Shadow Dance

Shadow Dancing

This week’s therapeutic activity originates from one of my favorite things to do: Dance. Which I know can sometimes be an activity that people shy away from, often claiming that they can’t dance, or that they’re not good enough. Well, here is one of my solutions. Even for myself, it’s sometimes embarrassing to watch my reflection in the mirror when I dance because there are some many details you are made aware of. Your shadow on the other hand doesn’t show as much detail, and for some reason I love to watch my shadow move when I dance. Thus this activity was born!

To begin, you will need something that plays fun music (choose music according to the tastes and ages of the participants), a space you can freely move around in, and a light that creates a strong shadow. The light you can use could be anything: a flashlight, a lamp, or even the sun. Play around with the light until you can get it to cast a good shadow. This might mean you need to turn off a few or all of the over head lights, but make sure you can still see well to avoid accidents! Also keep in mind that the shadow could be cast on the wall or the floor, just make sure it’s strong. I didn’t have access to a large space and good lighting when I tried this activity, so I went outside while the sun  was casting good shadows in the evening and took a few pictures for examples:

Shadow Dancing 3

After you have your space located and set up, invite participants and put on the music. Explain that they just dance (or “move” if it’s more of an appropriate term for the participants) to the music, but the focus isn’t on how their bodies look, but what kind of shadows they can create with their bodies. Demonstrate a few poses or moves to the music to help break the ice. If you need to, start small and then get big to help build the confidence of participants who are shy. Then let them dance to the music until you feel like it’s time to end the activity. This can last from just one song to a full hour or beyond, depending on how much they want to do the activity.

Shadow Dancing 2

There is one thing I’d like to mention in terms of length, and this applies not only to this activity but others that have an indefinite length. To use a phrase taught during summer camp training, “Kill it before it dies”. This basically means to stop the activity before it becomes boring. Instead, end the activity while it is still lots of fun. If the participants are asking you to continue, you know it’s still interesting to them and they will most likely be willing to do it another time. Then you can use the activity again later instead of having to continuously be coming up with and teaching new and original activities. Okay, back to the activity!

This activity has lots of great benefits. It gets participants up and moving without directly focusing on their bodies, which helps to increase their self esteem as well as positive body image. It’s also wonderful in terms of creativity because participants see that they can use their bodies to create something new and unique. The music itself is also great because when you choose positive music you are affecting the moods of the participants. Did I mention that they are up and moving? Try it out and let me know how it goes!

Shadow Dance Activity Notes

Age Group: Ages 4 and up

Materials Needed: Open space to move, a focused light source, and music

To encourage creativity
To move the body and experiment with shapes

Therapeutic value of activity:
Increase creativity
Increase self-esteem
Reinforce positive body image

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