Dance show preparation

Things have been busy at the Jaszbereny International HQ! Lots of personal projects, exciting events and lessons to teach and shows to prepare! 
In June we will have an evening of showcasing some cool stuff that the students have been working on over the last few weeks.

As usual dance is lots of fun!
We have so many choreographies either complete or works-in-progress, so now I can just say a keyword (like 'circus', or 'flower') and we can work on whichever dance I feel suits the particular energy of the group at that time. This is interspersed with some dance games and general fun warm-ups like playing 'chase'. 

After a few weeks I will select a few of the best dances to be performed at the show. 

One that I know we will do is to the song 'Coco' by Pavol Stellar. The students dance as a flower, starting as a seed that slowly grows and moves according to the sun. It goes through a journey, being blown away by the wind before coming together as one big flower. Today we worked on making a flower together as a group. The result was beautiful. First they made this - 
Whilst this was great I encouraged them to find a different way to make a flower, and they came up with the following, which I thought was absolutely perfect! They then played around with the flower being closed and opening, growing and so on. Beautiful!


Mini-skits workshop

Hi everyone!

So today is a workshop where students improvise some mini-skits.

My students today are between the ages of 11 and 18, the older ones with good English. However, English is kept simple and if they feel they express themselves better in their own language (Hungarian), then that is fine.

I only met some of these students last week for the first time and I think it's good to do some good old meaty drama and see where their skills lie.


Improvising small skits requires quick-thinking, imagination, focus and awareness.

The first warm up we will play is a 'counting to 3 pairs game'. Facing each other they take it in turns saying '1' then '2' then '3', until they can do so as quickly and smoothly as possible. Then they will change one to a clap. After practising this for a while, '2' becomes a weird sound, and finally '3' becomes an abstract movement.

Next, to encourage quick thinking students sit in a circle and go around saying a name or an animal beginning with each letter of the alphabet. E.g first person says 'Anna', second person says 'Ben', third person 'Chris'...
We'll start with names as it's easier, then move on to animals.

Then, in pairs, we do a quick (and very funny) improvisation in which they have a conversation but each person must start their sentence with the next letter from the alphabet as the person before.
Person 1 - Actually I don't want that one.
Person 2- But I just paid a lot of money for it!
Person 1- Can't you get a refund....?
Person 2 - Don't be ridiculous! Have you seen where we are! They made me sign an agreement!
Person 1 - Even though you only signed it 30 seconds ago?
Person 2 - For crying out loud! Just read the terms and conditions!

When they make a mistake they start again :)

The final warm up game is the 'Why are you late?' game.
Three people are involved. One student (A), one late student (B) and the teacher.
The teacher and late student leave the room. The audience tell the student A (who is not late) why the late student B is late - for example they broke down so had to hitch hike.
Teacher and student A improvise a scene and then the late student B enters. The teacher asks 'Why are you late?'. Student A knows why student B is late and has to act out behind the teachers back why he/she is late. This should be quick so student B can answer in realistic time... they should be acting all the time whilst trying to figure out what student A is doing... 'Ummm.. ummmm, i'm so sorry, you won't believe this but....'


1. Solo skit. Inspired by the words  'Yes' or  'No'.

Alone, students create a short piece in which they only say the words 'Yes' or 'No'. They can practise both and then decide on their favourite. For each word they should experiment with different characters - maybe three different characters/ situations for both 'yes' and 'no'.  It can be kept simple, or made a bit more elaborate with a narrative.
For example 'yes' - someone watching the lottery with their ticket and each time one of their numbers comes up they shout 'yes', until they realise they have won the jackpot and then shout 'yes!' continuously.
- someone talking on a phone to someone
- someone walking around an art gallery saying 'yes' in admiration of the paintings

This itself can be developed into an effective mini play. Once students have established their favourite example of 'yes' or 'no', all students can choreograph their pieces together so they are all on stage at the same time, occupying different parts of the stage, not aware of the people around them.

This exercise shows the power of the physical and how just one word can represent so many different ideas.

2. Group skit. Adjective scenes.

This one requires a warm up to make sure they understand the vocabulary. First of all, some adjectives are written down. My adjectives are PLAYFUL, CONFUSED, ARROGANT, ANGRY, DEPRESSED, ENERGETIC, EUPHORIC, CONFIDENT and SHY.
Standing in a circle I present someone (person A) with a word card and they act this word out and then pass it on to someone else in the circle by walking to them to take their place. Before they take the place of person B,  person B has to move to another person, but acting the same way as person A, but exaggerated. So each time someone moves to someone else in the circle and passes their acting on, it gets bigger and bigger.
When I shout 'EVERYONE', all students walk around with the specific adjective in mind. They can interact with each other if they want.

