across it during pandemic times when we were very concerned with social distancing so it seemed like the answer to my prayers to find a socially distanced folk dance!
Students love the challenge of trying not to knock over the cup as they dance and also really enjoy the competitive nature of the two-person variation (though we have to establish some ground rules about how to safely interact with your partner!)
For my younger primary students, I absolutely adore this dance. Each person gets two paper plates and finds a space of their own where they can see the teacher to copy. They then simply mimic the actions which include clapping the plates, using the plates to tap your knees, elbows, hips etc. and even ends with tossing your plates in the air!
Really young students can struggle with the kind of interpersonal movements needed for progressive partner folk dancing, but that's no reason they should miss out altogether! Here they simply need to mimic the teacher, so there's no need for extensive memorisation.
The plate actions do a heap of crossing the midline, which is so important developmentally for these 5 and 6 year olds.
If you repeat the dance several times, you can start to talk about the kinds of actions they did and whether they saw any patterns, which can be a great way to introduce the concept of form.
Soldier's Joy is available through the John Feierabend Move It! DVDs and I thoroughly recommend getting the whole collection (there are so many great art music examples on there!) but here's a sample of the Soldier's Joy dance:
Sesere Eeye is a traditional song from the Torres Strait Islands and is one I first encountered in a choral setting. However, there's no reason it can't also be used in the classroom!
It features lines of performers using side-to-side elbow gestures and scooping movements and makes for a really impressive choral performance piece too.
Another from the wonderful Move It collection, this one adds movements to Khachaturian's frenetic "Sabre Dance" and is great for steady beat practice in your younger classes.
The Lion Sleeps Tonight
I've posted about this wonderful scarf dance before, but I'm bringing it up again because it's just so satisfying! Students of all ages love the piece and the scarf movements match the music so well! Give it a try and see what you think!