Arts week dance workshops

Arts week dance workshops are a great addition to a creative week at your school. You can choose the style of dance to fit with a particular topic or theme you may be studying. You can have some fun workshops for each class, or have a performance piece created by the end of your time with Zest – the choice is yours.

The Robert Fitzroy Academy in Croydon had us in for two days for their Arts Week in Feb. Their theme over the week was an artist called Barbara Hepworth, and in all lessons they were focusing on her in different ways.

We taught years 2, 3, 4 and 5, and each class were looking at a specific one of her sculptures. This was really exciting for us as we love art, and we really enjoy working with this kind of inspiration when choreographing dances.

Year 2 had ‘Garden Sculpture’

We focused the dance on spirals in nature as Hepworth was inspired by patterns found in the natural world. The way Ferns uncurl when they are growing is magical, so we had this in mind for the dance. We showed the children pictures of Ferns in case they were not familiar with them. We gave each child a scarf to use as a prop. They drew circular shapes in the air, and spiralled around their bodies and travelled across the floor in the dance.

Year 3 had ‘Group (Concourse)’

Hepworth was really interested in how people moved in different spaces and in relation to each other. So through her art she explored people’s relationships, not what people actually looked like.

So this was an easy one for us to choreograph as lots of ideas sprung to mind. We thought in terms of levels, groups, spaces between people, and the physical connections people sometimes do, and do not have. We gave the children characteristics and gestures in their groups, and motifs which symbolised them. They also did some contact work in pairs where they were moving in the space together, but not necessarily communicating with each other through their facial expressions. They produced some lovely group dances.

Year 4 had ‘Pelagos’ Sculpture

Hepworth said of her scupture “The strings were the tension I felt between myself and the sea, the wind or the hills”.

We explored through movement how the sea would make us feel while being in it. The push and pull of it and the power is has. The children started in groups creating a circular/globe shape (representing the sculpture), and then broke off into a unison dance. This used curved shapes, pushes and pulls and gentle floor work representing the waves crashing on the shore.

We asked the students what music they would put with this dance and they all said something calming or maybe wave sounds. We had thought the same thing and had found a lovely piece called ‘Baby lullabies with calm ocean waves’. It is a slow instrumental piano piece with the sounds of gentle waves crashing in the background. Luckily it went perfectly with the dance!

Year 5 had ‘Two Forms’ Sculpture

Hepworth was as interested in the the holes (negative spaces) as she was of the solid forms. This was our trickiest piece to choreograph. Teaching about negative and positive space is a pretty abstract concept, and not easy to translate into dance terms.

We had the class in small groups creating the shape of the sculpture to start with, and we then explored the straight edges and curves through movement.

It was a really fun two days at the school, and really great to have such an interesting theme to work with. Thanks for having Zest with you Robert Fitzroy Academy, we hope to see you again next year.

So if you have some ideas for your school’s arts week dance workshops, please get in touch. We can do you a day, a few days, or even a whole week.