Once familiar with the words they all select a card at random and are thus assigned an adjective. I then give them a scene. Scene 1 is a yoga class. I choose one student to be the teacher (this person also has an adjective - and I don't know what it is yet). The scene starts 1 minute before the yoga class begins. Which students are already there? Do any of them turn up late (maybe the 'confused' person is late because they got lost on the way)? Do any of them cause a scene? They can talk in Hungarian, but the idea is to be REALISTIC. If I see that things are getting a bit unrealistic then I clap my hands and they revert to silence but continue acting.
Scene 2 is on an aeroplane. One or two students will be flight attendants and the rest passengers, this time with new adjectives to work with.
Scene 3 is the queue for a toilet in a night club.

3. Pair skits.

In pairs I give the students an improvisation starter. The one's from today are ' Married couple watching TV and arguing over the channels', 'Boyfriends proposes to girlfriend, but she wants to break up' and 'Student sent to principles office for bad behaviour'.

The idea is that they adapt to their characters and play around in the creation of a scene but when I clap my hands they resort to speaking in gibberish only. This highlights the physical aspects and will encourage them to focus on showing where they are, who they are and what's happening, rather than just relying on language.


Rhythm is a dancer

Here is a blog entry about rhythm and it's importance, and how a lesson plan can be created around 'rhythm' to be used in all sorts of lessons, be it dance, drama, music, general creative skills...

Rhythm is found everywhere in life, from our heartbeats, breath and footsteps, to the flight of a bird, to the winds flow, to the dripping of a tap...  

Rhythm in life is different from rhythm in music in that it is doesn't necessarily recur at common intervals - this kind of rhythm is useful in theatre. In physical theatre internal rhythms are a useful guide when devising work. Finding your own internal rhythms, or your partners, an animals/objects enables you to identify much more with rhythmic energies which are the foundation to everything. 
Meyerhold believes in 'movement phrases', each 'phrase' consisting of the initial movement, the actual movement, and the end of the movement. To Meyerhold, these do not have a set musical beat-pattern that we are used to hearing in music, because movement is not mechanical. Rhythm has to be felt not thought. In physical theatre the rhythm is constantly changing- speeding up, slowing down, reversing, long pauses, etc - it is realistic, our internal rhythms are expressed.

Rhythm in music works in cycles (as it does in life - but with more set-patterns). I wanted our exploration of rhythms to be fun and to give the students a strong grounding in these musical rhythmic patterns and the development of their ability to feel and consequently play with rhythms.

We did the following exercises and they worked so well I actually became inspired by what I saw the students doing and we were even able to create some small choreographed pieces using 'rhythm' as the foundation for telling stories. 

Rhythm games 

1. In a circle we go around person by person clapping to an even, steady rhythm. 1, 2, 3, 4. Once they can do that we can change it a bit, to 1, 2, 3/4/5, and soon.

2. I create rhythms with claps, which they then immediately copy, all together. When someone gets a rhythm wrong they sit down. Rhythms get increasingly complex / longer, and I start to incorporate foot stamps and thigh slaps and even vocal noises.

3. In a circle one student begins by going in the middle and creating a 'strange' movement accompanied by a sound. The weirder/ sillier the better. This encourages students to use their bodies and voice boxes in ways they are not used to. They repeat this rhythmically, whilst everyone in the circle does the same. After a while, the student in the centre will make eye contact with another student, and they immediately swap places, with a new rhythmical movement and sound. The idea is that there is NO PAUSE and it flows continuously, requiring high levels of concentration and awareness. 

4. In a circle we all pat our legs twice, clap our hands and then click our fingers - slap slap clap click, creating a nice, steady rhythm in unison. There are two variations of this game, either we use names or numbers. Names - everybody partakes in the slap slap clap click then one students begins by shouting their own name on the 'clap click' and then the second time they will shout someone elses name on the 'clap click'. The person who's name has been shouted is then required to immediately say their own name on the next 'clap click' of the rhythm and then next time say someone else's name, passing it around the circle.
This can also be done by assigning everyone a number from 1 - whichever. This is more tricky as if someone breaks the rhythm they are 'out', and then depending on where they were stood, people will then have new numbers so will have to think quickly. Repeat until just a couple of people left and speed increases.

