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Developing Skills, Turning, Combining Movements, and Leaping

This is an excerpt from Creative Dance for All Ages 2nd Edition With Web Resource by Anne Green Gilbert.

Developing Skills

Depending on the length of your lesson, choose one or two activities from the Developing Skills, Turning, Combining Movements, and Leaping sections.

Developing Skills

  1. Locomotor Movements: Students practice locomotor movements in different pathways. Point out that when moving in a straight pathway, the most natural body position is one that is vertical. "If you want to move with ease in a curved pathway, your body needs to curve in the direction you are moving. When curving or circling left, your body should curve or lean left. When moving with ease in a zigzag pathway, your lower body needs to make sudden shifts from left to right, right to left, forward to backward, or backward to forward. This is most easily accomplished if you stay grounded, using bent knees, which allows you to shift weight." See chapter 5 for more ways to practice movements in different pathways.
  2. Nonlocomotor Movements: Dancers practice doing nonlocomotor movements in self-space. Certain movements draw certain pathways in the air. Carving, twisting, turning, and swinging generally create curved pathways in self-space. Pushing, pulling, stretching, slashing, gliding, and punching generally create straight pathways. Poking, flicking, dabbing, dodging, bending, and shaking generally create zigzag pathways in self-space. Depending on individual interpretations, some people may disagree about what types of pathways result from these movements. Discuss the dancers' impressions with them. When you take the nonlocomotor movements through general space, the easiest pathway to move in is a straight pathway. Even turning is most easily accomplished in a straight line across the floor. However, dancers should practice these nonlocomotor movements through general space in all pathways.
  3. Sliding: Dancers practice zigzag slides. "Slide 8 times forward left, then 8 times forward right across the floor. Next, try 4 slides left and 4 slides right, then 2 slides left and 2 slides right." Encourage the dancers to bend their knees in order to shift weight quickly from left to right. Try one slide right and one left repeatedly.
  4. Galloping/Polka: "Practice 4 gallops with the right foot leading and then 4 gallops with the left foot leading repeatedly." Encourage the dancers to lean slightly right and left to help with the weight shift. "Try 2 gallops with the right foot and 2 gallops with the left foot. Practice doing this sequence while turning to the right or left. This is the polka. Practice holding both hands with a partner. The reason the polka can seem so difficult is because you are doing three pathways simultaneously. You are moving in a zigzag pathway because of the constant shift of weight from left to right. You are turning (in a curved pathway) while moving in a straight (or curved) pathway down the floor." The dancers learn the polka more quickly and easily when it is explored through pathways instead of steps.
  5. River Run: "Practice running like a river - smoothly and in a curved pathway. The arms are by your sides, not stiff, but controlled." Try using the image of invisible arms. "The body must curve or lean right and left in whatever direction the pathway curves. Keep the knees bent and body relaxed. This will allow you to run very quickly but smoothly in a curved pathway. You may add swirls whenever you feel like it."
  6. Marching: Marching is a good step for straight pathways, because the accent is always on the same foot (2/4 or 4/4 beat). Have dancers practice marching in different directions, with different-sized steps and different speeds, in straight pathways.
  7. Lunging: Students can practice lunges (see chapter 5) in straight pathways by keeping the steps and body surface forward. They can lunge in zigzag pathways by rotating the legs and body outward on the diagonal, alternating right and left facings.
  8. Waltz Run: Dancers can do the waltz run (three quick steps - down, up, up) in any pathway, but it lends itself to zigzags because the accent changes from the right foot to the left foot with every three steps (3/4 meter). For this pathway, dancers would move three steps to the forward right (down, up, up), then three steps to the forward left (down, up, up), then to the right, and so on. Rotation of the hip joint outward helps dancers perform this step in a zigzag pathway.
  9. Jumps and Hops: Dancers practice these two movements in straight and curved pathways, then try some zigzag combinations - forward, backward, forward, backward; left, right, left, right; forward, backward, left, right.
  10. Step - Hop: Dancers practice step - hops in straight, curved, and zigzag pathways. A step - hop is similar to a skip, except that it is even in rhythm (2/4 meter). A skip has uneven rhythm (6/8). A nice step - hop combination is step - hop, hop, hop; step - hop, hop, hop; step - hop, step - hop, step - hop, step - hop. The step - hop, hop, hop sequences could be done in a straight pathway while the step - hops are done in a zigzag or circular pathway.
  11. Schottische: Dancers practice the schottische (shot ish), a common folk dance step. It goes step, step, step - hop; step, step, step - hop; step - hop, step - hop, step - hop, step - hop (4/4 time). Dancers can do this step in all pathways, with or without partners.
  12. Gallop With Arms: Dancers practice galloping or skipping with the arms swinging forward and backward. The legs move in a zigzag pathway (up and down) while the arms swing in a curved pathway.
  13. Fancy Skip: Dancers practice the fancy skip described in the Developing Skills section of chapter 9. Focus on the idea of pathways as the arms trace curved pathways in the air, the front leg traces a zigzag pathway, and the back leg traces a straight pathway.


