Follow The Leader + Flocking

IMG_5604A few weeks ago, I tried a follow the leader game with my 5 & 6 year old students and it was the most fun. I love doing partner dances with my older students and coming up with challenging ideas that might work and get them thinking. Here’s what we did:

First I partnered them up and had them do follow the leader across the floor. Once one partner had a turn, they switched and gave the other person. We talked about movement that might work well for follow the leader. Turns, don’t work so well, but arms, legs and going down to the ground does. I tried to encourage them to do more then one movement across the floor to challenge their partner and so we don’t get board.

After we did it in partners, I asked who was feeling brave enough to try to be the leader of the whole class? Of course, many of them volunteered, so I gave many of them a turn. I tried to set them up in a V formation so they could all see what the leader was doing. It turned into flocking, right away. It was the coolest!

They love to do turns, but I tried to give them other ideas to think about. I think this is an exercise you can bring back all through out the year, especially if you have a particular class that needs to focus, and fast! :) I did the lesson 2 weeks in a row, so it gave it a chance to “sink in.”

Have you ever tried follow the leader and/or flocking? I am surprised I have never tried this before! I’m excited to now have it a part of my tool box! :)


Blowing Leaves

IMG_6775Fall is my favorite. I thought perhaps I had exhausted all of my options for dancing about leaves with my littles, but it turns out, I haven’t! We have done a leaves poem, dancing with leaves, and a leaves song but this week we explored blowing like leaves and burying me in the leaves! Here’s what we did…

With my 4 year olds I asked all of them to stand on one side of the room. I gave them different ideas of how the wind would blow them as a leaf across the room.

Really Strong Wind
Quiet Wind
Wet Leaves
Wind Tunnel

After we practiced as a class, I asked the dancers if they wanted show their leaf blowing as a solo. I put on some instrumental music and they shared theirs one at a time. It was so interesting to watch! I’m excited to do it again next week because I think they will be even more into it!

Have you ever done a blowing leaf dance? I would love to hear!

p.s. the photo is of me with my boys class. They had the idea to bury me in the leaves we were dancing with. Brilliant idea, right? :)

Traveling Improvisation

IMG_4443Last week I decided I would give my 5, 6, and 7 year olds a major challenge. We have done connecting body parts before and they have loved it, but this time I thought it would be fun to have them travel through the room connected and see what kind of movement they could generate from it. Here’s what we did:

I told them that we were going to travel across the room with a partner keeping our hands connected. It could be one or two hands, but at least one hand had to be connected the entire time.

Then I demonstrated it. Asking questions, “can one person go down to the floor?” “can you use levels?” “where can you travel to?” “what pathway will you take?”

After we explored our hands connected, we tried different body parts. Like, the forearm, feet, and hips! It was a really awesome way to get them thinking, and finding new ways to travel connected!

Have you ever tried asking your students to stay connected and create movement while they travel? What a puzzle of creative thinking and problem solving! Yes! :)

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 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