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Reflections from a Graduate Student

I was invited to facilitate a workshop last fall at Manhattanville College. The Course was called Arts Approach to Literacy. At the end of the course Professor Bill Gordh asks the graduate student teachers to reflect on the course. I found this particular reflection to capture the workshop and describe so thoroughly the process we went through to create a unique dance experience. This might be helpful for teachers who are needing ideas for their classes.

“Shortly after our music workshop, we worked with Karen Ensanian on movement. The most interesting part of the workshop was our guided exploration using the Laban Movement Analysis (LMA) chart. During this activity, we used movement concepts to challenge and explore new ideas and ways of moving. Several of the LMA chart concepts that we investigated: body actions; utilizing specific body parts; creating shapes with our bodies; factors such as weight and time; space (i.e., personal and general); levels (i.e., high, middle, low); directions; pathways; and relationships (with the body, time, space, choreographic tools, and choreographic structures).

After discussing the four columns of the LMA chart, Karen played her drum and called out a specific element that we had to embody. For example, she might have said, “demonstrate how you can be lightweight.” To exhibit this, I might go on my tip toes and make slow movements. We went through many other examples, so that we had experience in contorting our bodies into shapes, moving around the given space, at specific levels, and in certain directions.

Another activity that we explored was creating our own weather dances. In this activity, we chose a page from I Can Make a Water Dance, created a word web for the weather word, chose the action words for the sentence, and created a dance with partners. My partner and I chose the word “thunder”. Once we had a selection of words filled on our web, we selected three to be our action words. We chose the action words strike, rumble, and fall. While we were coming up with our dance, we looked at the LMA chart to get ideas about how to exemplify a variety of the elements. For the word “strike”, my partner and I decided to make jabbing movements towards the air as if we were lightning. For the word “rumble”, we made heavy movement with our feet, moving all around the room. And, for the word “fall”, my partner and I trickled our fingers from up high to down low.

At the end of the workshop, we all got to participate in our weather dances together. Throughout this experience, the most interesting thing was how each of my classmates chose different variables to embody. Sometimes partners mirrored one another. Other times, they danced individually. None of our dances were alike, and that was the most special notion of all. “

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