Dip Dance


This week is Rosh Hashanah, and to celebrate we did the apples and honey dance! Last year I did the apples and honey dance but didn’t really explore beyond it, and I don’t think I timed it that well.

This year I thought it would be fun to explore the dance and then explore the word dip! Since we dip the apples in the honey for the New Year! Here’s what we did in my 4′s, 5′s and 6′s:

After exploring apples and honey we made a circle and said the honey was in the middle. Then we talked about what dip actually means. “you put the apple in and then you take it back out.” So we tried that with our body parts. We dipped in our elbows, our knees, our head. I asked the littles what body parts they wanted to dip in. Bellies, backs, and feet were all called out!

The most interesting part about watching this dance is that the “in and out” part was so amazing! I could have put it on stage! They really understood how to dip in their body parts. I played instrumental music and we explored, and voila! A dance! :)

Have you ever tried a dip dance? Exploring just one word in a class is such great tool to use for improvisation and challenging the imagination. I’m so happy we were able to do this dance this week as my littles prepare to celebrate Rosh Hashanah.

Crafterina Video

My friend Vanessa Salgado has launched a video for her book Crafterina! I have talked about and featured Vanessa and Crafterina before so I was happy to feature this release too! I think this book and crafts is one of the most creative ideas I have seen in a long time!

Enjoy the video and if you are on twitter, we will be chatting tonight to celebrate! Join us! :)

Crafterina Twitter Chat Graphic

Dancing Designs


This year I have started a choreography ballet class for my oldest students. It has challenged me to find new ways of challenging my students to come up with movement on their own.

I was at target in the dollar bin and I found all kinds of goodies. This time of year is golden for finding props in the dollar bin! :)

I found these napkins with designs on them. They come in all different colors and designs. I took them to class and gave each student one.

IMG_6668I had them come up with a few words to describe the design they got and then asked them to make up some movement to go along with it. I gave them some time to practice and then we shared them.

I plan to continue the lesson this week, but some of them came up with the most interesting movement from these designs. I saw robots, curves and bumps, and floor dancing! They really loved it.

They asked if they could show their movement using the scarves and that added another element of using the design. :)


Have you ever tried using a pattern or design to generate movement? I would love to hear!


Toddler Workshops

photo-26Yesterday I went to White Plains, NY to share my toddler curriculum with the teachers at the Steffi Nossen School of Dance. It was a total pleasure to be with these teachers and it couldn’t have been a better way to spend the afternoon.

I love to share and workshop ideas and I’m so grateful for the opportunity! If you would like me to come to your school or studio, I would love to talk to you about it. You can reach out through the ‘contact me’ form on the left side of the page. I look forward to hearing from you!


Dance Teachers Around The World Project 2015


Well Friends, I’m going for the gold! I’m already writing about my new project for the new year! I want to have some time to pull it together, especially with this little guy on the way!

Ok, so the idea is to interview different dance teachers around the world! Get a feel for what it’s like to teach dance in another country, what classes are like, and what the community is like. Basically, a celebration of dance teachers around the world!

If you live in another country and teach dance I would love to interview you! Or if you know someone teaching dance in another country that you could connect me to please e-mail me at maria (dot) f (dot) hanley (at) gmail (dot) com with the subject AROUND THE WORLD. 

If you live in the states, don’t worry, I’m cooking up another little project for you too! But I think this particular project will be so interesting! :)

What do you think? Interesting? Exciting? I can’t wait!

p.s. Thank you to my friend Charlotte for helping me organize this idea! xo

Swimming Dance

IMG_5802My students always love dancing about fish in the water and under the sea creatures but this summer they seemed to want dance about swimming! I thought it was a fun idea and in honor of summer vacation I thought I would share our swimming dance ideas. Here’s what we did…

First we collected ideas about how they like to swim. Answers included:

1) Forwards
2) Backwards
3) Diving In
4) Paddling
5) Floating
6) Bobbing
7) Frog (which I interpreted as the breast stroke)

Then we explored them. I used my drum and as they explored the ideas, and I tried to get them thinking about other ways to do the swimming besides the obvious. Down low, up high, in different pathways, and with a partner. So many possibilities!

I put on instrumental music and we put the dance together. They really loved it, and was thinking when I watched it that it could be a good one to put on stage. There is so much movement involved!

Have you ever tried a swimming dance? I would love to hear!


