BrainDance as Observed in our Classes – Written by Caitlin Walker


Week 9 and 10 – Breath and Tactile

Looking at the concept of breath in our holiday BrainDance, I found dancers demonstrated an excellent understanding. They understood the main concept and components to a breath, as well as dynamics of breath.

Breath is an important part of dance as it is what keeps a dancer going. When dancing a lengthy performance piece, one must breath so they don’t run out of energy when performing. Breath is also an excellent way to help a dancer move more fluid and airy. By having knowledge of breath, a dancer when asked to move fluid and soft, they will find it easier and more natural to move, also improving the dancers ability to successfully performance those movements with greater confidence.

Breath is a concept to always keep in mind at dance and when you aren’t at dance. It is beneficial and is always a great way to regain focus and be in touch with your mind and body.
Personally, if I am stressed or anxious, breath is an effective way for me to regain focus and calm my body and mind. I also incorporate breath if I am frustrated or upset. I am able to calm myself so I can also talk calmly and think more clearly instead of getting angry and expressing emotions in a negative and unnecessary way.

These same concepts of stress, anxiety and frustration are all emotions one can feel in dance. Stress and anxiety of having to perform on stage in front of an audience. Frustration or being upset because you may not understand a concept or move right away. By breathing through these emotions and allowing yourself to relax and regain focus and peace, you are benefiting and allowing yourself to move forward in a positive and calm way.

When looking at the concept of tactile and exploring different movements and dynamics related, the dancers seemed to understand and successfully demonstrate their knowledge in class. When the dancers had to show light snowflakes landing on their body (light finger dabs), compared to an icy blizzard (pat and poke quickly all over body), the dancers were able to show and understand the difference not just through viable confirmation, but by performing the concept physically.

Having awareness of touch and where your body is in space is an important thing to keep in mind. If you are to do partner work or choreography that includes contact with another dancer, the ability to understand where the contact needs to be or what kind of contact needs to be performed is where tactile becomes useful. To also be aware of where other dancers are in space and where you personally are in space is important when it comes to a successful performance piece. If you are working with props in class or in a performance piece, touch allows you to successfully work with those selected props allowing you to create visuals and add to a conceptual dance piece. Without sense of touch, these pictures and concepts could not be successfully portrayed, making it harder for the audience to understand or fully get the visual(s).

Tactile is also another way to bond and become close with others. An example is being blind folded and relying on a partner to guide you through movements. Without touch and having trust between the two dancers the exercise will not be as successful as it could be and could cause injuries if there isn’t trust and focus. Incorporating partner exercises in classes is an excellent way to create that trust making partner or group contact exercises and dance movements easier and more comfortable.

Week 11 and 12 – Head-Tail and Core-Distal Pattern

Head-tail is an important concept needed in dance. In our Holiday BrainDance, the dancers caught snowflakes on their tongues. They would lift and move their heads. And would shake them all off. Without spinal movement, we would be unable to fully perform and would be limited to useful movements needed to create visually appealing dance pieces and would be unable to successfully dance exercises in class.

Awareness of your spine is important when it comes to posture and alignment. Without awareness of your body and how it is positioned, it can result in injury or unneeded stress on muscles. It can make movements more difficult to perform and could create a different line or image from the other dancers or than what was originally envisioned by the choreographer. If you do not have not enough awareness or knowledge of the head-tail concept, you wont be able to adjust or fix incorrect alignment or posture. Not knowing thing knowledge can distract dancers from instructions in class and from doing activities to their fullest.

Outside of dance, having spinal awareness can benefit you in your daily life. Having knowledge of proper posture and incorporating spinal movement into your daily life benefits not just your spine but also your brain. The movement provides nourishment through cerebral spinal fluid. Having this knowledge benefits you in the future as you age, preventing inward slumped posture. This posture can affect how one moves and be restricting of certain movements and exercises that one can perform.

Core-Distal is also another crucial concept to keep in mind as well when dancing. In our Holiday BrainDance, the students pretended to slide down a hill on a sled. Curling in to go fast and pushing/reaching out to steer and slow down. Without having awareness, strength and control of your core, moving can be very difficult. Having a strong core means more opportunity for the dancer. It gives a larger range of things the dancer can learn and do without hesitation. Like reaching away from the centre core. Like distal movements.

Having the strength and awareness allows the dancer to focus on other aspects of a dance class. This also allows better focus on the teacher and instructions. Having a strong core means you do not need to focus mainly on ones core, but can allow muscle memory to kick in. It gives the dancers the chance to focus on other muscles groups and exercises in class to improve and grow upon them. Like in all styles of dance, you need the basic “back bone” in order to move on to other styles. You always go back to the basics, no matter how many years of dance you have under your belt.

