One request I frequently receive from teachers is about music for movement integration suggestions. I totally understand. Even if you are a music lover, you may not feel that the music in your personal library fits your teaching purposes. I rarely use music I originally bought for personal use in my dance work with students. At one point I had asked my elementary students to give me music suggestions to use when they earned a free dance. Unfortunately I found most of the songs were inappropriate; either the topic of the music was not suitable for my students or the song contained language not suitable for schools. Fear not! I have some some pointers to consider and suggestions to help get you started collecting music for integrated teaching. Happy Collecting!
Things to Consider
Meter: In my General movement integration playlist on my iPod, most of the music is in duple meter. Much of popular western music is written in duple meter. If you can count 1-2-3-4 throughout the song, it’s duple meter.
Steady beat: I also stick with music that has a clear steady beat throughout the song so students can hear it and count it. If you can clap along to that pulse you hear, the song has a good steady beat. Many choreographers and teachers create phrases that are 8 beats long and teach sections of choreography in 8 beat segments. If you are a fan of dance movies or have taken dance class yourself, you may hear the teacher “counting the dancers in” saying, “5-6-7-8.” That ties together the steady beat and the duple meter aspect.
Tempo: I try to choose music that is moderate in tempo – not too fast, not too slow. It is difficult for young or inexperienced dancers to hold or extend movement integration to very slow music and we don’t want to whip them into a frenzy with hyper-accelerated music! A tempo that is too fast will also make it difficult for children to create and articulate movements.
Instrumental: For the most part, unless it’s just moving for fun like a freeze dance, I use instrumental music. Words can distract from the movement, especially if it’s a song the students know well. Music that is instructive and guides the movers like Greg and Steve who create movement integration music for young children has it’s place and can be used very effectively in the classroom but would not be suitable for movement integration and exploration.
Length of recording: Songs that last for 3 minutes are more are preferable as they allow for lots of exploration of an element or skill without running out of music.
Style Variety: The more variety you have in your playlist, the more likely you are to have what you need for your instructional purposes. It’s great to have a playlist at the ready that can accommodate different learning needs.
Artists/Albums to Try
Lindsey Stirling – Lindsey Stirling
Features violin music mixed with electronics for very modern and danceable music. The violinist is also a dancer and singer so that informs her compositions. “Transcendence” is a favorite selection of mine.
Peter Jones – Three Characters
Features accordion with a very cool and varied twist. “Character 3” makes me think of Paris – so fun!
Bobby Morganstein Productions – The Complete Multicultural Party, Vol. 18
Great if you want a variety of traditional folk music at hand. “Rhythms of the Hightlife” is a West African favorite of mine.
Putumayo Presents – The Best of World Music, Vol. 2 Instrumental
Such a great and varied collection of instrumental music, I have used them all so many times but my favorite is “I Already Have a Husband” – fast and fun!
Putumayo Presents – Islands
Although many songs on this album do have vocals I have two favorites I use VERY often: “Olinda Road” – slow instrumental I never tire of hearing; “Danca Ma Mi Criola” – not an instrumental but my favorite warm-up music. It helps that I don’t speak the language so the vocals meld into the instrumentation for me.
Cirque Du Soleil – Solarium/Delirium
This album has a multicultural flavor with very modern electronic sounds as well. “Gamel” is a favorite I’ve used really often especially for space related movement integration.
Mickey Hart – Planet Drum
This also has an multicultural vibe featuring hand drums, favorites are “The Hunt” and “Evening Samba”.
Nova Menco – Fortune Teller
I’ll call this fusion flamenco. I can’t help but move when I hear it!
U137 – Dreamer on the Run
These songs have a cinematic, meditative quality. You could have it on in the background but when you actually listen each song has its own flavor and can elicit some really expressive movement.
Various Artists – Unforgettable Instrumental Hits
This collection features 1940s and 50s hits from Big Band Orchestras. I’m a sucker for Big Band music and some of these songs are classics and so much fun. I created a dance lesson on time using “The Syncopated Clock” and “Humoresque” makes for a great skipping Little Red Riding Hood.
Deirdre is a teaching artist and AI coach in the San Diego public schools dedicated to helping classroom teachers make arts an integral part of their teaching. Deirdre has an MEd in Arts Integration and over twenty years of classroom and performing arts teaching experience. Email Deirdre.