Young children delight in dances that use vivid imagery, stories, animals, and familiar characters. Theresa Purcell Cone and Stephen Cone, authors of Teaching Children Dance-3rd Edition, offer this dance experience that provides opportunities for children to express their ideas as you guide them in creating and expanding their movements within the planned structure of a culminating dance.
The Hungry Cat
As a result of participating in this learning experience, children will be able to do the following:
1. Perform movements using fast and slow tempos. (psychomotor)
2. Move a body part in isolation. (psychomotor)
3. Remember the dance sequence and perform a dance without teacher cues. (psychomotor and cognitive)
Children will dance individually throughout the entire learning experience.
Percussion instruments—a drum and a triangle (or improvise, as needed)
Introduction and Warm-Up
In this dance learning experience, we are going to find different ways to move fast and slow. We will then do a dance about a hungry cat who moves fast and slow. We’ll start with a warm-up using slow and fast movements.
When I say go, find a personal space and run in place as fast as you can. Go! Now run in place as slowly as you can. Now find a different way to travel through general space as fast as you can. Find another way. What are some of the ways you traveled fast? [Children share their answers with the class.] Now move through space as slowly as you can, taking a long time for each step. Find another slow way to move. How slow can you go? Can someone show the class how slow they can travel in the space? [Select several children to demonstrate moving slowly.]
Think of some things that you do to get ready for school in the morning. [Children answer with morning routines such as brushing teeth, getting dressed, eating cereal.] We are going to pretend to do some of these slow and then fast. Ready? Let’s all do the movement of brushing our teeth as fast as we can, now as slowly as we can. Now, try slowly putting on your clothes; now, get dressed as fast as you can. The third movement is about eating a bowl of cereal very slowly. Shake the cereal into the bowl slowly, pour the milk slowly, take your spoon and scoop up the cereal slowly, and put it in your mouth slowly. Now, eat the cereal as fast as you can. Feel the difference in your muscles when you move fast and slow. Can someone tell us what that feels like?
Today, I am going to play a triangle for all of our slow movements. Listen to how long the sound lasts after I hit the triangle. Now, begin to move your arms when I hit the triangle and continue to keep them moving until you do not hear the triangle. [Tap the triangle once.] Keep your movement smooth and slow. Feel your arm moving for a long time. Can you keep the movement going? Now, try this with another body part. I want to see if you can listen to the sound and move one body part slowly until the sound of the triangle stops. I see that some of you are moving your arms forward and backward, some are moving their arms together and apart, and some are moving one arm and then the other. Some children are moving their shoulders, their legs, and their whole bodies. Notice how each movement takes a long time when you move slowly.
I will play fast drumbeats to accompany the fast movement. See if you can move your arms as fast as you can until you hear the drum stop. [Play fast drumbeats for a few seconds.] Try moving your arms high and low, forward and backward, together and apart. [Again play fast drumbeats for a few seconds.] This time, point with your arm to a different corner of the room as fast as you can on each of the 4 drumbeats. [Play 4 drumbeats as the children point.] Try pointing with the other arm. [Again, play 4 drumbeats as the children point.] We will use this movement in our cat dance.
This time, run as fast as you can and stop when you no longer hear the drum. [Play fast drumbeats for 10 seconds.] This time, add a leap or jump to the run as I play the fast drumbeats. [Play fast drumbeats for 10 seconds.] Try this again and make sure you land on your feet with your knees bent at the end of the jump or leap. [Play fast drumbeats for 10 seconds. Children practice this movement several times.]
Now, it is time for the hungry cat dance. Everyone find a personal space and lie on the floor. We are going to practice each part of the dance first and then put them all together. In the first part, the cat is sleeping. What are the different shapes a cat uses for sleeping? Yes, curved, perhaps stretched. Find another sleeping cat shape and another. I see many of you in round curled shapes, some of you are on your backs, others are sleeping on their sides. (See figure 8.9.) Change slowly from one sleeping shape to another each time you hear the triangle sound. I will tap the triangle four times. Ready? [Make four taps on the triangle.] Make your first sleeping shape, now slowly change to your second shape, now take a third shape, and finish by moving slowly into the fourth and last shape. That was great! You used four different sleeping shapes and moved very slowly into each shape.
