Improvisation exercises are used by dance teachers, counselors, and performing arts coaches to improve kids' concentration. They are good for stimulating flexible thinking, creativity, and for helping young students overcome stage fright. Improvisation exercises also assist kids in developing empathy because they often involve taking another person's point of view.
Improvisation helps kids improve their ability to concentrate especially when the exercise includes other people. A well known improvisation game is the Mirror Game. Each person has a partner. The two must stand facing each other as if one kid was looking at himself in the mirror. While maintaining eye contact, the two kids must move simultaneously to simulate what happens when you look in the mirror. The longer the game continues, the more the kids become able to predict and match their partner's movements. As soon as one partner loses their concentration, they also lose their ability to mirror.
Here are Some Other Dance Improv Exercises to Try
Basic 8 Count Game - Have the students begin in a pose of their choice. Let them know that Lindsey goes first, Jack second, Susan third, and so on. They can free dance for 8 counts and then they must freeze in a pose of tehir choice while the next person free dances for 8 counts. You can clap the 8 or count it or just do the 'one' and 'five' depending on their level of experience.
ABC In groups of 2 or 3, have group 1 make a lower or capital 'A' and group 2 do 'B' and so on, and when they make it, give them a different letter until they are all used up. A variation is to spell words in the mirror, ie. their letters need to be done backwards so that they show up forwards.
"Magazines Have students cut out pictures from dance magazines and draw a make up a combination (either in groups or independently ) that incorporates that picture.
Add On In a line for across the floor,tThe first person does a repeating step, like chasse right all the way across. He/she then goes to the back of the line, and the next person adds to the combination--chasse right, step left, for example. and so on.
Props Handhelds like batons, capes, hoops, etc. are good. The student dances with a prop but in a way it was not intended, for example, don't hula hoop; use the hoop as a mirror instead. With older kids, use bigger props like chairs, table, bench, a huge box that opens and closes, doorway, etc. and have them use these in creative and different ways.
Name Circle - Students stand in a circle and the first dancer says his/her name and has a gesture that goes with it - ex: "Suzie!" while jumping up and down. Everyone repeats the gesture. Go around the circle until you have a combination of everyone's names. Then do it without saying their names outloud.
Energy Ball - In a circle, an "energy ball" (invisible) is passed from student to student. The ball can change size, weight so that each person passes it in a different way. Encourage students to pass it with something other than their hand.
Association - Try choosing a moving piece of music and asking students to dance the lyrics, or call out a color and have them perform a movement that they associate with that color. This exercise also works with other words, such as foods, where students have to interpret the word through dance. Example: Ice Cream or cake.
Mystery Solo The kids sit and watch and one by one they stand up and have to improv to whatever music gets put on. They don't get to choose the genre or artist or even get a hint. You can also do this with duets or stations. Put 6-8 stations around the room: a hat, a hula hoop, a chair, a bench, a mat, a scarf, a cane, whatever is handy and they have to rotate every 64 or 32 counts through each station while the rest of the group watches until it's their turn. The music is random and they have to incorporate the prop into their dancing.