5. Students are divided into two groups. They take it in turns making rhythmic sounds, for which the other group will, in unison and as instantaneously as possible, create a movement to. It's easier to start with more concrete, familiar sounds, for example a cat meowing, a car engine, the wind blowing, a yawn, a 'yippee'. The sounds - and movements - can become more abstract with time. 

Rhythm activities 

 What I noticed was that exercise number 2 worked so while, and even looked so good, that it inspired me to get them to create their own rhythms. Actually with them stamping their feet in unison it got me thinking of the choreography in Michael Jackson's music video 'They don't really care about us', in the prison canteen where the inmates are creating a very powerful rhythm by bashing their hands on the table, standing up and stamping, etc.  All together the students were encouraged to create a rhythm, using their hands, feet, voices, body parts - whatever they wanted.

The students created a nice rhythm consisting of clapping, thigh slapping and stamping. I then got them to make it into a dance, however they wanted, by adding movement. So for example, instead of just clapping in front of their chests, they could clap above their heads, they could do the first clap to the left and the second to the right, they could clap their partners hand rather than their own hand. How do they get into the thigh slap? What emotions do they convey when they are doing it? Maybe they could go down on one knee as they do it? Or lift their leg country and western style? Or do it aggressively? And with the foot stamp, this could be a jump, or with one foot, to the left, to the right, moving forwards/backwards/sideways.  How are they all positioned generally? In a line/ a circle/ a zig zag? 

This is a tremendously creative exercise and I love how something is created from nothing, very quickly. What the students made was reminiscent of children in a playground, clapping each others hands, spinning around, and 'hopscotching' forward. I'm sure they didn't do this intentionally but it is great how ideas and images arise through devising. What they created was their own little 'rhythm choreograph', but to me it could have been a piece to be included in a show about 'schools' or showing children's playful lives.

I then divided them into two groups and got them to do the same thing but with a new rhythm and this time with an emotion. One group got 'angry' and the other 'happy'. This worked nicely and really shows the importance of rhythm in emotions.

One student was playing around on the floor, between activities, and her actions inspired my next activity. She was in her own world, oblivious to the fact I was even paying attention to her, on all fours and moving in a sluggish, slow, sloppy way, but with heavy emphasis on her hands hitting the ground as she moved. I got the other students to watch her and asked what her movements made them think of. None of them really said anything because they don't speak much English, but I showed them how it made me think of someone tired, just crawling out of bed, and I did my own interpretation of her movement but adding a yawn too. 
I then asked them to create a story through rhythms starting with waking up in the morning.
This was GREAT! They were SO creative! It is important to note that these students are all 9 / 10 years old and really run away with their imaginations. Sometimes they don't do what I actually ask them to do, but what they do do is so creative that all I can do is get them to continue as I watch with amazement. 
They didn't even talk too much but just started to 'play', with one student sleeping and the others around her acting as an alarm clock. They then did bits where they divided into two groups and did different rhythms simultaneously. It was brilliant!  It made me so happy and inspired seeing how playing with claps and body parts can create whole stories, full of emotion and creative expression. :)


Fun dance games and exercises!

Hello all!

Here is a little blog entry with some examples of fun dance games and creativity exercises you are free to use!

Firstly, remember that myself (Ashlee from UK) and Clara (from Spain) are here in Hungary teaching students and so we have a language barrier. This barrier is SO MUCH LESS in dance than drama. Of course there are still concepts that need to be explained in dance as there are in drama, but usually these can be shown - if they are related to anatomy, posture, poses, moves. The only little problem I have experienced so far was in attempting to do some partner acrobatics stuff for which I realised language is important in explaining weight and balance.... this could have worked if I had my own partner of similar height/weight to demonstrate on.
However, generally, dance is a universal language and i'm realising this more and more each week.

We always start with a warm up to a fun song, and then enjoy some dance 'games'.

The games are always there to encourage the students to feel FREE and to express themselves, laugh at themselves, move HOWEVER THEY WANT TO, it doesn't matter if it's not to the rhythm of the music or if it's not a standard dance move, I just want them to move and have fun.

Here's a few examples of dance games, most of which I made up myself.

1. Statues come to life. Everyone stands like a statue, randomly scattered around the room. Music plays and I shout a number, for example ' ONE!'. This means that one person should then move, whilst the rest of the group remain as statues. This person dances around, using the 'statues' as stimuli if possible, spinning around them, sliding between their legs, and so on, until finally freezing next to a person and becoming a statue, at which point this person then comes to life immediately, doing as the person before did. Sometimes I might shout 'TWO' or 'THREE' or 'EVERYBODY'. This is good not only for dance/movement/expression but also for concentration, as it starts to get a trickier the higher the number is I call out.
Variation - depending on the music I can give them a theme or dance style to move to . Last week we did 'Summer holiday', 'jazz/swing','sad' and 'lost'.

