The other day I was teaching a creative movement class for 3 to 5 year olds. We dance barefoot which means that these lucky kids are privileged to get an early start on pointing and flexing, to run around with a higher chance of slipping, and to get a good look at my glorious feet.
I don’t like teaching little ones because half the time you’re really teaching social skills, like how to listen, line up, focus on a task, not pick their nose. I love teaching little ones because they have such an imaginative movement vocabulary, untainted by technical terms. Pretty much everything you do is ‘new’ to them and it’s a fun challenge to connect things they understand about the world to a new concept. It opens up so many opportunities for real teaching moments. At the same time, I think the main goal with this age group is just to get them moving, and not spend so much time talking or trying to demonstrate. Some things you learn the theory, and some things you just have to learn by doing.
In this case, teaching barefoot, I am not only teaching chasse but my kiddos learned a new word; blister.
(A group a children and a dance teacher sit in a circle inside a studio. Small child points with wonder at the teachers’ toe.) “Miss Jess, what’s that on your foot?”
“That’s called a blister. It’s a kind of boo-boo.”
“What’s a blister? Is it like when a stick is sticking out of your foot?”
I love that my foot conjures images of wooden impalement for these creative youngsters. Where do they come up with this stuff? Isn’t life funny, with the collection of information we gather along the way? If I were to rewrite my ‘The Language of Ballet’ book, I’d include ‘blister, bunion, and bruised toenail’– all this vocabulary that is second nature to dancers.I bet when their parents signed them up for this class, ‘blister’ wasn’t something they thought they’d add to their coloring books of knowledge. See how much they are learning with me? Rhythm, shapes, levels, and wounds all in one lesson.