Lesson Plan: Creating Original Song and Dance From African Dancing and Drumming

  • Begin in a circle and learn 4 variations of rhythmic syllabic non-sense words for building poly-rhythms.

Kan Kan Lo Bi (1,2,3,4)

TiTi Ta TiTi Ta (1and2,3and4)

(repeat)

XX Cha Cha Cha (_ _ 3and4)

(repeat)

Dubbah (1and2and3and4and5and6and7and8and1and2and3and4and5and6and7and HEY!)

  • Learn my body rhythm “dance” to accompany vocalizations.
  • Divide the group in ½.
  • Layer the song/dance with one group in 8 count cannon after the other.
  • Switch roles.
  • Teach additional dance phrase using bigger gestures based on African dance vocabulary.  Continue to use vocalizations in the learning process.  Expand the choice and pathways for “Dubbah” to move around and through each others’ negative space.

Next think of a hero or athlete or mythical creature.  Imagine their strong body language captured in a shape.  Make that shape, and another, then another…without thinking or judging.  Use high/middle/low levels and connect to the space with your eyes and awareness.  Work the improvisation from 8 beats between each change to 4 to 2 to 1.  (variation: dance this shape dance like cursive writing with softer edges.  Make it travel around the room.)

  • Insert this traveling, cursive writing, level changing, shape improvisation into the last 8 counts of Dubbah with the African Dance Variation.
  • Develop what we have into performance structures with live sound support.
  1. Group 1 / Dance Variation 1: start in a small tight group and expand wide in space while dancing the African Phrase.
  2. Group 2 / Sound Variation 1:  create sound support using polyrhythmic vocalization from original nonsense word phrases. Play with how you layer rhythms. Add more sounds if group feels it’s necessary.
  • Perform new music and dance variation 1.
  • Switch Groups and repeat process:
  1. Group 2 / Dance Variation 2: stand in a vertical line of 4 and perform the step dance in a four count cannon. Travel upstage snaking through the dancers during the “dubbahs” and finish with the shape improvisation in a tight cluster.
  2. Group 1 / Sound Variation 2: create sound support using polyrhythmic vocalization from original nonsense word phrases. Play with how you layer rhythms. Add more sounds if group feels it’s necessary.
  • Perform new music and dance variation 2.
  • Create a transition that allows us to move from variation to variation.
  • Perform and enjoy!
  • (I actually use a loop pedal and mini amp to build the songs with the students and layer their poly-rhythms…we add found sounds in the room to create more layers.)
  • Next replace nonsense syllables with real words that the students agree upon.  Remember to pay attention to the rhythmic syllables of the words.
  • Dance one more time to the final songs.

Follow-up questions:

What was the most successful part of your experience today? Why?  What was the most challenging thing you did today? Why?  What did you learn about yourself today?  What will you do next with the new ideas you received  today?

#2 Body Language (Storyteller’s Ritual Phrase)

  • You’re leaving home for a long journey.  You can bring 1 thing you love and don’t think you can live without.  What is it? Make a 1-3 gesture statement expressing what this thing is, but keep it a secret with your words.
  • Go background CD.
  • Learn a brief 4 count knitting together phrase. (Right arm wave on 1,2, left arm thread 3, right arm thread through and, left arm thread 4).
  • Move around the group in a circle sharing solos while the group knits them together dancing the 4 count phrase together after every solo.
  • Find a partner, learn their solo.  Choose an order for the solos and memorize them.  Move around the circle performing duets while the group knits them together.
  • Duet find another duet and make a quartet.  Choose an order for the duets and memorize them.  Move around the circle performing quartets while the group knits them together.
  • Put Quartets into N,S,E,W spacing and “follow the leader” formation. Perform Quartet variation as a structured improve, now including changes of levels, changes of facings, and changes in tempo. Whoever is the visually front of the group is “in charge” of the phrase until a new person becomes front.  Continue to perform the knitting together phrase in between each repetition.
  • Put 3 quartets in the space and observe performance.

Follow-up questions:

Did you see any meaning in the final dances?  Did the meaning change for you? Could meaning be different for others? What was the most challenging part of our lesson?  What was your favorite part of today’s lesson? Was it difficult to make changes to your original idea?  How did our variations add to and improve our final dance?

#3 Get Up, Let’s Move

  • Warm-up with isolations.
  • Warm-up with full bodied shape dance holding for 8, then 4, then 2, then 1.
  • Teach a short basic dance using approximately 8 phrases of 8 counts built with basic jazz aerobic vocabulary.
  • Do a pulse check.
  • Teach breathing strategies.
  • Build the flashmob:
    • Places (on outside of space, pretend nothing is about to happen)
    • Enter in and walk around each other in the space for 4 counts of 8, end in final places for routine
    • Begin dance of 64 counts.  Insert shape improvisation, formation changes, cannons and spacial awareness
    • Make a big ending using all the participants in a final statement determined by the group
    • Scatter and run away and pretend nothing happened
  • Rehearse it.
  • Answer questions solve problems.
  • Rehearse it again.
  • Encourage…give performance notes.
  • Perform!

Follow-up questions:

Where else can you perform your flash mob?  Who else can you teach it to?  When might be a good time to perform a flash mob?  What is your favorite part of today’s experience?  Which part was most challenging?  How much aerobic activity do we need per day/week in order to stay healthy? What are good physical strategies to try when we feel stressed, overwhelmed, or angry?

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