Balance, as well as helping to maintain proper posture and alignment are also things ones core helps to benefit. The core is a central system that is very important when moving and is something every dancer needs to keep thinking about, not just at dance but in their everyday life. Outside of the studio, having core awareness can help in situations at school or in regular life. Participating in gym classes, to playing on the playground, walking around from class to class and sitting for long periods of time. These are all great examples of ways one can use their core, outside of the studio.

Things this simple are truly so important to ones physical health. Creating a strong core for yourself does improve and benefit many different parts of the body. Taking the time and effort to improve and grow your core is beyond beneficial. Not just for dancers and other athletes, but for every person no matter what physical skill level they are at.

~ Caitlin Walker, J’Adore Dance Intern


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Introducing ADAPTADANCE™!

Adaptadance™ is an Intellidance® based dance class for children developmentally aged 1-5 with autism and other sensory processing disorders. Adaptadance™ provides children and their caregivers the opportunity to experience the joy of dance and movement together. Children love to move and figure things out, and this class will provide developmentally appropriate activities to connect with their caregivers and peers. Through movement concepts, they will continue to work on gaining balance, flexibility, and co-ordination. Animated story telling, songs and rhymes, instruments, props, and simple choreography will add fun and excitement!

Adaptadance™ is a 6-week session beginning on February 6th. Mondays 10:00am-10:45am (no class Family Day). Our instructor, Ms. Meg comes to us with a wealth of knowledge and training. She has run Marguerite Daun Dance in Winnipeg offering Intellidance® classes and adapting Intellidance® curriculum for inclusive dance education, specifically for children with Autism. With Deaf Culture and Language and Special Needs Education Assistant Certificates, Meg has worked with a variety of pre-school and school-aged children. We are excited to begin offering her Adaptadance™ program here at J’Adore Dance.

Click here for more information and to register.

You can also visit Ms. Meg’s blog by clicking here.


I grew up in a traditional competitive dance studio studying Ballet, Tap, and Jazz. I attended the Edmonton School of Ballet alongside my competitive dance studio learning in a traditional style of rote and mastery.  I loved competition (and secretly to this day I still do) and thrived in the environment that demanded practice, attention to detail and performance.  However, the day came when I was told I didn’t have the body for a ballerina.  I knew that being a professional dancer was not in my future however I was determined to keep dancing.  I continued to take private point lessons where no one would judge the size of my hips or the height of my extension.  One day I was lucky enough to stumble across Vanessa Harris.  She was teaching a weekend jazz class at the university and although I was still in high school she agreed to let me take the class.  It was the first time in my life that I experienced dancing with a group of people for the sheer joy of dancing.  No one cared what they wore, there was no trying to outdo the person beside them, there was just dance.  The women in the class were fantastic dancers and I found myself relaxing and enjoying dance in a different way for the first time.

When I began my teaching career a few years later dance was always a part of it.  As a beginning classroom teacher I studied Howard Gardner’s theory of Multiple Intelligences and worked on a committee writing curricular support materials for teachers focusing on each of the 7 Multiple Intelligences. I began to explore the way that dance and movement could be used to teach the curricular outcomes in a way that would appeal to the kinesthetic learner.  I quickly realized that through dance, many aspects of the curriculum could be taught and that dance easily became a platform to where all seven intelligences could be included in every class.


This was the beginning of my research into conceptual dance.  Teaching dance through the Dance Concepts rather than simply through a series of unrelated steps in a syllabus.  I had studied some of Anne Green Gilbert’s work in University and through continued research and practice I created a community based program called Kreative Kidz.  After joining J’Adore Dance I found that I could bridge my lessons from my community teaching with the Creative Jazz Ballet program.  As an owner I became the Artistic Director of the full year programs and continued to building and developing the Creative Jazz Ballet Program.  I travelled to the Creative Dance Centre in Seattle to spend a week studying with Anne Green Gillbert at her Summer Teacher Training Intensive.  I was completely hooked on using conceptual dance as the basis for all my dance programs (both in the schools and at J’Adore). One of my strengths as a dancer had always been creating and performing and by using conceptual dance with my students I was able to have them develop a deeper understanding of how and why they were moving and they quickly learned to take on the role of creator and performer.


The Kreative KidzTM and Urban KidzTM curriculums are based on fifteen dance concepts adapted from movement educator Rudolf Laban’s Movement Analysis which was is way of creating, describing, and understanding any kind of human movement. Each month a different concept is selected as the focus for all the dance classes. This dance concept, combined with an overarching theme, is the thread that ties the lessons together. Teaching from a concept base makes the lessons more meaningful and motivating than teaching only steps and routines. Dance without concepts is movement without meaning, without purpose. Children who learn dance through concepts aren’t using rote memory but accessing higher brain functioning through application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation, in essence they become smart dancers.