Next, still lying on the floor, the cat begins to wake up and stretch slowly. On each tap of the triangle, I will tell you a body part to stretch. [Make one tap on the triangle.] The cat stretches one arm reaching high with its paw. [Make a second tap on the triangle.] Now, the other arm stretches high. [Make a third tap on the triangle.] Now, the cat stretches one leg up high reaching with its foot. [Make a fourth tap on the triangle.] Then the cat stretches up the other leg. The cat sits up and slowly moves its head, then its back, and then its shoulders. [Make three taps on the triangle: one each for the head, back, and shoulders.] The cat stands up slowly onto two feet. Make sure you take your time as you stretch each part of your body as you wake up. This is the beginning of the dance. All the movements are smooth and slow. Let’s practice this part again.
Now, in the second part, we will change to make fast sudden movements on each drumbeat. The cat will move fast when it suddenly sees and points to a mouse. Move your arm quickly to point to a corner of the room. The cat sees a mouse over there! Now, the mouse has moved to another corner; point to that one. Oh, no, the mouse moved to another corner! Point to it! And now point to the last corner as the mouse moves one last time. Make your pointing movements strong and fast. I will beat the drum once for each pointing movement. Ready? Point, point, point, point. [Beat the drum.] In the third part, the cat chases the mouse around the room. I will beat the drum very fast, and you will run adding leaps and jumps. Ready? [Beat the drum fast for about 10 seconds while the children run after the imaginary mouse.]
In the next part, the cat catches the mouse by taking one big jump. The cat slowly bends forward to pick up the mouse by the tail, opens its mouth, and drops the mouse in. Now, the cat is so tired after chasing and eating the mouse that it slowly moves back to the place where it was sleeping. I will play one loud drumbeat to cue the jump. [Play one loud drumbeat.] Then, I will play the triangle to accompany the slow movements as you pretend to pick up the mouse, eat it, and go back to sleep. Let’s try this part of the cat story. Begin with a jump and bend down slowly to pick up the mouse; pretend to drop it in your mouth, and add a stretch and yawn to show you are tired before you slowly go back to sleep. [Play the drum and triangle as the children dance the sequence of movements.] Let’s try this part again.
Now, let’s put all the story parts together into one big dance. I will play the instruments while I tell the story. Then, the second time you will do the dance by yourself. [Play the instruments and tell the story while the children dance.] Now, I will play the instruments and not tell you the story. You can dance the story because you have practiced it now a few times. Before we begin, can someone describe the dance? [One or more children describe all or part of the dance.] Be clear about making the slow movements slow and the fast movements fast. Feel the difference in tempo as you dance.
Can anyone suggest any new parts we could add to this cat dance? Are there any parts we should take out of the dance?
- How well children can change from fast to slow movements. Is the difference clear?
- How effectively children can move in the space without bumping into each other during the mouse chase.
How Can I Change This?
- During the development section, you can divide the room into two zones: the fast zone, where the children can perform the fast movements, and the slow zone, where the slow movements are performed.
- Develop short movement sequences that combine fast and slow movements. For example, children choose a movement and perform it using this sequence: slow-fast-slow or fast-slow-fast. Try different combinations with nonlocomotory and locomotor movements.
- Children are organized into partners. One partner does a fast or slow movement, and the other partner responds doing the same movement in the opposite tempo. For example, partner 1 touches the head with the hands, turns around, and makes a stretched shape using a fast tempo. Partner 2 responds by doing the same three movements using a slow tempo.
- Peer assessment—psychomotor: Students are organized into partners. One partner calls out a nonlocomotor movement and chooses a fast or slow tempo, and the other partner performs the movements. For example, “Wiggle your whole body fast,” or “Twist slow.” Students take turns. Repeat this activity using locomotor movements. (outcome 1)
- Teacher assessment—psychomotor: Use a checklist to observe whether children can isolate body parts in the part of the dance where the cat wakes up. You can assess this part of the dance while the children are dancing. (outcome 2)
- Teacher assessment—psychomotor and cognitive: Record a video of half of the class performing the dance without teacher cues and then record the other half. Later review the video to assess whether children remember the sequence and clearly demonstrate the fast and slow movements. (outcome 3)
- Language arts (reading): Introduce the cat dance by reading stories or poems about cat adventures.
- Science: Integrate this dance with science concepts focused on animal life.
- Visual arts: Add visual arts and music through creating cat and mouse masks and using music with an emphasis on slow and fast tempos.