Course:KIN366/ConceptLibrary/Creative Dance

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Movement Experiences For Children
KIN 366
Instructor: Dr. Shannon S.D. Bredin
Office Hours:
Class Schedule:
Important Course Pages
Lecture Notes
Course Discussion

Creative Dance is a form of dance that combines movement and artistic expression, without the requirement of extensive training (Gilbert, 1992). Typically creative dance focuses on the development of motor skills and emotional expression as opposed to the more aesthetics based focus of dance in a more traditional arts structured setting (Dow, 2010). Creative dance allows for variation amongst the skill level of its participants, affording opportunities for those of any age and ability (Wang, 2004). Creative dance has also been shown as an effective holistic approach to promote movement development and improve social and cognitive functioning amongst populations with delayed or arrested social, cognitive, and physical abilities (Scharoun, 2014).
A creative dance class


Creative dance can be used in the school system to provide movement-learning experiences for children in combination with the usual physical education program in place (Gilbert, 1992). This type of movement has also been used to help facilitate the learning of other subjects in curricula. Development of kinesthetic intelligence is also facilitated through using creative dance practices (Gilbert, 1992). Creative dance is taught in many settings including schools, dance studios, for those with developmental disabilities, and even for adults of all ages (Gilbert, 1992).

Benefits and Importance

There are many reasons to learn creative dance related to movement, cognitive abilities, and even for the development of social skills (Gilbert, 1992). Creative dance facilitates motor skill development through learning fundamental movement concepts such as; body awareness, control, balance, coordination, muscle and bone strength, flexibility, stamina, agility, spatial awareness, and to teach respect for one another’s personal space (Dow, 2010). Creative dance also allows for appropriate movement affordances to facilitate the development of fundamental motor skills (Gilbert, 1992). Opportunities to explore different movements and to solve movement problems can be provided to aid in developing motor competence.

Engaging in creative dance can also help in acquisition of kinesthetic intelligence. Kinesthetic intelligence is having an understanding of the position of one’s body and its parts in relation to the environment (Gilbert, 1992). This awareness also extends to an understanding of how to impart cause and effect among objects, an important concept for young children to begin to understand (Cranes, 2014).

Creative dance classes, although movement focused, generally consist of multi-sensory experiences that provide developmental opportunities for children outside of motor development. Some of these areas include increasing listening skills and ability to follow directions, creative skills, learning to cooperate with others, and improving self-concept in learning environments and in a broader context (Dow, 2010). Although generally considered to be an individual activity, using group work in creative dance helps teach children to communicate and work with one another (Boorman, 1969). Other benefits include releasing stress and discovering a form of self-expression.

Creative dance is a great way to integrate physical activity into different aspects of the school curriculum and helps to break the monotony of the school day. Children are not well suited for extended periods of sitting and inactivity (Wiener & Lidstone, 1969). Creative dance can be used to increase activity levels outside of physical education classes and recess time, combatting the adverse effects of inactivity and promoting the likelihood of beneficial effects of increased activity on the body (Dow, 2010). The integration of physical activity is also important as it allows children the necessary release of energy after sitting at a classroom desk for an extended period of time. Creative dance is an excellent way to break up periods of sitting while still contributing to the child’s overall learning (Wiener & Lidstone, 1969).

Structure and Elements of a Creative Dance Session

The most important focus of creative dance is the development of fundamental movement skills. A creative dance session usually consists of five distinct parts: (1) a warm up period, (2) direction from the instructor exploring the concept or theme of the lesson, (3) developing necessary skills related to movement, (4) creating and further understanding the concept through movement often with collaboration amongst and between instructor and students, (5) ending with a cooling down period to transition into the next lesson (Wang, 2004). Creative dance can occur in a variety of locations including, but not limited to, a classroom with furniture, an open classroom, a dance studio or a gymnasium (Gilbert, 1992). Music or props can be used in creative dance to help facilitate skill development or prompt creative expression (Gilbert, 1992).

Developing Skills

When developing lessons it is important to know what age appropriate skills to incorporate in order to lead an effective creative dance session. For infants and toddlers it may be beneficial to pair them with parents. Children ages 2 to 4 should focus on basic locomotor and nonlocomotor skills, specifically the coordination of arm and leg movements. For children ages 5 to 7 years old skipping, hopping and the step-hop can be introduced and the focus shifts to combining locomotor and nonlocomotor skills. Children ages 8 to 12 years old should focus on perfecting basic locomotor skills and learning more advanced movements (Gilbert, 1992).

Elements of Creative Dance

The elements of creative dance can be explored through different concepts and the manipulation of these concepts to help encourage particular movements or movement patterns. (Gilbert, 1992).


Space refers to the dance environment exploring level, size, direction, pathway, and focus of the movement. Obstacles or other dancers in the environment can be included to allow additional opportunities to interact with and incorporate into the movements.


This element involves the manipulation of speed: slow, medium of fast movements. Rhythm can also be manipulated through the concepts of pulse, breath, patterns, and accents.


