Teaching and Dancing the Circle Waltz Mixer
Teaching and Dancing the Circle Waltz Mixer
If you are dancing regularly with your students then it is a short and easy step to have an evening community dance with students and parents. I recommend starting out by having a dance for, say, only the fourth graders and their parents and siblings. Have the fourth graders take a parent or some other adult for their partners and do an hour of dances the fourth graders already know. You can do the same for the other age groups, and eventually alternate age-group community dances with whole school (all ages) community dances. If you do not have experienced dance musicians in your community, it is fine to have a community dance using recorded music. What a perfect way to spread the joy of the music in your classroom into greater school community.
Someone asked me once about doing a waltz at the end of a community dance. If you have the right combination of children and adults, it can be wonderful to end a community dance with the “Circle Waltz Mixer”.
A few years ago I discovered that the Circle Waltz Mixer (sometimes called the Family Waltz Mixer), a dance I had done only with adults, is a wonderful dance for children. I adapted it a bit (replacing the waltz at the end of the sequence of the original Family Waltz Mixer with a two hand turn) and tried it successfully with 5th graders, then 4th graders and 3rd graders. Here is an adapted version (replacing the two hand turn at the end of the sequence with a slow bow) of the dance that works great with 2nd graders and can sometimes work at a community dance. While the below description is specifically how to teach the Circle Waltz Mixer at a community dance, it is also a great way to teach the dance to, say, a 2nd grade class. Instead of adult and child partners, I recommend having “gent” and “lady” partners. The boys are the “rocks” and the girls are the “twirlers”. Of course you can do the dance another time with girls being “rocks” and boys being “twirlers”, but I find that it is much easier for you and for the children to keep track of the “rock/twirler” roles if you do this as a “gent/lady” dance.
Here is how I teach a Circle Waltz Mixer in a community dance situation. The main difference between this and the version of “Circle Waltz Mixer” in “Sashay the Donut” and in the YouTube videos is #14, replacing the two hand turn with a slow bow.
Note: In the Youtube videos we are using the cut from the “Sashay the Donut” CD for the Circle Waltz Mixer: “In Continental Waltz”.
1) Have all children get adult partners, all adults get child partners (as much as possible). At a minimum, make sure all younger children are with either and adult or an older (say, 4th grade or older) child.
2) Have them all promenade in a circle. Adult/older person promenade on the inside and say “I am a rock”. Child promenade on outside and say “I am a twirler”.
3) Have them face the center so the “rock/adult” is on left and “twirler/child” is on right.
4) At this point I say “All the rocks do this” and I demonstrate putting my hands together up above my head (like you are going to dive upwards). Everyone can look around and make sure every other person is a rock.
5) Demonstrate how to twirl (I always teach this while dancing with them with a wireless headset microphone) with the dancer to your left (I am assuming you are a “rock”): both facing the center, the Rock takes the handy hand of the Twirler to the Rock’s left (Twirler’s right hand in Rock’s left hand) and gives the Twirler’s hand a light tug. The Twirler moves to their right while turning so that they end up facing the Rock. The Twirler and Rock change hands (Twirler’s left in Rock’s right) and the Twirler keeps turning and moving to their right, ending up on the Rock’s right.
6) Have everyone point to their own right and say “That is the direction the twirlers go”
7) Tell the “Rocks” to glue their feet to the floor (do not move their feet at all during the twirl).
8) Have everyone practice one twirl. If it doesn’t work perfectly, have everyone go back and practice again.
9) Add the forward and back between the twirl and practice a few twirls (Twirlers keep moving to the right past successive Rocks).
10) Demonstrate how to twirl someone into the partner-facing-partner-holding-two-hands position that you twirl into to prepare for the next figure.
11) Have everyone twirl into that position.
12) Have everyone drop hands and watch you and your partner demonstrate the “in, out, spin in, out, in, spin out” figure.
13) Have everyone practice that figure.
14) THIS IS THE KICKER: Instead of a two hand turn here, I demonstrate with my partner a verrrrrrry sllllooooow bow to partner followed by “Open like a book and face the center”. This slow-bow-open-like-a-book replaces the two hand turn (which can be disorienting and likely get some dancers on the wrong sides of their partners).
15) Have everyone practice the slow-bow-open like a book.
16) During the dance if you see a section of the circle get hopelessly confused it is OK, with the music still playing, to stop the dance, have all the “Rocks” put their hands up in the air, and then figure out where there are, say, two “Twirlers” next to each other and put one of them into the part of the circle where there are two Rocks next to each other.
I do the Circle Waltz Mixer at a family dance only if:
* the acoustics are not too bad and the dancers are doing pretty well with the other dances
* there are not too many really young children dancing
* there are enough adults and older children to make a circle of partners where all the “Rocks” are adults or older children.
* there is enough time to do the teaching and still have plenty of time for everyone to enjoy the dance.
At its best, you will reach a point where you are not calling, and everyone is dancing to the music. Voila! you are in dance heaven.
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It is a wonderful combination of 3/4 meter and movement on the waltz form. How elegant and fun the whole idea was!
We are doing a unit on dance this month at school. Serendipitous timing and a beautiful dance for triple meter that will be easy to teach. Thank you so much.
I love the gentle beauty of this dance. I love the modeling of care and respect for each other. What a moment of musical nourishment this can be for our students! I’m looking forward to trying this dance this week!
Vicky – thank you for sharing this beautiful video of your class with us! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HmuJx2k5SkY – Your friends at Teaching With Orff
This is one of my favorite dances. I even did it on parent visiting days and the parents danced with their children (2nd grade).
I absolutely LOVE this dance but I am very upset by the idea of making it gents/ladies. There are boys who LOVE doing the twirling. and there are girls who do not want to do it. As we know, there are plenty of people who do not feel that they fit in either gender category. Every time we split them by boys and girls, we are making them wonder why they don’t feel comfortable doing that. I know it’s harder on us as the teachers… I always run into this problem. However, I would rather have something like the “rocks” or “posts” put a lanyard around their neck or something and allow students to choose the role they like the best.
I absolutely agree with Jennifer — this is a gorgeous dance, but I never teach it (or any other dance, folkloric or otherwise) with forced gent/lady partners, for exactly the reasons Jennifer mentioned. I have purchased a couple dozen very ugly neckties from thrift store sales over the years, and keep them on a rack in my room for partnered dances; students are always eager to wear an ugly necktie, and then it’s a relatively simple matter of “ties/no ties” instead of gents/ladies. Much more equal and equitable in my mind.
Jennifer, big thanks to you for being the first to raise your voice on the topic. And Peter and Mary Alice, thank you for your gifts of beautiful choreography and beautiful process teaching — they are truly gifts that keep on giving!!