Dance Teacher Summit Recap!

image-3Almost 2 weeks ago, I presented at the Dance Teacher Summit for the second time! Oh my, it’s true what they say… the second time you do something that scares you, it’s much less scary! I had a blast and was so happy and grateful to be there!

image-2I met so many readers this time around! It was really great to meet new dance teachers and make new connections!


image-1I got to see my friends Suzanne and Jill from DanceStudioOwner.com. They inspire me every year to continue sharing my love of dance through new ideas and projects!

photo-24I took some of my students to help me demonstrate. I was so proud of them! I think they knew this was special for me, and they felt so very special too.

IMG_5023They were so excited that their guest badges were pink! :)



IMG_4705I did a session on using props through the seasons and also shared 4-5 year old ballet ideas. :)

IMG_3246I can’t believe I had the opportunity to do this again! We have the best job in the world, don’t we? :)

Next year the Dance Teacher Summit is moving to Long Beach, California! Maybe I will see you there? xo

Community Brainstorm – Managing Class Energy!

The Community Brainstorm Project is exploring the idea of bringing together dance teachers in this community and sharing a snapshot of thoughts on a specific topic. My hope is that we learn new & useful ideas, it sparks new conversations, or perhaps pushes us to investigate a topic that we have never thought about in our own teaching. I’m really excited about hearing from every single one of you. After all, the best way to learn is from each other! – Maria

IMG_4021From Eleanna Fragkiadaki:

Finding the “inspiration” in order to achieve your main learning outcomes for each toddler’s class is always an issue; especially when you know that they get easily bored or impatient (which is a sign of tiredness!) According to the subject I’ve chosen for my class, I play a role. I’ve seen that toddlers find it more interesting than just having their ballet teacher asking them to plié or do a classical walk.

For example, if I want to work on posture, placement of hands (port de bras) and classical walks I make a story for the pink princess which meets her friends at the castle in order to organize a party! I am the pink princess wearing my “pink tiara” and my “pink skirt” conducting the classJ; that by itself keeps the energy high within the class!

Furthermore, according to the subject, I use a lot of props such as fabrics, wands, finger puppets, colored pictures, crowns, scarfs, flowers, shapes etc. Toddlers are excited in using props while they are dancing!

Also, apart from classical music, I use different kind of music for a ballet class. There are a lot of music stores and resources online that you can get inspired from.

Last but not least, I believe that the whole class should never be with sited exercises for a prolonged period of time since this is going to drop the class energy. If you want your toddlers to keep on coming excited for your class this is not advisable.


From Sheena Jeffers: 

Energy is an interesting factor within every class. Some days, the energy is lovely and it makes you smile simply walking into the room. Other days, the students are cranky, tired, fighting muscle fatigue (for teenagers), or perhaps they missed their nap time (for young dancers). As the teacher, it is our job to identify what is happening with the energy for that particular class.

Some signs of low energy for young dancers (age 3-5) would be whining, scrunched up faces, rubbing eyes, sitting down, instigating fights with friends, or the famous, “I don’t want to do that.” For teenagers, signs are off-topic discussions, noticing it takes them longer to respond to requests of “let’s stand up,” and also they may ask questions in order to take up time.

There are two ways to respond to energy: 1) If energy is low, face it with a lot of happy, high-paced energy and demanding material or 2) respect the low energy, and tailor the class to be less demanding.

For option one (facing low energy with high energy), if I feel the energy in my classes are low, I immediately think of the physical body: we need to get their blood pumping to wake up their bodies and minds. So I will have them run, hop, jump around the room. I usually make this more difficult as the age increases, for example for middle schoolers, I will have them run for 4 counts, and saute in first position for 4 counts, then repeat. I want to get blood flowing through their bodies so that they feel more awake, and cardio serves as a jolt to their systems. I will give them coordination exercises to force their brains to focus on the material instead of being distracted. For young dancers, this could be sitting in a circle and creating different rhythms and having them repeat it and create their own rhythms (with counting aloud). For teenagers, this can be asking them to create different arms to perform while executing tendus en croix.

For option two (respecting the low energy), I keep in mind what my students have previously been through that day or week. For example, for older dancers, if I know they have been working hard and may be experiencing muscle fatigue, I may give them a stretch class, yoga class, floor barre or meditation class. This way, they are still learning how to be in their bodies and they are still working on technique just in a less demanding way. For young dancers, I ask myself what they have been experiencing. Has their schedule changed? Is this throwing them off? They may need a quieter, easier class to calm their little spirits instead of shocking them. This can mean playing dance games that will still keep them moving but require less concentration on memorization and allow for more free invention of movement.