Force can be used through changing the energy (smooth-sustained or sharp-sudden) and the weight (strong or light) of the movement. The flow of the movement can be manipulated via continual, free-flowing movement as opposed to bound movements signified by abrupt stopping and changes of direction.


The element of the body can be incorporated into creative dance through isolating body parts, making body shapes, and exploring the relationship between and through dancers in time and space.


This is a very important element of creative dance where the development of fundamental motor skills really comes into play. This element can be broken into locomotor movement (movements that travel through space) and nonlocomotor movement (movements around axes of the body and its component parts).

Developing Locomotor Movements through Creative Dance

Creative dance is a fun and engaging way to get young children to practice or develop specific locomotor skills. All these skills can be introduced in a fun and creative manner, while still naming the movements. For different age groups there are differing elements of each skill that should be developed and practiced (Gilbert, 1992). The following are descriptions of locomotor development for typically developing children. It is important to note that not all children will follow the exact same pathways and timelines for locomotor development, especially those constrained by atypical development.

Basic Locomotor Skills


This locomotor skill involves the transfer of weight from one foot to the other with a heel strike, erect stance, contralateral arms swing and a toe off the ground. Ages 1-2: practice walking in different directions and pathways on different levels and at different speeds. Age 3 & up: should be practicing all variations of walking.


This skill requires a flight phase after toe off and before the heel strike. The torso will have a slight forward lean, arms swing in opposition to the legs and greater flexing in the leg as it swings through. Ages 1-2: Practice running in place, traveling forward and backwards. Ages 3-4: Practice running in different pathways and with different qualities. Ages 5 & up: should be practicing all variations of running.


Leaping is an exaggerated run with increased distance between footfalls and a greater flight phase. Ages 1-2: Can begin to practice leaping by stepping over objects. Age 3-4: Practice leaping over objects. Ages 5-7: Practice integrating arms shapes with leaping Ages 8 & up: Does not need the aid of objects anymore and can explore specific leaps.


Involves a take off and landing on both feet using a knee bend and rolling through the joints of the feet on both the take off and landing. Ages 1-2: Can practice jumping with help of an adult holding around their waist. Ages 2 1⁄2-3: Practice simple jumps in place and travelling forward. Ages 4-5: Jumping can now be in all directions, with different sized jumps. Ages 6 & up: Can incorporate all variations of jumping.


Requires the take off and landing to be on the same foot and requires a certain amount of strength and balance. Ages 1-2: Do not yet have the strength or balance adequate for hopping and should therefore focus on jumping. Ages 2 1⁄2 - 3: Practice hopping while holding on to a support of some sort or an adult’s hands. Ages 4-5: Can practice hopping while only holding on with one hand. Ages 6 & up: Can now practice all variations.

Combined Locomotor Skills


Involves the combination of a walk and a run traveling with an uneven rhythm. Use of music with a 6/8 meter can help in acquisition of the correct rhythm. Ages 2-3: When you can first introduce galloping. Ages 4-6: Practice galloping while exploring different pathways with simple arm movements. Age 7 & up: Should practice all variations.


This skill is just galloping moving sideways. Age 2-3: Sliding should be introduced. Can help child by facing them and holding their hands to help initiate a galloping motion. Age 3-4: can learn to slide through imitation. Correcting students that revert back to the more comfortable pattern of galloping is important. Age 5-7: They can now explore different arm movements and levels. Age 8 & up: Practice all variations.


This is a combination of a hop and a walk, but is more difficult than a slide or a gallop. Children naturally skip by age 5, however this skill is generally easier for girls than it is for boys. Age 3-4: Skipping can be taught at this age. Age 5-7: At this age they can practice different arm movements, in different patterns. Age 8 & up: Can now explore all variations of skipping.

Developing Non-locomotor Movements through Creative Dance

Children develop locomotor skills very readily with creative dance programs. These programs do elicit gains in children’s non-locomotor and manipulative skills as well, however the improvements are not as explicit (Wang, 2004). Non-locomotor movements are sometimes referred to as the creative and expressive part of creative dance and generally only involve the upper body (Gilbert, 1992). Non-locomotor skills can be combined with locomotor movements but should also be explored on their own.

Exploring the element of bending


A stretch consists of a full extension of the body, with or without other component parts.


A bend includes any movement that brings two or more parts of the body together.


This movement involved rotating the body or component parts around an axis.


A movement of a body part in an arc or circle, different from a sway as it involves a weighted drop to start the movement.

Integrating Fundamental Skills into Creative Dance Practices: Tips for Teachers

Prior experience with dance in not necessary in order to be a great creative dance teacher. It is more important to be personal with the students, as each student will have individual challenges that require individualized feedback or encouragement (Wiener & Lidstone, 1969). The key is to start simply and slowly and keep a positive attitude and outlook despite varied success of your students. The instructor should aim to give guided learning opportunities that allow for the students to problem solve and come to conclusions on their own. Often, the aim will be for students to find and understand that problems may have many different solutions (Becker, 2013). Pick one concept to focus on for that week’s lesson(s) and over time one can layer in more concepts as the students progress. Including a combination of locomotor and nonlocomotr skills in the lesson plan is a good idea as both are important when a child is developing movement competence. Make sure to include an element of fun, especially to keep children engaged in the movement.

