As our movement and dance project reaches its end Filipa Pereira-Stubbs our resident Dance Teacher for the last 8 months shares the positive impact that the creative and expressive dance sessions have had on the children and staff team. And although this is the end of the initial project it certainly won’t be the end of our collaboration with Filipa! We hope you enjoy the photographs and reading about the wonderful experiences that the children have had. Please also see the display in the reception area which highlights some of her work here.
Filipa: “When I first walked into the Old School House Nursery, I could immediately feel the sense of purposeful calm that comes in an environment where children are happily and busily engaged. Beginning the movement sessions was not going to be difficult; I was excited to meet the children, and begin to get a sense of them, and what kind of movers and dancers they were.
With the very little children, the babies, plenty of slow time was spent introducing myself, allowing them to get to know this new big body, this new face with shiny glasses, pulling all kinds of faces at them. They needed time to get to know my hands, and to take in my invitations to move with their little hands, their little feet.
A lot of this work is about drawing attention to the body, their bodies – through touch and through imitation and simple movement sequences, such as stroking a hand, holding it, holding the other hand, and slowly, with eye contact to ensure the movement is interesting and fun, opening up the arms to a wide lift, closing in again, and repeating.
In all we do we are looking for reciprocating pressure, for an accompanying lift of the body, for toes widening or curling in response. A baby’s body responds without inhibition, openly, and fully. Widening eyes, furrowing forehead, corners of smiles – these are all part of the dance. As I felt my presence was accepted, with each individual baby taking her/his own time with this, and with the teachers working alongside me, lending familiarity and safety, we begin more exciting movement sequences – rocking back, body on lap, lifting high into the air, safely couched by knees and legs and exciting moments of standing upright, alone, mastering the art of balance.
For each session, the staff would light the fairy lights, gentle dance music would be put on, and as much as possible all the staff would gather in a rough circle space. The babies came in and out of the circle area, in their own time, and staying for varying lengths of time. Each baby was taken in turn by one of us, and given ample time to find her/ his way into moving with us.
Downstairs, we began with giving the children ample time to meet this new person, hear her music, and understand her invitations to dance. At first the work was done individually, finding a moment of playfulness to engage, and to understand the dynamics of response. Little movement sequences are quickly established with one or two children, and the quality of their fascination and engagement draws the other children closer and into the movement.
Over the weeks, we gently established a routine of sitting down in a circle to begin together, and to try out movements all together. There is a lot of one-to-one work, and a lot of repetition.
New ideas are brought in to match interest and to incorporate the ideas the children bring in – lifting a red ball high into the air, and bringing it down, down down. We find red balls for everyone. We stretch up high and we curl down into little balls. Already the children at this age have a sense of the beginning of a phrase and the end. They ask to do it again and again. As their interest wanders, they leave the space where we come together to dance, and then return later. Some children stay for the duration of the time I am in the room. Their world is very rich and full, and there is much to catch their attention, but there is a growing sense that there is a time and area to focus on doing movement activities.
In the Nursery room, we began our dancing together by finding out how the sessions work. I introduce sitting in a circle, and the importance of going round the circle saying our names, stating that we are here and a part of the circle, a part of the dance. For some of the children it takes time to find their voice to say their names. I introduce a little warm up – simple sequences that allows practice and ease of movement in space, in time, and with different body parts. Co-ordination and remembering are important now as is the ability to listen to the dynamics of the music and move accordingly. Sophisticated little sequences are begun, and gently repeated enough times that the children can happily engage with the movement individually.
We try out different ideas – dancing in twos, dancing as a group, dancing alone.
Sometimes when the music comes on, our instinct is to jump up and run about, and we embrace that excitement whilst learning to take turns, so that we all have enough space to dance, learning to watch one another’s movements, and try them out, so we learn new moves. We see what the idea of blowing ourselves up like a balloon does to our bodies. We make bridges with our bodies, and see how we can move under, around and through the patterns and shapes. We curl up small and tight, like tiny creatures and we lie like starfish, enjoying the full length and breadth of our bodies.
We always end back together in the circle, taking some moments to relax our bodies, and rest before we get on with our day.Over the weeks, confidence has grown, everyone’s name is said clearly and in time. We are able to follow warm-ups together and discover our own dances. We all feel more confident;
Nicola and Alice lead a session, so I can film the children exploring how their bodies can grow bigger and stronger, and then become softer and smaller. The range of movement dynamics and actions is increasing.
With the older children, in the school room, learning the structure of the circle, saying our names and warming up was easy and immediate. Fun is had saying our names, and finding accompanying movements to our names. We are more readily confident and able to claim our place in the group. Here too with this group of older and bigger bodies, it is really important to learn to take turns, and we find a space in our room for an ‘audience’ group, learning to appreciate taking it in turn watching each other. Our warm-ups get us to try out new ways of moving, and establish sequences of moving. We warm up our hands, our toes, stretch our legs, lift hands high and swoop them out so wide, leaning across space to tickle a friend along the circle, practicing balancing as we do so.
We explore different action words – how do we reach high ? Sideways? How do we float, spin and turn? What happens when we do these in sequence? What does it look and feel like? And what do we become when we dance this way?
Sophisticated thinking and expression emerges effortlessly as we move through different ideas, and themes. We work with rhythm and dynamics – repeating a movement once, twice, three times! Gently, then slowly, then with strength!Again we do this in duets, as a group, and alone.
One week we dance outdoors one very lovely sunny day, with our sun hats on. We find our dancing shadows, and experiment with what happens when we approach our shadows, or dance along each other’s shadows.
We create a long line of bodies, and delight in the patterns of arms and heads we see before us. We dance our version of follow the leader.
Another time we consider the idea of moving like a reflection in a mirror – what happens when we move the same, what happens when we move similarly.
At the end of each session there is always time for free moving – dancing to the music any way we like, expressing ourselves through the dance. And after that we take moments to relax, to cool down, to briefly allow gentle quiet lying down time before lunch.”