Understanding your dancers’ energy is vital to running a class. You don’t want your dancers to be injured or adopt a lazy attitude. They need to understand that dance is work and there are no “days off,” only different ways to approach low-energy days. As teachers, it is important that we educate our dancers on how to assess and harness our energy as an individual and as a classmate. Keeping the energy light, positive and motivated helps everyone in the class learn better.


From Melissa Michael Shockey: 

To manage energy: Siren – scream to sound like a siren – they have to follow my lead (I lead them as if I were a band conductor), we start soft, get louder, softer, etc. I make sure they’re focusing on me by dropping the sound quickly or increasing the sound quickly.  We also have superhero “play” – I tie scarves on them (like a cape), give them a mask (we have sequin masks that cover the eyes), and a fairy wand and they dance around the room like a superhero; it’s wonderful to see their creativity and the moves they come up with!


What are you successful ideas for managing class energy? We would love to hear!

Community Brainstorm – 3 Favorite Preschool Songs

The Community Brainstorm Project is exploring the idea of bringing together dance teachers in this community and sharing a snapshot of thoughts on a specific topic. My hope is that we learn new & useful ideas, it sparks new conversations, or perhaps pushes us to investigate a topic that we have never thought about in our own teaching. I’m really excited about hearing from every single one of you. After all, the best way to learn is from each other! – Maria


From Susan Siegel: 

Animal Theme Ideas:
Ballet/Creative Dance Ages 3-4

1) “Little Mousies” by Al Gilbert

Children start up stage. Explain that they are mice hiding in the wall and they are very hungry. There is a mean cat guarding the cheese. Can they slowly and quietly sneak past the cat?

Combination: Prance slowly down stage, pretend to pick up the cheese and nibble on it, bouree turn and curtsey because they are so happy. THEN, the cats wakes up so they need to scurry (fast) back to their hole in the wall and sit down.

The students love this combination and we get to work on a variety of things. Steps worked on:  prancing, bouree turns and curtsies. Lesson helps work on the concept of slow and fast, and moving together as a group. 

2) “Chasse Chipmunk”  A Fantasy Garden Ballet Class

Explain to the students that they are chipmunks hiding in the grass and that you the teacher are the farmer that is looking for them. (Teacher should stand with hand over eyes “looking for the chipmunks” when the students squat down.)

Combination: starting stage left all dancers squat down. All together: chasse to stage right 8 counts squat down for 6 counts then jump up and clap on count 7. Repeat to stage left. Have the children crawl around 8 counts then go back to stage left and clap 1-2-3. Repeat entire combination ending with curtsies.

Another class favorite! Steps worked on: chasses, how to squat and curtsies. Lesson helps work on listening and counting with music, working side to side as a group and following directions.

3) “Going to the Zoo” A-Z Songs, Stories & Nursery Rhymes

Holding hands standing in the circle, bounce and sing “Daddy’s taking us to the zoo tomorrow, zoo tomorrow, zoo tomorrow, Daddy’s taking us to the zoo tomorrow, we can stay all day” gallop to the right still holding hands. Stop and act like an elephant. Then gallop to the left. Act like a monkey, then gallop to the right. Act like a bear, then gallop to the left. Act like a seal, gallop to the right. Getting sleepy, lay down and go to sleep, NO Snoring!haha! Jump up holding hands while you bounce singing “Mommy taking us… then gallop to the left.

Fun song to do near the end of class. Steps worked on: Gallop right and left. Lesson helps with making and moving in circles, acting out animal movements and changing tempos.


From Rebekah Chappell

As a Creative Movement Teacher, I often struggle with how to develop music sensitivity in my classroom. There are many different philosophies amongst my colleagues and I about the use of music in early childhood dance classes.   I have developed three activities that I use regularly in class to place an emphasis on musicality.  I try to incorporate at least one of these activities in every class.

Adagio and Allegro:

Any adagio or allegro song selection would work.  I have found that ballet class CDs offers a variety of choices and I especially like “Positio: Music for Beginning Ballet” by Tatyana Featherman. I use these terms for every age group, and students aged four and above are able to remember and use the terms themselves in class.  I believe that contrast throughout class is so important to keep young children engaged, and by alternating music that is adagio and allegro, I am able to encourage students to move in a variety of ways.  I introduce the terms towards the beginning of the school year, and we discuss different types of movement that are naturally slow and fast.   We then put our words into action, and enjoy a free dance together.  As the semester progresses, I will ask if a song is allegro or adagio, or if the students would prefer to dance to a song that is allegro or adagio.  This keeps the terminology fresh, and draws attention to the music we are dancing to.  The next layer is trying movements that naturally lend themselves to allegro as an adagio and vice versa.  “How can you shake your head slowly?”  “How can you jump in slow motion?”  Students enjoy the challenge and it naturally lends itself to a conversation about energy and dynamics.