It is best to first focus on the way in which the body can move when first introducing creative dance to children. This includes fundamental motor skills such as walking, running, jumping and creeping. After children have explored dance through these basic movements, other unfamiliar movements can be introduced. The different elements can also now be introduced in the creative dance session. For example adding the element of time to walking by speeding up or slowing down (Boorman, 1969). Progressing from here multiple elements can be combined together, for example using time and energy (Boorman, 1969) by suggesting students walking with the qualities fast and sharp.

External stimuli can be used to encourage children struggling to achieve new movement skills or those who may need additional encouragement to engage in creative dance lessons. For example using ‘leaves’ as a stimulus by getting children to move like the leaves are being blown across the ground can guide the child’s movement (Boorman, 1969). The use of sound can be effective in helping to elicit particular rhythms necessary for competent movement patterns or to provide stimulus of certain movement qualities (Boorman, 1969).

Movement observation is of great importance when teaching creative dance. It is necessary to see what a body is doing, how the movement is being achieved, where the movement is going, and how the group work is being developed. Observing for these criteria, along with proper movement patterning is important. The instructor must know how to best direct the child so that the child can improve their performance of a movement skill; ultimately to attain mature movement patterns (Boorman, 1969).

Therapeutic Approach for Developing Skills in Atypical Populations

Creative dance therapy has been proven as an holistic, whole body approach to improve the developmental outcomes of populations living with impairments of physical, social, and cognitive capability (Scharoun, 2014). Creative dance programming is highly accessible needing no equipment beyond the imagination of the instructor and its participants (Dow, 2010). Furthermore, creative dance lends itself to the interpretation of movement by its practitioners; therefore all movements are valid and equal. It is an art form not limited by goal, precision, or aesthetic. Research has shown that creative dance programming is an effective intervention to promote correct acquisition of fundamental motor skills for populations that are constrained by various challenges affecting growth and development (Scharoun, 2014). Populations with atypical movement patterns can benefit from creative dance programs because they help promote the integration of sensory-motor neurons necessary to improve coordination along with increases in motor innervation and execution (Scharoun, 2014). Creative dance is a useful tool to allow atypically presenting populations an opportunity to improve whole body capability in physical, cognitive, and social capacities.

Kinesthetic Intelligence to Teach the Academic Curriculum

When exploring new concepts introduced in the classroom, kinesthetic experiences have been shown to improve learning and knowledge retention (Becker, 2013). Kinesthetic knowledge furthers a student’s ability to convey meaning and understanding through the novel experience of creative dance and expression. Creative dance improves a student’s problem solving skills, memory, order and sequencing ability, and other cognitive and integrative functions (Becker, 2013). Creative dance can be use as an alternative, or supplemental, means to help teach the academic curriculum. Most subjects can be explored through creative dance, below are some examples (Gilbert, 1992).

Language Arts

The whole body can be used to spell out letters and words or act out the meanings of different words. The number of syllables in a word can also be explored through movement, especially rhythm.


Can use body parts to practice sums or multiplication. Other math functions such as division can be explored through having the students in the class move into groups or a particular number, with the remaining students being the ‘remainder’ for example.


Students can explore biological concepts such as metamorphosis or evolution through the use of creative dance by mimicking how certain creatures may have moved and how populations of animals have changed. Older elementary aged students may explore the concepts underpinning Newton’s Laws of Motion with additional creative movement instruction to better understand these concepts in physical and practical ways.

Cultural Studies

Creative dance can be used to broaden understanding and enlightenment of world cultures in an historical and social context. Social studies or history classes can incorporate certain topics such as: the rise of swing dance and Jazz in the early 20th century, Viennese ballroom dance of the 19th century, and the ever changing forms of dance still practiced by aboriginal populations throughout the world.


Becker, K. M. (2013). Dancing Through the School Day: How Dance Catapults Learning in Elementary Education. Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, 84(3), 6-8.

Boorman, J. (1969). Creative Dance in the First Three Grades. Don Mills, ON: Longman Canada Limited.

Cranes, R. (2014). Why Concept-based Creative Dance for Babies and Toddlers?. Retrieved from

Dow, C. (2010). Young Children and Movement: The Power of Creative Dance. YC: Young Children, 65(2), 30-35.

Gilbert, A. G. (1992). Creative Dance For All Ages. Reston, VA: American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance.

Scharoun, S. M. et al. (2014). Dance/Movement Therapy as an Intervention for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. American Journal of Dance Therapy. 10.1007 (2014): n. pag. Web. 22 Feb, 2015.

Wang, J. H. (2004). A Study on Gross Motor Skills of Preschool Children. Research in Childhood Education, 19(1), 32-43.

Wiener, J. & Lidstone, J. (1969). Creative Movement for Children: A Dance Program for the Classroom. New York, NY: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company.