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Equipment and Teaching Materials

This is an excerpt from Teaching Children Dance 4th Edition With HKPropel Access by Susan M. Flynn,Emily Enloe,Theresa Purcell Cone & Stephen L. Cone.

The addition of equipment and materials such as music, props, and costumes can enrich the dance learning experience. These items can be used as the stimulus for creating dances or as the accompaniment to a dance. Music and dance are frequently partnered in a learning experience. The voice, percussion instruments, and recorded music support the rhythm of the movement and set an environment for dancing. Props help illustrate the meaning of the movement, exaggerate the movement, or create a visual component that complements the dance. Most props are light, handheld objects that students manipulate while moving through space. Sometimes students dance around, over, or under larger objects; these larger objects help establish an environment for dancing. Costumes are also a wonderful addition to a dance. Students enjoy dressing up as a character, an animal, a tree, a monster, or any other idea from their imaginations. Every dance program should have access to a variety of teaching materials. Music, books, photos, posters, and computers or tablets for accessing websites, applications, and videos can be the catalysts for new dance ideas, present information on cultural and social dances, and support the dance concepts that are emphasized in the learning experience.


Most dance experiences use music to accompany the movement, whether it’s through the use of voice, percussion instruments, or live or recorded music. Music can stimulate ideas for dance, support the tempo and rhythm, provide a mood or atmosphere, or provide structure to a dance. The voice is one instrument that we always have with us. It can generate sounds and words that express the qualities of a movement. Even the way the voice is used when giving instructions can make a difference in how students respond. To illustrate this point, think of how these action words can be expressed differently to elicit a specific way to move. You can say “splat” in a loud, fast, and sharp voice; “press” in a loud and sustained voice; and “fall” in a voice that begins at a high pitch and ends at a low pitch.

Students can also use their voices to sing songs as accompaniments for dances. Consider using a familiar song, such as “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” as the accompaniment for a dance structured on a round (also known as a canon). Students can create movements for each section of the song and then, in small groups, sing and perform the movements to create a dance round. Another possibility is to make up a song that describes a movement sequence. For example, in a dance about planting a garden, you and the students sing, “Seed, seed, cover up with dirt, and jump, jump.” On the words “seed, seed,” the children pretend to place a seed in the ground. Next, on each syllable of the phrase “cover up with dirt,” the students use their feet to stamp quickly while pretending to bury the seeds. A big jump on each “jump” word completes the phrase. This phrase is repeated several times with the students singing and moving simultaneously. You can also vocalize rhythms by making a variety of sounds with the voice. In a dance about a machine, for example, students can create sounds with their bodies or voices to accompany the machine’s movements. Words, poems, and stories read out loud can all involve the voice as accompaniment.

Develop a collection of percussion instruments as a readily available resource to accompany dance. Most percussion instruments can be carried easily while teaching or dancing. When planning a dance experience, consider what movements could be supported by the strong, percussive beat of a drum; the light, sustained sound of a triangle; or the quick, vibratory sounds of the maracas (see the percussion instrument dance in chapter 8). Also, consider making instruments to create interesting and unusual sounds (see table 4.1). You don’t have to be an accomplished musician to use instruments in dance. Take time to become familiar with the instruments, and explore ways to play them by hitting, rubbing, or shaking them with your hands. Ask the school’s music teacher to help you learn to play a few basic rhythms. Investigate the possibility of borrowing instruments, or look for them in music stores, toy stores, museum shops, yard sales, and school catalogs.

Table 4.1 Percussion Instruments

Finding the appropriate recorded music for a dance experience is always a challenge. There is such a variety of music that it is hard to know where to begin to look. One option is to purchase music that is prepackaged with ideas for dance lessons. These types of recordings can be a way to begin to develop a personal library of music. Another option is to set some time aside to listen to music, and then record selections that could be used for dance. Label the selections with ideas for future use, and then try the music with the students. Include in your collection music that

  • has a definite even beat;
  • offers varying tempos for slow and sustained as well as fast and percussive movements;
  • has various rhythms for skipping, running, or jumping;
  • produces various moods, such as feeling peaceful, anxious, or powerful;
  • evokes images and feelings (e.g., sounds like music for strange creatures landing on the earth);
  • represents other cultures; and
  • denotes a specific time period.

Be sure to include a variety of music that represents a wide range of styles and cultures. Students may prefer music that is popular and familiar to them; however, use the dance experience to present many types of music to broaden the students’ exposure to and knowledge of music. Your list can include classical, jazz, pop, rap, reggae, hip-hop, new age, rock, gospel, opera, a variety of vocal music, movie soundtracks, sounds of nature, children’s songs, and traditional and contemporary music from various countries and cultures. Different types of dances can be paired with different types of music. African music can be used in a dance about a rainstorm, for example, or ragtime music can be used to accompany a dance about baseball. Traditional cultural dances usually require a specific piece of music as accompaniment and can help make the experience more authentic. The music teacher can be a valuable resource for selecting music and can offer assistance with identifying rhythms and musical structures.

Once you have chosen your music, be sure to become thoroughly familiar with the selection. Play the music in the space where the dance experience will occur so you can ensure the volume is appropriate and the audio equipment functions properly. Always acknowledge the composer, the name of the music piece, and the performer when introducing music into the dance session.