8 counts:

You can use any piece of music that has a clear beat.  My students and I love “Carribean Leaps” in “Music for Creative Dance” by Eric Chappelle.  All of his CDs provide lovely contrast and have variety of themes to explore in class.  This activity will work for any age group.  The younger the children, the less options I make available, and the more specific I am with my counting and cuing. Coming back to this idea of contrast, we alternate moving different ways every 8 counts.  This emphasizes the beat of music, and finding the beginning of measures.  I will count the music with the children, sometimes just saying the “7, 8, 1” This is an excellent locomotor exercise, and I often alternate 8 counts of traveling with 8 counts of freezing in a shape.  Other options could include 8 counts of locomotor, 8 counts of nonlocomotor, 8 counts dancing solo, 8 counts dancing with a friend, the options are limitless.  Students in preschool and kindergarten often learn about ABA patterns in school.  I will introduce that concept as well, and we will often vote on what movements should be A and what should be B.  I try to allow students the opportunity to choose the movement we are doing in class as often as possible.

What does the music sound like?

Any piece of music will work!  I believe in the importance of introducing famous composers and pieces of music to my students.  I love “25 Classical Dance Favorites” because it includes such a variety of important pieces. This activity works best for students ages four and up.  I will start by introducing the composer and/or the ballet.  I keep a dry erase board handy to write those names down so that the students can see the letters.  We sometimes spell the word out with our bodies.  I find that this helps the students remember the context of the music.   We then listen to the music for a few seconds.  The age of the student and their current attention span determines how long we listen for.   Afterwards, students get a chance to share what they heard.  This can include information about the speed of the music, how it made them feel, how they imagine dancing to the music, the musical instruments, and the quality of the music.  I will often go first to provide an example.  We then explore different ways of dancing to the music using the information the students provided.


From Deanna Peters

1) ALL AROUND THE KITCHEN recorded by Little Miss Ann.
This arrangement of an old favorite is perfect for the classroom. I use this song at the beginning of the year to introduce and practice being on a spot and off of a spot. For the verse, the students are on the their spots and do the actions that the verse suggests. On the chorus, they step the beat around their spots (usually making their best chicken imitations.) Later on, I used it in a circle formation—children stand in a circle and do motions on the verse; then walk in a circle stepping the beat and being chickens.

2) RHYTHM IN THE SCARVES recorded Johnette Downing
This is a fabulous scarf piece. The jazzy music is catchy and fun. It is a great piece for listening and following directions; yet it leaves a little room for the children to improvise and put their own creativity on the movement. This song is useful when the group needs a little focus or as a transition/review to creative movement or designing choreography.

3) The absolute favorite song to sing is SLIPPERY FISH by Charlotte Diamond. We sing this fun song while making motions for each fish. The octopus is the favorite because we recline on our backs and move our arms and legs gracefully – or not- in the air!) We also make a huge deal when a fish is eaten.


What are your favorite preschool songs? We would love to hear!


photo-21A mom told me last week that she was so happy to have me as her daughters dance teacher, especially because I am pregnant. Umm, what? You are happy to have a pregnant dance teacher? She said “you are such a strong role model for my daughter for her to see you continue teaching while having a baby.” I had to think about that for a while but then started to think that she really does have a point.

My students are little and probably do not put it all together, (It’s proof when I see them and they say “is that baby still in there?” every week!) Ha! But I do think it’s great to think about identity and how it effects our students, the families we work with and our lives.

You all left such wonderful comments on this post that I go back and read them every once in a while. I know I am certainly not the first dance teacher to have a baby and I won’t be the last. Knowing that is comforting! It is also comforting that so many of you have done both. Raised babies (more than 1) and teach dance every night and put on multiple shows a year and still really love what you do. I admire you! Before I was pregnant, I was convinced I couldn’t do both, but now I am determined! Funny how things switch around like that, huh?

Even though my identity is now the “pregnant dance teacher” for a while, I am happy to know that people see that as a happy and positive idea!

Do you feel like your identity change freaked you out? Or was it a welcome change? Did people tell you that you were a role model for their littles?  I would love to hear your thoughts on change of identity!

p.s. We found out it’s a………………………. BOY!!!!