2. Clap and change. A very simple dance game, the students dance a repetitive move, it could be a dance move we've learnt together in previous lessons, or something they feel at that moment, as long as it's repetitive. When I clap, they change the move.
Variation - Clapping twice means get into a pair and immediately create a repetitive dance move together almost instantaneously (requires focus and shared energy), clapping three times means a group of three or I can shout 'EVERYBODY' and the whole class moves in sync.

3. Who is the leader? In a circle students will mirror one person's actions, but without making it clear who exactly is leading (the idea is to concentrate on a spot in the centre of the circle and for the leader to start with large, slow movements). One person leaves the circle whilst the rest decide who is the leader, and the student must guess who is leading. When high level of concentration maintained this exercise works incredibly well.

4. Silly dances.The silliest possible music is played and all students stand at end of the room. In pairs, and moving in a synchronised fashion, they make their way to the other side of the room at which point the walk back to the end of the line whilst the next pair are moving across the space. Silly movements are encouraged, to match the silly music!

5. Eyes closed partner dance. This can be done in a circle, taking it in turns, although maybe with younger students who have shorter concentration spans it is best done in pairs. In a circle, one person (A) starts by approaching another student (B), B immediately closes their eyes and then dances with A, with A leading all the movements. B simply goes along with what movements feel right, feeling both the music and their partners lead.

Next we will always do some kind of creativity exercise. This is always my favourite part as I love how you can tell stories through dance and it's great seeing how the students' minds work. Every different theme provokes different styles of movement with different body parts, rhythms, tempos, moods, etc. They spend about 10 minutes making a one-two minute routine, in small groups.

Here are some examples of what we have done over the last few weeks.

* Make a clown dance. Inspired by the big top, students are encouraged to partake in basic acrobatics, act like animals jumping through hoops, clowns, puppets and so on.

* Make a sleep dance. Tired, lazy, slow, relaxed, sleepy movements.

* Make a spring dance. Flowers growing, trees blooming, everything comes to life in spring!

* Make a 'lost' dance. Chaos and that feeling of emptiness and frantic-ness when you've lost something/ are lost inspire the movements to this dance.

We end with 15 - 20 minutes of choreography. So far we have done jazz, swing and hip hop!


Sock Puppet Workshops!

I love puppets and started using them a lot when I worked doing 'baby drama' in England. Manipulation of puppets requires skill, practise, plenty of creativity, and offers an outlet for expression.
In my puppet workshops not only did the students get to create their sock puppets in their own unique ways, but they also gave them their own personalities, voices and ways of moving.

The first lesson was the creation of the sock puppet! A beautiful artistic mess!

Now, normally I would emphasise the techniques involved with manipulating the puppet as a second class, and then creating shows would be the third class. However, due to language barriers I felt it was difficult to 
get them to understand certain concepts, so I combined my lessons two and three into one, and with these students I emphasised 'playing' and creative expression. 

Puppet tag - We started by playing 'tag' but it was the puppets who had to tag another puppet!

Techniques - I showed the students three important tips - 1) Only move the thumb when puppet is talking. 2) Always focus on the puppet. 3) The puppets mouth does not close completely when it is talking. 

Head dance - standing in a circle we take it in turns dancing with our puppets heads only (and our own head of course). So simple dance movements involving looking at the puppet, looking away, both ourselves and the puppet looking in a certain direction, etc. 

General puppet dance - taking it in turns, and with silly music, we would get our puppets to dance and the rest of the circle would copy the movements. This is a good exercise in exploring what our puppets are capable of doing. 

Alphabet - we all said the alphabet together a couple of times with our puppets, ensuring the puppets' mouths opened for each syllable. 

Thinking about character and voices - I wrote some words of personality traits on the board (in Hungarian) and got them to think about what their puppet is like, and then how does this affect their voice?
They thought about it a bit, messing around with friends, before we did 'introduction'.

Introduction - Walking around the room the puppets would say 'hello' to each other in their own voices, saying their names and maybe a bit about who they are.

Role play - In small groups the students would create a short play (1 minute) in which the puppets introduced themselves to each other. 
Do they like each other? Are there some puppets who get on really well, or is there an obvious clash between some? What kind of stories naturally appear through the use of our puppets and their unique personalities?

