We dance all winter in our home. The record player indulges us in the sweet story of Mary Poppins while the children frolic from one side of the room to the other. Our large old Vermont farmhouse proves challenging to heat throughout January and the only real solution is to keep moving and be grateful for our active, dancing bodies.
I work as the choreographer for our local opera company, which produced Noye’s Fludde in January. My daughter attended rehearsals and performances with me and is still seen galloping down the hallway singing as she pretends to be one of the animals loading onto the ark.
We are grateful for spring dancing. As the days grow longer, our bodies open to the light and our hearts are ready to take in the warmth and new life that comes with this season. My children have grown up with movement, having danced in the womb, strapped to my chest or their father’s, and on their own as moving, grooving little humans. Spring offers us the opportunity to stretch our bodies and open our hearts to growth and company.
I encourage you to find space to move and dance with your children during your daily routine, as children are innate movers. Bonding with children through dance offers opportunities for connection, play, and growth. Here are a few simple ideas to encourage more dance in your daily life.
The cuddles of babyhood with my first child have been replaced by a desire to get-up-and-go first thing in the morning. Encourage your morning-riser to wake up the body with a simple morning stretch: “I reach for the sky. I reach for the earth. I jump on two feet and I spin, spin, spin!” You can create your own little song based on movements you and your child love to do (wiggle your arms, point your toes, crawl on the floor, shimmy your shoulders, or slide to the door).
Expanding Freeze Dance
Our home is bursting with seedlings from late winter until early summer when the ground is warm enough to welcome the little plants we have been tending inside. We are also blessed with lambs every late winter that we watch grow throughout the spring season. Growing is a curious subject and one that is easy to play with while moving. Choose some inspiring music to move to, preferably starting with quiet, slower music and encourage your child (and you if you are feeling particularly explorative) to move low to the ground, using small movements in slow motion. Stop the music and freeze together. Begin to play music that is slightly more upbeat and explore letting yourselves rise a little off the ground, playing with bigger movement. Continue until the music is fast and you and your child are jumping for joy.
Many of us take walks with our children all year. The muddy ground and new grass of spring make for messy and playful outside adventures. On your next walk, explore different ways of moving with your child. Try marching, skipping, sliding, falling, twisting, or leaping instead of just walking. Use metaphor to encourage your child’s imagination such as floating in space and climbing mountains that seemingly go on forever. Let your child think of ways to move and try some of his or her ideas together.
Take time to notice what is happening outside with your child. Notice new life around you and what happens when the snow melts. If you live in an urban or suburban area, notice the new plants people are setting out to beautify your area or the different clothes people wear as it starts to get warm. Focus on something that intrigues you – the first spring flowers, baby lambs, trees with buds – and encourage your child to imagine he or she is a lump of clay. Very gently, move your child’s body as if you were a sculptor, having your child hold his or her body part in place after you move it. After you have a chance to sculpt your own creation, let your child sculpt you. Try moving together however you think your sculptures would move. Then try creating sculptures of your own invention, based on your own creative ways of manipulating and moving each other’s bodies.
Spring dances celebrate our ability to move and play with each other. Parents who are willing to dance with their children allow for love and connection to build. Be curious about the ways your child moves and you will learn to move in new ways and to see your child in new ways. Use these simple exercises to get you and your family moving, but embrace your abilities to improvise and choreograph your own structures for dancing and playing.
Ashley Hensel-Browning is a teaching artist, dancer, parent, and partner as well as a joy-seeker, education junkie, and working wanna-be homemaker. She blogs regularly at Dance with Ashley.