At Groove With Me, every class begins in a circle and students have an opportunity to say what’s on their minds or talk about a particular issue. For my two classes of youngsters, circle-time mostly signifies the start of class. They learn that if they want to share something, they better say it then—the rest of class is quiet. This time also promotes self-confidence; girls learn that their ideas are valid and important. We pass around a ballerina doll (recently they’ve found it hysterical to talk in a high, squeaky voice like it’s coming from the doll) and we share our favorite after-school activities or what we like to eat for breakfast. We always introduce ourselves, and girls must speak in a clear and audible tone.
I find this time especially useful when substituting new classes. It helps to learn names, and more so, it gives me a chance to witness new behaviors. Who pays attention and who fidgets—which students will I have to keep my eyes on?
Of course, every now and then I get some pretty funny answers. I’ve heard a lot of favorite colors—mostly pink, purple and yellow—but the all-time best response: Sparkly turquoise. Last week I heard another great line while sharing things we liked. I said, “My name is Jenny and I love ballet.” Predictable.
Unpredictable: “My name is Sara, and I like hot tubs,” chimed in a tiny 6-year-old with cute glasses.
Stretching Idea: My co-teacher started the routine of “making a pizza,” and I think it’s brilliant. During our warm up stretches, we make a big circle touching our feet together. After we stretch side to side, we each throw an ingredient into the pizza. One by one they toss in (and stretch forward as they do so) their favorite pizza topping. Then, they mimic eating the pizza. The 5–6-year-olds love it.
On Saturday, I brought in a video of Swan Lake. Most girls know the story; they’ve seen either Barbie Swan Lake or the animated Swan Princess. A class favorite is bourree-ing with “swan arms,” but I wanted to show them the real deal. We gathered around the TV, and we watched about 15 minutes of Act II with Dame Margot Fonteyn and Rudolph Nureyev. They were captivated by the tutus, and I pointed out the passés and arabesques we do in class. Then, Nureyev came on the screen. I expected the usual giggles about men wearing tights—but not this time. One of my quietest girls piped up: “He looks like Michael Jackson!” Why? Who knows—but at least she was watching.
Photo of the DVD I showed: Margot Fonteyn and Rudolph Nureyev in Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. With the Vienna State Opera Ballet and Vienna Symphony Orchestra.