After showing the other groups their role plays, we ended with a creative task of making either a music video or a television commercial. 
All groups ended up doing a music video with their puppets and we made a make shift theatre using a couple of tables and the red curtains in the room we were using!

I think this was a good lesson for getting them to create. Unfortunately I could only show them the basic techniques involved in puppetry as I cannot explain concepts in the Hungarian language. However I think they really went to town with the creation part and if they particularly enjoyed it they have their sock puppets at home to play with. :) 


Characterisation Lesson Plan!

Hello to all!

I wanted to share a lesson in 'Characterisation' that I've been using for a while now, developed by myself, for younger students / those new to acting. I used it with students between the ages of 9 and 12 and it worked perfectly.

I have a big bag of hats, scarves, glasses, bags that is essential for this lesson - which is what makes it so enjoyable, because we all know kids love dressing up!

The aim of this workshop is to encourage students to think about the various ways we can create a character - focusing in particular on walks and voices. By creating an awareness of how individuals differ vastly in the way we move and behave students will undergo various games and improvisation exercises that inspire them to walk, behave and talk in new, imaginative ways, depending on the character they have invented through the process of dressing up.

This is an hour's lesson plan with exercises mentioned at the bottom that didn't work and why (remember that myself and the student's don't speak the same language so everything must be simplified!).

1. Grandma's footsteps with hats

The children play this well-known game but with the added challenge of having to put on a hat before reaching the other side! This also 'introduces' them to the contents of the costume bag in a fun way that prevents them from all running to them and grabbing them/snatching them/fighting over them!

2. Walk and greet 

Students dress up and create a distinctive walk. They walk around the room until they are comfortable with this walk, then they decide on how they greet each other (do they say 'Hello' or 'Hi' or 'Alright?' or 'Good day!' and with what kind of voice?). When I clap my hands they swap costumes with the person nearest to them and create something new.

- I found it difficult to get the students to concentrate here and stop giggling and talking to each other as 'themselves'. Which is why the next exercise 'Cat walk' was good!

3. Cat walk

Half the students sit at one end of the room and the other half stand at the other. On the count of three they walk (with their accessories) to the other side of the room, showing off their 'walks'. This is to encourage the students to watch, and learn from, each other.

 4.  Park bench improv game

Two or three chairs are placed in the centre of the room (depending on how many students there are), all costume bits are on one side of the room, and students sit on the floor facing the chairs. The chairs act as a park bench, and this silent improvisation game is very pantomime-y and lots of fun. One student will go and dress up, then walk to the park bench as their own unique character. They sit down (unless their character doesn't want to) and wait for the next character to come. They interact with each other in silence, until the first character finds a reason to leave. I try to encourage exaggerated movements and interesting characters for this, and once they get into the swing of things it really works.

5. Doctor's waiting room

This can be a development from the park bench game. No need to change the setting (maybe add another chair or two), but suddenly all character's have an ailment and must mime opening the door to the waiting room, walk in and sit down. They can talk in this one too, and to spice things up I try to get them to heighten their ailments until they can't do so anymore (coughing until they're on the floor unable to cough anymore, for example), then bring it back down.

6. Britain/Hungary/Whichever country's Got Talent

I act as the judge and give students five minutes to think of their act for this famous talent show. The idea is that they get inspiration from the hat's they choose to wear (for example, a black bowlers hat could imply a mime act, a chef's hat could show someone who can eat food incredibly quickly). They can work individually or in pairs/ groups. They come on stage and introduce themselves as their characters and then show their skills!

I created a couple of other games that didn't really work. The first was a musical game, in which students stood in a circle passing hats / glasses / scarves around the circle, accompanied by music (similar to the game pass the parcel - only everyone is passing and receiving at once). When the music stops they must wear what they have in their hand and dance around the room when the music starts again.
I think it was a bit too fiddly passing the hats around, if one student dropped one then it would delay the whole game and everyone would be stood waiting. It took too long to put scarves etc on for such a quick-fire exercise, and they all seemed a bit too uncomfortable to dance.

I also created a game inspired by the famous Boal's Ball game. In this case, students all created  a highly exaggerated way of moving and a way in which they say hello. They move around the room focusing on themselves and then the people around them. After a while they slowly walk side by side with another student and watch each other, so that they can then swap not only hats/accesories, but also exchange walks and greetings. They do this once or twice more before finding who has their original hat/walk/greeting and comparing it to what they made.
I think this didn't work because it was too complicated to explain to students who do not share a common linguistic code. They did try, but when swapping walks/hello's they just didn't seem to get it right, so I don't think they understood the concept.


