DIY Dance: Handshake Dance

A great way to inspire creative movement and begin group choreography.girls-shaking-hands

  • Have students work in pairs (make a group of three if there are an uneven number of students)
  • Instruct students to create a 4-part handshake with their partners
  • Students will choose four movements in which they make contact with their partner (high five, shake hands, touch elbows, etc)
  • Have students practice performing their handshake to the beat of a song, repeating it several times
  • Now ask students to make each of the four parts of their handshake into a larger, dancier movement
  • Have students practice their handshake dance to the beat, but at a slower pace to allow for the new, larger movements
  • Take it a step further by combining pairs into groups of 4-6, and have students re-work their movements to fit the larger group

DIY Dance: Dance Recipe Choreography

The teacher may create a recipe checklist for younger students, but older student may participate in choosing the elements to include in their dance. Here are some ideas of what to include:

  • Name of dance and choreographers
  • Music (and length)
  • Dance moves learned in class (you provide a number, students will list the ones they choose)
  • Dance moves created by students (you provide a number, students will list their choices)
  • Elements of dance to explore (see Elements of Dance Cheat Sheet)
  • Emotions and related gestures to include (based on the music or story narrative)
  • Entrance and exit strategies
  • Group movement conventions (see Elements of Dance cheat-sheet)
  • Costuming/Wardrobe ideas

Here’s a Soccer Dance Recipe Worksheet from a dance done with grades 6-8.

DIY Dance: Stick Together

Based on the ‘Step on the Beat’ video by Kate Kuper

  • Have students spread out in the space
  • The teacher (or a student) will call out two body parts (both elbows, or hand and hip)
  • The students will stick those parts together, and keep them together as they dance
  • The teacher may play music as the students dance in their ‘stuck’ position
  • Repeat with different combinations of body parts
  • Have students connect their body part with a partner or group of other students

DIY Dance: Alphabet Soup

Get students of all ages warmed up with this classic game.

  • Students stand in a circle, facing each other
  • Choose one student to lead. The leader will choose a letter and call it out
  • The other students will find a creative way to make that letter with their bodies
  • You can have students create the alphabet in sequence, in reverse, or try spelling short or long words
  • Try working in pairs or teams to create letters, numbers or shapes



DIY Dance: Name Wave

  • Have students stand in a circle, choose one student to begin
  • The first student will say their first name, and demostrate a simple action or dance move: “Bizz (reaches index finger on diagonal up and then across body – disco style)”. All students in the circle will say “Bizz” and repeat her disco move.
  • The student to Bizz’s right will then do the same, creating their own move: “Joe (bends and straightens knees),” and the circle will say “Joe!” and repeat his action.
  • Then the student to Joe’s right will do the same, while the circle repeats their action. This continues all the way around the circle, until the last person to Bizz’s left does their action: “Amy (twist hips)”
  • Students may ask the instructor (or the circle) for help if they can’t think of a move
  • You may try a second “lightning” round, where students repeat the same move they have already chosen and try to complete the circle faster (and faster!) every time around
  • You can try a movement theme, for example large or small actions, actions for specific body parts, or animal movements. You can also try a silent version with actions only.

DIY Dance: Hand Jive

I love using well-known and well-loved dances to inspire something new. These are a great way to connect curriculum themes with movement.

  • Begin by teaching students the basic Hand Jive set-up, saying the name as you demonstrate
    • Slap Slap (hands on thighs)
    • Clap Clap (hands together)
  • Now add one of the following after each Slap Slap, Clap Clap:
    • Hover Hover (at chest level with palms facing floor, hover right hand over left, then left over right)
    • Mashed Potato (with hands in fists, tap right hand over left twice, then left over right)
    • Hitchhike (point right thumb over right shoulder twice, then repeat left)
  • Once students get the hang of this pattern, have them choose their own movement to do, following the pattern and rhythm, ie “slap slap, clap clap, flap arms like wings” or “slap slap, clap clap, hop in a circle”
  • Try it with students in a circle, each taking a turn to demonstrate their move and having others copy it
  • Try it in pairs, with students creating a series of 4 or more movements to fit with the pattern of ‘slap slap, clap clap, something something’
  • Use this to explore themes from other subjects, such as bird habits, book characters, states of matter, land formations, or even moves from different sports
  • Try variations on the Locomotion, YMCA (aka Alphabet Soup) and the Macarena. (See this playlist for the Hand Jive and other classic dances).

DIY Dance: Dance Blender

Inspire some creative dance fusion moves in this mini dance-off.
• Students will form groups of three. In each group, students will determine who will play the roles of Muse 1, Muse 2 and The Blender (the roles may rotate if desired)
• Muse 1 will begin by demonstrating a simple dance move
• Muse 2 will then demonstrate a second simple move
• The Blender’s job is to quickly find a way to fuse both moves into one new dance step (use a timer if necessary)
• The Muses will then join in, copying the Blender’s new step
• You can use the deck of dance cards created in Name-A-Dance to inspire the Muses

DIY Dance: Name-A-Dance

Inspired by the Jimmy Fallon show, this game is a great way to inspire students of all ages. You will need a pen and a cue card (or two) for each student.

  • If possible, watch this clip (appropriate for all ages)
  • Have students imagine the name of a (possibly silly) dance they have never seen before but would like to see someone else try, and write it on a cue card
  • Collect the cue cards, shuffle them and have the students spread out in the space
  • The instructor or a student will then choose a card, read out the name, and everyone will improvise their own interpretation of the dance
  • This can also be done in Soul Train formation, with students in two lines facing each other (and doing step touch & clap on the beat). The pair of students at the head of the lines will choose a card and improvise the suggested dance down the centre aisle

DIY Dance: Body Paint

A great warm-up for body and mind, this can work just as well seated as in a big open space. Thanks to Ruth Douthwright for the inspiration!

  • The instructor will call out a body part, and students will imagine that part is a paint brush (start simple with hands, elbows or knees, then try fingers, toes, eyes, ears, hips, heels, hair and more)
  • Next the instructor will call out a question, such as ‘What is your favourite colour?’
  • Students will use the chosen body part to paint the answer to the question, ie. ‘blue’
  • Starting small, students will write out their answer over and over, getting larger each time, until the next question is asked
  • With younger students, draw shapes or letters
  • With older students, add a layer of complexity by suggesting a surface to paint on as well, such as the floor, ceiling, or walls