Music: Moving to music

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By Ann Bryantwriter

Encourage children to feel a piece of music through movement

Moving to music

Get into the groove: let children turn an improvisation into a choreographed piece

What is the best way to engage children in music with no obvious beat, or a beat that’s too slow, too quick or too changeable?

Let’s take ‘Morning’ from the Peer Gynt Suite by Grieg. This is much slower, smoother, calmer music than ‘Russian Dance’, for example, so actually doesn’t lend itself to actions that can be executed on a beat. Think instead of moving freely through the beat.

As an introductory activity, start by considering slow-motion ideas to inspire creative movement to this piece of music, for example circles. Any part of your body can make a circle – hips, head, wrists, shoulders, elbows, feet, legs, hands. Arms provide endless possibilities – from rolling hands over each other, drawing a cartwheel in the air, ‘stirring soup’, showing the action of a helicopter blade, and so on. Moving slowly and smoothly from one motion to another, let the class experiment with these circular movements in a random order as you play the ‘Morning’ music.

Now decide whether to get into a low shape, for example kneeling or crouching, or into a medium bending or lunging position, or into a standing shape, which might be stretching upwards or sideways or might be gentle and curved. To impose some shape on your movement piece, divide the class into four groups. The groups take turns to move to the music. You direct them, following the phrasing of the music and indicating to each following group when they should start moving. This is also the signal for the previous group to freeze.

You might like to build into your improvisation a moment where all the children slowly walk round, as if sleep walking, then gently ‘dissolve’ back into their groups. Think of an equally effective ending. Maybe one child could have a short solo and finish in the centre in a high shape, with everyone around in a low shape.

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