3 Ways to Freeze Dance – Without “Outs”

FREEZE! – Cranbrook Academy Sculpture Garden

Children seem to LOVE Freeze Dance…

.

…and I seem to hate being a “judge” of who is moving or not after the music stops. I’m all for games, but I prefer to play games that reinforce what we’re learning in class and ones allow everyone to participate for the entire time, rather than having some children sitting on the floor for a good portion of the game.

So, what’s an educator to do with the beloved Freeze Dance?  I say, take the good parts and dump the rest.

This post contains 3 ways to play freeze dance, without “outs”.

  • FREEZE DANCE #1 – Interesting Poses

When the music stops, dancers have 5 (or 3) seconds to shape their bodies into an interesting frozen pose—rather than the traditional version in which you freeze right where you were when the music stopped.

  • FREEZE DANCE #2 – Statue Garden

The adult is the gardener and the freeze dancers are the statues. While the music is playing and the gardener is “not paying attention,” the statues come alive and dance. When the music stops the gardener wonders, “did some of my statues move?”…and the gardener rearranges the statues that seem out of place.

  • FREEZE DANCE #3 – Concept Recall

When the music stops, dancers move as quickly as possible into the shape/pose/step the teacher asks for with a visual or oral cue.

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These versions were originally inspired by professional workshops I took at Luna Dance Institute and then adapted over many classes and much trial and error to suit my needs.

Want more detailed explanation of these games?

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  • FREEZE DANCE #1 – Interesting Poses

BASIC EXPLANATION:

When the music stops, dancers have 5 (or 3) seconds to shape their bodies into an interesting frozen pose—rather than the traditional version in which you freeze right where you were when the music stopped.

DETAILED DIRECTIONS:

  • Pose Practice…a.k.a. What is an ‘interesting pose’? –
    Before we play, I want students to feel in their bodies what some “interesting” poses might be. This way, they have some ideas fresh in mind once the music stops. For my youngest, I give prompts such as, “Let’s practice a TALL pose. Now, a SMALL pose.” I might also use BENT, STRAIGHT LINES, BIG pose, or a pose with a SILLY FACE. As the kids get older, the prompts can get more complicated. “Show me a pose that’s CURVY ON TOP & STRAIGHT ON THE BOTTOM.” Or, a pose with BOTH SIDES OF YOUR BODY MATCHING, or YOUR RIGHT AND LEFT SIDES NOT MATCHING. Other poses might include: ONE HAND TOUCHING THE FLOOR, ONLY ONE FOOT TOUCHING THE FLOOR, HEAD LOWER THAN YOUR BELLY BUTTON, JAGGED POSE. You could also call out any letter of the alphabet for freeze dancers in primary grades.
  • Guided Free Dance –
    When it’s time for music and dancing, rather than just saying, “Ok, go!,” I give students a movement. For instance, “Ok, this first freeze dance is a TURNING dance.” Or a SLIDING, JUMPING, CHASSÉ, SAUTÉ ARABESQUE, SKIPPING, LEAPING, MARCHING, BIG ARM, BIG HIPS, HEAD BOPPING, PONY-ING, KICK BALL CHANGE, RUNNING FALAP, GALLOPING, etc. dance. I might call out movement terms from the dance class (ex: chassé), or generic movement words (ex: sliding). Students, of course, may choose to add other movements in, but everyone has at least ONE idea to get them participating…plus, if I use a movement from class, I can also use this game time to evaluate how well students are mastering that step. With older students I might give 2 movement options.
  • Music Stops = Pose –
    Once my finger hits the pause button I say, “Interesting pose in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.” (Or with older kids I don’t say anything, but instead give the visual reminder of holding up one hand and counting down the fingers silently.) Next it’s time to pick one interesting pose. First I might say, “hmmm there are so many good poses here, so many interesting shapes…let’s all copy ‘Susie’s’ pose. As best you can, in your own body, try to copy ‘Susie’s’ pose. She’s wearing a yellow headband.” The “as best you can” is important because the idea is not to perfectly match the shape someone else made, but to try it out in your own body.

          In this Freeze Dance game, now, we’ve replaced getting someone “out” (i.e.- negatively pointing out and punishing a mistake) with selecting someone’s interesting pose (i.e.- positively pointing out & rewarding creativity).
  • Dancing with an ‘interesting pose’ –
    Once everyone’s in the same pose, it’s time to do something with that pose. “Can you make your interesting pose WIGGLE?” or, SHAKE, JUMP, SPIN, etc. With older children, you can add complexity by using multiple commands. “Can you make your pose, BEND, WIGGLE and TURN at the same time?” After this it’s time to start a new round by calling out a movement and then re-starting the music! The children usually put much more care and enthusiasm into their poses when the music stops because now they want the recognition and positive attention from the adult and from their peers.
  • Closing –
    I like to make a clear end to any activity. Here are some ways I end this game: At the last music stop I say, “Ok, FINAL interesting pose in 5,4,3,2,1. Now add a face if you’d like, and turn toward the ‘camera’ (I pantomime)….and click!” Or we might take a bow right where we are to end the game and thank each other for playing. I make clear that this bow is to end the game, if class is not also over, or the bow only causes more confusion. Another way to end is to have students make ten interesting poses in a row. I either clap out ten slow beats (each for a new pose), or I use a hand drum if I have one. This ending might also commence in a final bow. (Older kids like this fast-thinking, adrenaline pumping ending.)

