Using Props in Children’s Dance Class

Don’t underestimate the power of a prop

Take one look inside our studio in River Oaks and you’ll know we love props. We have a whole wall of shelves dedicated to props to use for each month and movement concept. But it’s not so much about the prop as it is how the teacher uses them. Not all teachers use props in powerful ways. Sure, you can turn on some music and give a child a scarf to free dance and it can be fun, but an experienced dance teacher knows that is just the beginning. That same scarf can be used in 20 different ways. It can float around the room like a kite, be laid out flat for a picnic at the beach, it can be a hiding place, a puddle to jump over, butterfly wings to fly, it can transform us into Red Riding Hood, it can be folded, scrunched, tossed and caught . . . the list goes on.

Using props with purpose

At River Oaks Dance, all of those imaginative scenarios have a purpose. A kite explores concepts of high and low, weight transfer, eye tracking and a smooth vs. sharp quality of movement. A picnic explores concepts of emotion around a story prompt and allows the children to act out a story using their own expression. We have maracas, castanets, wands baskets, leaves, feathers, ribbons, hoops, oh my! They are colorful and fun and children love dancing with them, but the best instructors and dance schools use props with a purpose.

Dancing with a prop in a show can add a whole new level of difficulty. Not only do children have to think about their movement and music, they have to think about what is happening with the item in their hand. In our last recital several characters had props – the bunnies had carrots, the cats had ribbon sticks, the hip-hop dancers had giant tea party sweets, and the Daisys held flowers. Rehearsing with a prop takes a high level of impulse control, responsibility and awareness for young dancers. They have to know in which hand it belongs, when to change hands, when it can be seen and when it should be hidden. The older girls are also responsible for setting their props backstage before the curtain rises. We teach dancers to respect props from a young age and they know only the best and the brightest dancers get the responsibility of using a prop on the stage!

Children love props

Children love dancing with props. Not only are props fun, they are powerful tools for the instructor when used in the right way. The prop becomes an extension of a child’s body and enhances their engagement, imagination and understanding. At River Oaks Dance, we incorporate a variety of props in imaginative ways to spark creativity, support learning, and, above all, create joyful dance experiences for your children.

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