Children who learn dance steps and technique through an understanding of concepts become master communicators and masters of their own body. They can use concepts to convey various emotions, topics, themes and stories. They have a thesaurus of body language, that expands their movement repertoire.

Dance Concepts covered in Kreative Kidz TM and Urban Kidz TM

1. Place self (personal) space, general space, empty space
2. Size big (far reach), medium (mid-reach), small (near reach)
3. Level high, middle, low
4. Direction forward, backward, right, left, up, down
5. Pathway curved, straight, zigzag
6. Focus single focus, multi-focus

7. Speed fast, medium, slow
8. Rhythm pulse, pattern, grouping, breath

9. Energy sharp, smooth, shaky, swingy
10. Weight strong, light, active, passive
11. Flow free, bound

12. Parts head, neck, shoulders, arm, wrists, elbows, hands, fingers, hips,
pelvis, trunk, spine, stomach, sternum, legs, knees, feet, toes, heels, etc.
13. Relationships over, under, around, through, above, below, beside, between, near, far,
in, out, on, off, together, apart, alone, connected, in front, in back
14. Shapes curved, straight, angular, twisted, symmetrical, asymmetrical
15. Balance off balance, on balance


· Dance and learn together, creating a special time for bonding and building social skills (Interpersonal Intelligence).
· Practice fundamental movement patterns (BrainDance) that reorganize our brains, helping us to fill in any missing gaps in our sensory/motor development (Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence).
· Respond to a variety of music pieces in a joyful way, and explore musical concepts (Musical Intelligence).
· Learn an extensive movement vocabulary, and use that vocabulary in discussions and writing (Verbal Linguistic Intelligence).
· Move through space with ease and safety, explore relationships between people and objects, copy movements, and work on concepts that increase proprioception (the body’s sense of itself in space) (Visual-Spatial Intelligence).
· Learn movement patterns and sequences, solve problems through movement, create and perform movement phrases/dances to metered music and counts (Mathematical-Logical Intelligence).
· Explore opposing dance concepts (high/low, fast/slow) that expand the emotional and physical repertoire, and reflect on those feelings (Intrapersonal Intelligence).


Developed by Anne Green Gilbert, the BrainDanceTM is a series of exercises that we use in creative dance classes. It is comprised of eight fundamental movement patterns that we move through in the first year of life. Research has shown that these patterns are crucial to the wiring of our central nervous system. As babies, we did these movements on our tummies on the floor. However, cycling through these patterns sitting or standing has been found to be beneficial. This “dance” is an excellent full body and brain warm-up for children and adults in all settings. The BrainDanceTM can be done at the beginning of class; before tests, performances, and presentations; and during computer work and TV watching for brain reorganization, oxygenation, and recuperation.

The benefits for children and adults in cycling through these patterns include:

Reorganization of the neurological system: The fundamental movement patterns wire the central nervous system laying the foundation for sensory-motor development and life-long learning. Cycling through these patterns on a daily basis may correct flaws in a person’s perceptual process and reorganize the central nervous system so to develop better proprioception, balance, attention, memory, eye-tracking, behavior, sensory integration, and motor skills.

Enhanced core support, connectivity, and alignment: Becoming aware of the visceral and muscular systems that support the body leads to correct use of body structures and helps children and adults to be injury-free and move with ease and coordination. Each pattern underlies and supports the next pattern and when done in succession brings connectivity to our use of the body, reflecting an integration of body and mind.

Increased blood and oxygen flow to the respiratory system and brain: The brain consumes one-fifth of the body’s oxygen. Deep breathing is essential for a fully functioning body and brain. All movements and rhythms are based on breath.

Deeper understanding of the elements of dance technique: The fundamental movement patterns are an integral part of dance technique. Whether taking a Ballet, Modern, Jazz, or Creative Dance class, students are able to integrate and apply the patterns of the BrainDanceTM to their technical skill development. Dancers acquire and practice skills with more ease when they are aware that a particular pattern underlies the movement. Movement intent becomes clearer as dancers embody the BrainDanceTM patterns.


Here are the basic 8 sequential patterns of the BrainDanceTM

1.      Breath - take 5-6 deep breaths in and out

2.      Tactile - squeeze, tap, pat, brush, scratch all body parts

3.      Core-Distal – Reach out with toes, fingers, head, tail and then curl back to your core.

4.      Head-Tail - Move head and tail separately and together in all planes, wiggle spine.

5.     Upper-Lower - Move all parts in the Upper body, then move all parts in the Lower body

6.      Body Sides - Move all parts on the right side of the body, then move all parts on the left side of the body, do horizontal eye tracking

7.     Cross Lateral - Move across midline and connect upper and lower body  quadrants do vertical eye tracking

8.     Vestibular - Move off balance with spins, rolls, swings, dips, and tips on all levels.