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FREEZE! – image from free-images.org.uk

  • FREEZE DANCE #2 – Statue Garden

BASIC EXPLANATION:

The adult is the gardener and the freeze dancers are the statues. While the music is playing and the gardener is “not paying attention,” the statues come alive and dance. When the music stops the gardener wonders, “did some of my statues move?”…and the gardener rearranges the statues that seem out of place.

DETAILED DIRECTIONS:

  • Pose Practice…a.k.a. What is a ‘garden statue’? –

After I describe the premise of the game (see: BASIC EXPLANATION), I say “Ok let’s practice being a garden statue that is…READING A BOOK.” Or, POURING WATER, HOLDING A SWORD, etc. I have the freeze dancers come up with a few suggestions that we all try out. I remind them that as soon as the music stops they have to freeze again in any garden statue pose and not move or giggle while the gardener is looking.

  • Guided Free Dance –

I call out a movement or two, “This is a SLIDING (SKIPPING, JUMPING, etc. as in the last game) dance.” And then I pretend not to look (though we all know I am still keeping an eye on the game, because no, you’re still not allowed to hang on the bars or put your hands all over the mirror during a Free Dance).

  • Music Stops = Frozen Garden Statues –

As soon as the music stops I start talking like the gardener saying for instance, “hmmmm, I thought I heard something funny in my garden. Now where was it….” I walk though the classroom getting closer or farther from students to see if they’ll laugh or move. If someone giggles, I might say, “Aghhh! I thought this statue had it’s arm up like this…(I move the dancer’s arm). That’s better.” Younger kids are all giggling at this point…so I just choose a few at random to move and remind the statues to stay frozen. After moving a few children I say, “Ok back to pulling weeds.” And then in my normal voice I announce the next garden dance is a TURNING, etc. dance.

  • Closing –

Any closing mentioned in the last game works for this freeze dance too. I might add a little gardener voice saying, “Oh dear, I can’t remember where these statues go. I better take a picture.” Or, “Oh my it’s hot out here. I better get some water.” (Then we might bow and go for a water break if it’s that time in class.)

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  • FREEZE DANCE #3 – Concept Recall

BASIC EXPLANATION:

When the music stops, dancers move as quickly as possible into the shape/pose/step the teacher asks for with a visual or oral cue.

DETAILED DIRECTIONS:

  • Concept Practice –

Before dancing students, set the guidelines for what steps/concepts students will be asked to recall when the music stops. In a very young ballet class we might practice only 1st & 2nd position with arms and legs, cued by me holding up either 1 or 2 fingers. In a slightly older ballet class we might use 1st through 6th (parallel, or rest) position, again cued with fingers. A school teacher might use geometry concepts (acute angle, right or obtuse angles, parallel or perpendicular or intersecting lines), with visual cues on a sign or with oral cues. I think the possibilities here are endless, and the rewards so great, especially for kinesthetic learners.

  • Guided Free Dance –

Same as in the other Freeze Dances. I call out a movement or two (ex: STOMPING, or STOMPING/JUMPING) for that round.

  • Music Stops = How Fast Can You Follow the Cue –

As soon as I pause the music, I give the cue (ex: for 1st position)…and students see how fast they can get into that frozen pose. I don’t move on until everyone has it. I may show the “answer” in my own body if needed. In later rounds I might walk around and adjust their poses to help make sure every student has a proper form (elbows lifted, shoulders down etc.). Sometimes I might cover my eyes and count down while I give the visual cue so that all students who have the correct position by, say count 5, get that big smile smile instead of just the very first student to get there.

  • Dancing with the Concept –

Suit the cue to your needs here, but I might say….can you all make your 2nd positions sauté (jump)? Can you make your interesting lines WIGGLE? Can you move one of your parallel lines to make it intersect the other line?

  • Closing –

Use any clear ending, such as a group bow, or have students choose their favorite pose from the game as a final pose, etc.

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These 3 ways to play Freeze Dance keep the “good parts”:

  1. freedom to move around the room.
  2. freedom to feel the music your own way.
  3. freedom to be silly and release pent up energy.

And chuck the “bad parts”:

  1. no more adult in the “cop” role.
  2. no more children sitting out during the fun.
  3. much less chance for the shier kids to feel confused & left out because they “don’t know how to free dance.”


I hope you enjoy playing these games with your own children. I do!

Happy Dancing!   ~ Linda
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