If you try to explain the importance of a traditional dance class to a 4-year-old, you will quickly understand that traditional classes are not likely to hold a young dancer's attention. Young children don’t care why they are doing something; they just want to have fun. Incorporating these fun dance games will not only keep your students engaged, but playing them will also help your young dancers to grow.
It is highly important that you gain control of your class early on by utilizing listening games. One fun and simple game is the dance and freeze game. Have your dancers move all around the room jumping and turning until you yell, "Freeze!" Students should stop on a dime and hold until you call out, "Dance." Keep going until every dancer is listening. After playing this game you can use the term "Freeze" to regain control every time your young dancers are going wild.
A large part of dance is performing. A large part of performing is acting. It is important to incorporate acting games early to prevent a group of stoic and boring dancers. One classroom favorite is dancing animals. Start by explaining how on stage a dancer is often asked to act like an animal while dancing on two feet, a tricky feat when thinking of our four-legged friends. Have each dancer choose an animal. For instance, Suzy chooses a cat. Everyone acts like a cat. Now you ask, "Can you show me how a cat would do a turn on two feet?" If the dancers are stuck discuss what this might entail, "Would a cat stand up nice and tall or hunch over? Would she move quickly or slowly? What do you think a cat would do? Show me."
One of the trickiest obstacles young dancers face is memory of dance. Rather than simply giving a set of steps for the dancers to remember, let them choreograph a piece as a group. Have each dancer choose a step or two and string the steps together; Jake chooses gallop and leap, pair that with Emma's point and turn. The result may not be choreographic gold, but the students will learn to retain steps quickly using this simple game.
The only thing needed for this dance game is a copy of the song, “The Ants Go Marching.” Play this song and instruct students to march in different ways; forward, backwards, on their toes, sideways, high, low. When the singer sings, “The little one stops to…” act out whatever the little ant is doing. Now continue to march until the song is over. Dance games like this help to build a young dancer’s leg muscles in a fun way, while encouraging listening, musicality and acting skills.