As anyone who works with children can attest, children are movers. They are bodies in constant motion. As conductors, we often spend much of our time fighting against that natural urge by requiring them to sit in adult-sized chairs for the good portion of an hour. How much more would our littlest singers get out of choir if their natural propensity for movement was woven into the rehearsal, rather than squelched?
I have heard lots of reasons why children’s choir directors do not feel comfortable using movements activities in rehearsals. Let me help to assuage some fears:
1. “I would have to be a dancer/mover myself.”
There is no need for you to have had formal training in dance. All a conductor needs is resources (see next week’s blog post) and the humility to be willing to try something new! The kids appreciate any effort.
2. “I will lose control of the rehearsal.”
I promise that you will probably have more control of rehearsal if you let those children MOVE. School-aged children have been sitting for much of their day. Letting them use their bodies will yield more focused rehearsals. However, you do need to set clear expectations and boundaries for each movement activity. Having a talk with the children before the activity about appropriate behavior and movements is critical. Following through if expectations are not met is important, too. Once the children have become accustomed to the expectations of these activities, you’ll be able to cut back on talking and get to more moving!
3. “I don’t have time. Rehearsal time is precious enough.”
True, church musicians always feel under pressure to learn that hymn/anthem/piece of liturgy RIGHT NOW. After all, Sundays come every week! But, I firmly believe that you don’t have time not to incorporate movement. Trust me. If you start off rehearsal with a simple folk dance or a creative movement activity (3 minutes max), you help those children to get their wiggles out and to focus on a mutual task. That is no small feat to accomplish in one short activity.
Added bonus: If you have chronic latecomers (who doesn’t?), they will not be missing the rehearsal of a piece. Plus, since no one wants to miss a fun movement activity, the children beg the parents to make sure they are on time or, even better, early!
4. “I don’t see the point. This is choir, not dance class.”
Our bodies are our instruments. When we don’t use our bodies, how can we be using our voices the best we can? Use movement to improve vocal technique or musical expression. For example, if a piece is in a peppy 6/8, why not skip around the room while singing to get the right feel for the piece?
Also, I firmly believe that creativity, whether it is through singing, playing an instrument, or movement, breeds more creativity. You never know what will get ideas flowing -- for you or the children!
In addition, many of our young singers are kinesthetic learners. By incorporating movement into our teaching, we will be reaching those learners on a level that will benefit the entire group!
However you decide to incorporate movement into your children’s choir rehearsal, know that any time that you spend getting them moving will pay you back more than you can imagine.
Willing to start incorporating movement into your rehearsals, but don’t know how to start? The next blog post will list resources to help you to get moving.