New year new (dance) lessons!

Happy 2014 to everyone and I hope you are feeling as refreshed and wonderful as we are!

Firstly, I'd like to say how brilliant the students were in their show/demonstration at the end of 2013. Myself and Clara were very impressed at how natural the students were on stage - being in front of an audience didn't seem to phase them in the slightest. We had no idea what to expect from them with regards nervousness/ stage fright, so we were so pleasantly surprised!

This year we have lots of exciting plans! I have prepared some lessons in sock puppet making and creating stories, mime workshops, juggling workshops and starting yesterday there are now lessons in dance.

I see the dance lessons as an opportunity for the students to-

 1) learn new skills, such as rhythm, co-ordination, basic dance moves
 2) develop confidence and social skills
 3) develop self-expression and communication using the medium of the body
 4) create stories through movement

With an emphasis on dance for musical theatre (as that's what I have most experience in) lessons are divided into three sections.

Warm up  - warm-ups are so important in ensuring the body is prepared for the lesson's content and to lessen the chances of injuring oneself. We spend 20 minutes doing a general warm-up, making sure all body parts are included in the exercises and stretches. The last 5 minutes will show an introduction to the lesson's specific steps.

Games -  who knew there were so many dance games you could play with children? :)  For this 20 minutes, the children have fun with dance, and get to create. They will dance solo or in pairs or groups to the rest of the class, and they will have the opportunity to lead their own routines or create their own choreographies.
Example of games are musical statues (they freeze when the music stops), who is the leader? (in a circle one person leads movements and the rest follow very closely without looking directly at the person, another student who waits outside then comes in and has to guess who is leading), and silly dances to silly music (students take it in turns either solo or with a partner to cross the room doing a silly dance, accompanied by humorous music). More creative activities include 'beginning middle end' in which a 20 second piece of music is played and they create a mini choreography to it, which tells a story with a clear beginning, middle and end. Also, 'the labyrinth' takes a piece of science fiction music and in pairs students create a short routine showing themselves moving through a labyrinth and the various obstacles they encounter - these exercises really encourage thoughtful response to music and how it makes them feel.

Choreography - we recap some moves and then make a choreography. Yesterday we did the box step, chasse, and started learning the pirouette (this will take a few weeks). We then danced to 'Step in time' from Mary Poppins using our new moves and more!

We both look forward to what 2014 brings us and will continue to make the most of working with the children of Jaszbereny!


Working towards Christmas show

Christmas holidays are approaching and we are scheduled into the theatre's programme to put on a show for all interested in what the Spanish-English duo have been teaching the youth of Jaszbereny!

Despite time restraints, we are feeling the Christmas magic, have great ideas and are confident about showing off the students' talents.  We are both devising together with the students, by finding connections between activities that work well and developing them into a small routine.
For something to work well it usually adheres to the following criteria - the students are engaged and focused - there is a definite flow of creativity energy coming from the students - progress is made throughout the duration of the activity (students respond better, understand more, feel more).

This last few weeks we have been using a combination of exercises the students already know and are familiar with, and new exercises, whilst paying particular attention to exercises that 'work'.

With one group of teenage girls we are focusing on different devises you can use to tell stories. Their English is very good so I can really do a lot with them and get a lot out of them.
Today we started by playing with still images which either did or didn't come alive when I clapped my hands. I started simple (happy/sad) but then went more abstract (power/weakness) then even more abstract (red/blue). The idea is they do not think, but immediately sculpt their bodies into an abstract image to represent the word I say. They should use their whole bodies and not just their face and arms (which shyer students are prone to doing).
We then played with frozen scenes, so they created a bullying scene, Christmas scene (family with children opening presents), market scene, pub scene, and so on, before they created their own for me (they did restaurant and bus - very well!).  When I clapped, they would bring each scene to life.

                                                Students at the pub pictured below!

We then worked with stories. I assigned one group Little Red Riding Hood, and another group were free to choose their own story and they made 60 second plays by acting the whole thing in less than one minute.
The other group chose Cinderella which had some particularly strong images in it, so I decided to use this for the next activity which was to show the story using only 5 frozen scenes. I sat with my eyes closed and got them to say 'open' when they were positioned ready for scene 1, then close as they got into their positions for scene 2, and so on. Over the next few weeks we will explore other devices such as flashforwards and backwards, genre changing (e.g making a 'real-life' version of a story) and character changing (well-known characters from other stories find themselves in a new story), ready for our end of term show!