Just Dance is an interactive video game for Wii that allows you to follow choreographed dance routines for fun, exercise or in competition with other players. I got turned on to it at a party and bought it for myself shortly afterward. It’s great fun in groups, but more than that, it can be a fabulous teaching tool if you just know what to look for.
So, how can a teacher use this improve her classes?
All the routines in Just Dance 2 were created by professional choreographers who created their dances knowing that players would be following along. This makes a big difference in what is choreographed. If you compare the game play dances to the dances by the contest winners, you will see what I mean. While the contest winner dances are good, you aren’t going to get someone to follow along very easily without a lot of breakdown and stopping and starting. So, if you are choreographing for beginners, a Follow-the-Leader type class or to teach specific skills, you may want to emulate the game play style when creating your class choreographies.
Dance Follow Musical Structure
All the Just Dance 2 routines follow the musical structure. The songs are broken up into blocks. The dance moves repeat when the musical blocks repeat. For example, in Rasputin, the blocks EFG show up three times. Each time they show up, the same moves are repeated. If your class choreography is also done this way, your students may learn to “see” musical blocking without ever having a lesson on music theory.
Another interesting musical construction strategy in Rasputin that could be highlighted in class is how the blocks ABC show up later in the song in reverse order of CBA. This piece could be taken out to use as an example of retrograde (performing things in reverse order). Allowing students to make up their own combinations then do them in reverse order could make for a fun class, but more than that, it can open up creativity.
Using What is Different
Any time you learn someone else’s choreography, you are exposed to how the choreographer uses his body. This is often quite different than how you habitually move. Since there are really only a handful of movements in belly dance, keeping it interesting has a lot to do with how moves are combined, framed, and how you transition in and out of them. To increase your own repertoire and spark creativity, it could be interesting to pick out what’s different from what you normally do in someone else’s choreography and either drill those parts or create variations on them.
You can (and probably should) do these types of exercises in class without Just Dance 2 as they teach students how to think about dance so that they can grow on their own. However, using Just Dance 2 as a framework adds something fun and unexpected to the dance experience. The routines are fun and doable. The songs are easily recognized so that you don’t have to spend a lot of time learning the song just to talk about one piece of it. Even if you don’t want to use it in the classroom, I highly recommend watching or playing it to get great classroom exercise ideas as the songs and choreographies are fun and imaginative.
Just Dance 2 and wii are widely available at department stores, online, and video game stores.