Routinizing Dance Warm Up so that it is Fun and Engaging


Warm Up routines scaffold exercises and activities to achieve a balance between the development of physical, communicative and expressive skills and the prevention of injury.

Warming up should be fun and engaging so that the student comes to expect that in a routinized way, he or she will not only physically prepare the body but also focus the mind.

Warm up activities can introduce the session content as well as calm the participant, so that reflection on the focus or content of the session is worthwhile.   The ideal way to do this would be to structure the activity, and the talking about that activity, so that the discussion moves from the general to the specific both physically and thematically.

It is advised on the NSW Curriculum Support website that a warm-up sequence should last for approximately 20% of the total length of the lesson.

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Time the expected session length and do the math.

Warm up sessions should begin slowly and gradually raise the bar by stepping through progressively more energetic activities.

This will
•  raise the pulse rate and body temperature, mobilise joints and warm muscles
•  emphasise awareness of space and the presence of other members of the class for example by mirroring
•  encompass whole-body activities, such as stretching, bending, swinging and circling, and a focus on appropriate individual body parts, depending on the focus of the lesson.  (See African Grace for an example of a gradual incorporation of birdlike movements that build towards a graceful scripting of a bird song/dance)

  • balance and stretch so as to focus the dancer on awareness, and the control that awareness can bring to movement

Scaffolding warm-up sequences so that they move from the general to the specific.

The Power and the Purpose of Warm Up Preparation for Dance states ….

The responsibility for dance management is a mutual affair in any classroom or community dance situation.  A teacher can draw a student’s awareness to physical stress management; but only the student or participant can work within regulated parameters and self-monitor to self-manage.

By moving through warm up exercises each and every time a group dances, the participant is expected to become attuned to his or her body.  All dancers should develop an awareness of how the body is feeling.  When groups first begin to work together as dancers, it can pay to have individuals jot down self-monitoring in an awareness journal at the end of sessions.  This could continue until such time as the dancers know themselves very well.

The Benefits of Cardiovascular Warm Ups

Gross motor movements should be introduced an increased gradually.  They will increase blood flow to the muscles and raise body temperature.  As the dancer increases efficiency of the muscles to meet the demands of the exercises and dance activities, a feeling of anticipation should also build.  Cleverly scripted lessons can take advantage of this anticipation if routines are scaffolded to move through flow and towards a peak artistic experience.

Emotional Alignment Flows through Technique exercises

As the session unfolds the participant will become aware of a feeling of alignment.  Being in synch will promote strength and flexibility whilst assisting physical and mental preparation for the tasks ahead.

Again, the example of African Grace exemplifies how simple scaffolding of exercises raises students’ awareness of their bodies.  As the body becomes focused and responsive the mind is better able to attune to safe deliberate movement.  This empowers safe practice.   You will notice that each small segment of African Grace includes movements that Debra Bono uses to build on from the core of the scripted description of bird dance.

Thematic Warm-ups Orient the Story of the Dance

These activities may provide a stimulus for the lesson or may emphasise the lesson focus.  If you watch Bono’s example you will see that the way she has arranged dance experiences is inspired by the theme of the African bird. Each facilitator will design their own dance sequences but in keeping with notions of community synthesis and collective intelligence, opportunities for improvisation are recommended at this stage.

Building Opportunities for Improvisation into the Warm Up Phase of Sessions

In the instance of facilitating a session with African Grace, the video could be shown first so that the dancers had a general idea (gestalt) of the general birdlike movement sequences.  This would be an artistic submergence experience.  As the dancers become familiar with the concept of scripting and choreographing from the expression of the bird, they can be thrown an opportunity to respond with authentic movement. If the sessions are being recorded, these improvisation can provide valuable insights.  The data can be honed and worked with for future choreographies.

Resources:

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