Dance classes (and the experience of your students) can be enhanced with the use of props and classroom aids. Hopefully in this list of products you will discover new ideas or places to shop for items.
A portion of the links below are affiliate links. You can recognize these links as they are marked in PURPLE, whereas other links are in the usual DA red. You can learn more about my affiliations and why I participate here. Thanks in advance if you choose to support Dance Advantage by purchasing items via these links.
Also below, there are links and tips for homemade props as well as other products that I find unique and interesting. Products marked with a star are products which I own or have received for review.
Great for movement explorations (fast vs. slow; sharp vs. smooth; free vs. bound), balancing, or body part activities. Dancing with this simple prop can sometimes bring an inhibited dancer out of their shell. You could also make your own using chiffon fabric (I’ve been told nylon tricot, which does not fray, or polychiffon, which will need hemming or fray glue, are best — tulle which is cheap just doesn’t move well).
Ribbon wands can be useful for improvisation and choreography. Not necessarily an every-week activity but a fun treat! You can also get a six-pack of Multi Colored Ribbon Wands (each wand has 2 colors of ribbon instead of one color) from the same company as above. If you’re feeling industrious, here are some excellent instructions for making your own. Or, for if you are in a pinch you could use crepe paper (minus a wand is okay). It is inexpensive and the kids can take it home (tip: with little ones who might try tasting the paper, get light colors or white).
Sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words. Growing up, my dance instructor had hand-drawn images on the wall describing alignment/posture and movement concepts. Fortunately, she was a quite capable artist. There are, however, a few ready-made resources out there for those who have not the time or ability to decorate their studio walls with visuals.
For children’s classes, having some sort of space or spot marker is essential! S&S Worldwide has some really cool markers that could be used in a variety of imaginative ways. There are stars, feet, hands, arrows – straight, curved, a little funky. Or, get their Super Spot Marker Easy Pack.
Once again, there are creative homemade alternatives. PE Central suggests mouse pads or silicone pot holders (they also have some other ingenious ideas for movement activities – I like their ribbon wrist band idea). For spots, I’ve used the rubber foam waffle/mesh material used for shelf lining – you can sometimes find pre-cut placemats in this material. You could also try carpet squares/remnants.
Cones come in handy for leaping activities (including leaping courses), for marking boundaries, to line up behind, and to dance around. Different sizes or colors can be used for different things. Use your imagination! Around the holidays, my cones become decorated trees and we bound over them like reindeer. The link above is for half cones but here is a link for 12″ cones.
Putting it Together
This colorful set of 48 cards is a beautifully designed resource for teachers that want to incorporate the challenge and long-term benefits of yoga into their dance classroom. “Flash cards” for yoga and pilates are not new. However creator, Edna Reinhardt from Over the Moon Yoga & Dance Studio in Victoria, Australia, has created a unique educational kit, pulling the best from both yoga and creative dance practices to allow children to explore and create movement. The cards are big and bright with pictures of adorable children doing the described poses. Four of the cards offer activities to try, but Reinhardt has also packed a wealth of information and games into the accompanying booklet. She blends creative movement ideas with yoga in ways I never would have considered, yet they make a perfect pairing. If you have experience with teaching creative dance, you’ll be off and running with these cards, easily expanding their usefulness. However, parents and kids could also use these cards independently or in other social settings (pre-school, day care, parties, etc.)
These dice would bring a level of fun to creating chance choreography, choosing words and improv suggestions. With the write-on and erase feature the sky is the limit.
If you’re not into inflatables, DanceDice.com offers ten sets of dice – Ballet, Jazz, and Tap in beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels, and one Creative Dance set. I’ve featured them before in my Holiday gift list.
Materials like jersey, lycra, and even ordinary elastic, are useful when working on energy qualities in movement. Simple loops of these fabrics can encourage experimentation with bound flow, sustained force, and strong movements (fast or slow). There are lots of possibilities. Even therapy bands can have dual purpose.
|Octaband was created by dance/movement therapist, Donna Newman-Bluestein. Part, parachute and part stretch band, it could be used in a variety of ways in your classes, and an especially useful prop for classes with infants/toddlers or children with special needs. There’s a lovely story behind Donna’s creation of this object which you can read at the website. The video is a short clip of the Octaband in action.
|Body Socks are another elastic experience that can help develop an awareness of timing (without visual cues) and are fun to improvise or choreography shapes and design. Need some inspiration? Check out the video at left, a work created by Alwin Nikolais in 1953. With a whole lotta lycra you can create your own body sock. However dance therapy companies like Dye-namic Movement are selling these and other stretchy products. And, I found LaceandFabric.com which sells lycra body socks at an incredibly reasonable price.
There are so many props you can incorporate into your classroom, from musical instruments, to hoops, to beanbags. I encourage you to think outside the box and come up with some of your own creative uses for even the most ordinary of items. Props such as the ones above can enrich the focus of your classroom, taking it beyond pretend play and games to true educational movement experiences.
Nichelle Suzanne is a writer specializing in dance and online content. She is also a dance instructor with over 20 years experience teaching in dance studios, community programs, and colleges. She began Dance Advantage in 2008, equipped with a passion for movement education and an intuitive sense that a blog could bring dancers together. As a Houston-based dance writer, Nichelle covers dance performance for Dance Source Houston, Arts+Culture Texas, and other publications. She is a leader in social media within the dance community and has presented on blogging for dance organizations, including Dance/USA. Nichelle provides web consulting and writing services for dancers, dance schools and studios, and those beyond the dance world. Read Nichelle’s posts.