While creativity is a must for all dancers, it's particularly important for dance teachers; creative dance lesson plans are half the work when it comes to successfully teaching both adults and children how to dance.
Creative Dance Lesson Plans for Children
When it comes to children's classes, whether for tap, ballet, or creative movement, creativity is essential, but, fortunately, the teacher only has to inspire the creativity. The children will take over the creative themes and bring a lot of creative juices to the class with only the slightest amount of creative prodding from the teacher.
Children love to pretend, whether in dance class or on the playground. For this reason, creating themes is particularly successful with children. A theme can be helped along by the music; for example, if your theme for today is 'flowers', choose light, airy music that projects happiness. If your theme for the day is 'thunderstorms', choose music that is the opposite from what you would choose for the flower theme.
Ask the children to think about flowers or to think about thunderstorms. Play them the music while they are sitting on the floor and ask them what the music sounds like; imagining the theme while they hear the music can help them develop their thoughts about the theme. Tell your students that this part is 'getting into the mood'…and after they've gotten into the mood, they will get a chance to 'be' the mood, or express it. Once the children have heard the music and experienced it as something like flowers or something like a thunderstorm, you can have the children begin to dance a bit. Encourage them to not think, but to just let themselves be inspired by the music and their 'flowerness' or their 'thunderstormness'. The younger the children are that you try this with, the better it will work (generally speaking).
Getting Creative with Adults
Creative dance lesson plans for adults are entirely different from the creative improvisation plans mentioned above, for children. When it comes to adult dance classes, there is only a very small percentage of the adult population who will be happy to make an improvisational dance, pretending to be a flower. Instead, getting creative with adults means varying the class structure and the types of activities and exercises that you do in the class.
Many classical ballet classes are so predictable that the dancers are almost literally falling asleep at the barre; barre exercises are followed by floor exercises, and the progression of exercises is fixed. For developing technique, it is good to do exercises frequently, but when the dancers are this bored, the effectiveness of practicing the steps decreases a great deal.
For adults, vary the order of exercises, and change the exercises each week or each month so that they don't become boring. Keep the same elements in the exercises because, as mentioned, repeating steps is a great way to improve technique. However, just because you have to repeat a lot of battement tendus to get them right, you don't have to repeat the step always in the same sequence. As the teacher, one of your jobs is to create different combinations of exercises to do that all include the same basic steps that need to be practiced. Not only will your students pay more attention because they aren't dying of boredom, but they will also learn another important skill for dancers: learning new combinations quickly.
Whether you're teaching children's tap classes or an adult workshop to learn the Cha Cha, keeping some creativity in the studio is always a good idea. Don't forget that dance teacher magazines, dance movies, and other dance teachers you may know are all excellent sources of creative ideas to incorporate into your own dance classes.