  1. Chaînés: Dancers practice chaîné turns in a straight pathway across the floor, a circular pathway, and a zigzag pathway by shifting weight and changing directions every four turns or so.
  2. Copycat: Let dancers create different turns. "Choose several turns to copy, and decide in which pathways to do the turns."
  3. Levels: "Practice turning across the floor sinking and rising to give the impression of a zigzag pathway in the air."
  4. Barrel Turns: Dancers practice barrel turns and leap turns in a circular pathway.

Combining Movements

  1. Word Cards: Choose six word cards to inspire a new movement phrase, selecting a combination of locomotor and nonlocomotor movements. Put the words into a logical sequence, such as sway, turn, skip, slash, gallop, stretch. Dancers practice the sequence in a straight pathway, a curved pathway, and a zigzag pathway. Then divide the sequence in half and choose two pathways to use; perhaps the dancers will do the first half in a curved pathway and the second half in a zigzag pathway. Then divide the sequence into thirds so dancers practice the combination using all three pathways.
  2. Partners: Put together a simple combination such as slide, run, jump, shape. Dancers practice the combination in a straight pathway to their partners then do it away from their partners in a curved pathway. Explore different combinations of pathways.
  3. ABC: Create a combination for your students using all three pathways. For example, march 4 counts in a straight pathway, slide right, left, right, left 8 counts in a zigzag pathway, river run 4 counts in a curved pathway. Dancers repeat the combination adding arm movements. Add the waltz run, polka, schottische, and other steps for more complex combinations.
  4. Folk Dance: Many folk dances make use of different pathways. For example, Virginia reel includes straight, curvy, and zigzag pathways. Mayim and Ve David use straight and curvy pathways. You can create your own repeating patterns to folk dance music such as zigzag slide 8 counts, turn 8 counts, move any way in a straight pathway 8 counts, run backward to your partner 8 counts, create four shapes with your partner 16 counts, turn away from your partner 8 counts. Teach authentic and creative folk dances to your students. Then students can create their own dances in the Creating section of dance class. Instructions for circle dances and folk dances are in Brain-Compatible Dance Education (Gilbert, 2006).
  5. Pictures: Choose three pathway designs, and put them in an order. These designs may inspire you to create a new movement phrase for your students to learn, practice, and then embellish themselves.

  6. Cinquain: Create a cinquain focusing on pathways. The dancers could help by making suggestions for different words. Read the cinquain as the dancers illustrate each word through movement. Pause between words to give time for movements or repeat some words to allow more time for movement. As a variation, dancers could recite the poem while they dance.


    Curved, straight

    Swirling, dodging, pushing

    Bodies connecting through space


  7. Line Design: Have each dancer draw a line connecting to the previous one on a long piece of paper or a whiteboard. Each line should represent a specific pathway. When the line is completed, choose a movement to represent each line sequence. The shape, level, size, and pathway of the line should give you an idea for movement. Put the movements together into a combination that follows the order of the line, and have dancers perform it as a group study. If the class is large, put dancers into pairs. One can draw the line and the other can choose the movement.


  1. Obstacles: Create a leaping course for dancers by placing cartons, cones, or spots in straight, curved, or zigzag pathways. Remind dancers about the mechanics of leaping over obstacles in different pathways - straight bodies for straight pathways, curved bodies for circular pathways, and shifting weight for zigzag pathways.
  2. Combinations: Using cartons or spots, create a leaping course for your students that alternates pathways in different ways. For example, set up obstacles in a curved, straight, curved, straight course.

  3. Arms/Legs: "Make straight, curved, or zigzag arm shapes and movements while leaping through empty space. Try leg shapes that use a bent front leg and straight back leg, straight front leg and bent back leg, or both legs bent."
  4. Groups: Divide the class into groups and have them create their own leaping course with cartons and cones and spots. Each group should have the opportunity to try all the courses.
  5. Lines: Create a circular course for your students with cartons or spots, and add a straight section using benches or a line on the floor. Dancers leap in a circular pathway to the line, then travel on the line or bench in a straight pathway, and end in a curved, straight, or zigzag shape on a spot. Instead of a straight pathway, create a zigzag path for your students with the benches or lines.


Learn more about Creative Dance for All Ages.

More Excerpts From Creative Dance for All Ages 2nd Edition With Web Resource