Having the proper audio equipment can make a significant difference in the quality of music used in the learning experience. Purchasing state-of-the-art equipment is not always possible; however, using a portable Bluetooth speaker and playing music from your phone is an easy, affordable option. When you have the opportunity to purchase new equipment, consider the following wish list:

  • A stereo system with options such as a USB connection, a remote control, a CD player, or Bluetooth capability and speakers that will project into the space. The remote control or Bluetooth functionality enables you to position yourself easily for effective teaching.
  • A portable or battery-powered stereo system with similar features as a stationary system if you plan to teach outdoors or in multiple spaces throughout the day.
  • A portable microphone and speaker. A wireless lavalier microphone can allow you to teach in any space and move with the students. You also have the ability to speak over the music to provide instructions.
  • An MP3 player with playlists created using a music app.
  • Cords for all MP3 or Bluetooth devices.
  • Storage for all audio equipment and MP3 players. Proper storage will eliminate damage.


Dance learning experiences frequently require equipment or handheld props to accompany the dance. Students may manipulate streamers, hoops, elastic strips, balloons, wands, ropes, and pieces of material or scarves as they dance. Or they may use equipment such as chairs, mats, cones, or tables to move around, over, under, on, or between. Ideally and when appropriate, each student should have their own prop. When there aren’t enough of the same type of prop available for each student, they can share or trade props. For example, in a lesson on making different shapes, one group uses an elastic rope, the next group uses wands, and another group makes shapes with long pieces of yarn. When choosing equipment or props, consider each student’s developmental abilities to handle the equipment or prop safely. Can the student move the prop easily? If the prop falls out of the student’s hand, is there a potential for injury? Do students have adequate space in which to move with the prop?

Props are used to initiate, extend, or accompany movement. Cultural dances may use scarves, sticks, ropes, flowers, or baskets as part of the movements or to express a character or cultural artifact. In a learning experience focused on creating straight and curved lines, students can lay ropes on the floor in straight and curved lines and then match their bodies to the rope shapes. Streamers or ribbons held in the hand can be imaginary brushes with which to paint letters in the air, and scarves can be flames, leaves, or flower petals (see figure 4.1). Partners and small groups can share a prop and discover ways to move together. Students can hold hoops as imaginary doorways into outer space or to connect students as rays of the sun. Curtains or long pieces of material are easy for a small group of students to use as a floating cloud, a swirling river, or the wind of a tornado. Most schools have a playground parachute that can be turned into a giant monster when a group holds one side of the parachute and runs in the space with the parachute floating in the air. There is no end to the ways props can be part of a dance experience. When you ask the question, “What else could it be?” about any prop, students will enthusiastically offer many new ideas.

Figure 4.1 Children dancing with streamers to express the movements of a flame.
Figure 4.1 Children dancing with streamers to express the movements of a flame.

You can also use props to illustrate a concept or element of dance. Students often need a concrete object to help them visualize the words and concepts presented in the learning experience. For example, the concept of roundness can be illustrated by showing a ball or a globe, the concept of increasing and decreasing size is best illustrated by inflating and deflating a balloon, and the feeling of strong and light force can become vivid when you wring a towel or float a piece of tissue paper. Using props to create an environment for a dance magically transforms the space and stimulates ideas for creating movements. Imagine a room filled with red and orange streamers scattered on the floor. The students immediately pretend they are dancing on the sun as they run and leap over the streamers. You can also use hoops to move in and out of as if they were different worlds, such as the fast world, the shaking world, or the frozen-shape world. Ropes tied to volleyball poles can form a web for a spider dance, chairs arranged in lines could depict a dance about traveling on a train or a bus, and taped lines on the floor can be used for pathways. An environment created by props encourages students to use their imagination and helps make an abstract idea real. Here are some additional ideas for creative props:

  • Pom-poms (cover a paper-towel tube with contact paper, cut 8-inch [20 cm] strips of plastic, and staple 8 to 10 strips together on one end of the tube)
  • Large sheets of plastic cut into various shapes (plastic tablecloths work well)
  • Sheer curtains, sheets, and other pieces of material
  • Stuffed animals or dolls
  • Tissues or paper napkins
  • Juggling scarves
  • Stretchable plastic bands or pieces of elastic
  • Long pieces of ribbon
  • Beanbags
  • Deck rings (streamers can be attached)
  • Paper bags
  • Rolls of toilet paper
  • Beach balls
  • Umbrellas
  • Lummi sticks (7 to 12-inch wood sticks) and wands


Students, especially young children, welcome the opportunity to create and wear costumes while dancing. Costumes can be as simple as a scarf tied around a wrist, a piece of material draped over a shoulder, or streamers taped to a shirt. Adding a costume to a dance can help define a character, a mood, a time period, a culture, or an animal. Aluminum foil can be wrapped around the arms or molded into a headpiece as a costume in a dance about lightning bolts. Monster costumes can be made of large plastic garbage bags with a hole cut out of the bottom for the head and the sides cut into long strips. When designing costumes, consider ease of movement and safety. Make sure the costume is fastened securely and that headpieces allow the students to see and breathe.

More Excerpts From Teaching Children Dance 4th Edition With HKPropel Access



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