Ties for Folk Dancing
The idea I’m about to share is a FANTASTIC little trick that I learned at my Orff Schulwerk Level training from my movement instructor, Jennifer Donovan. Jennifer is a fabulous resource for movement ideas, tricks, and tips and does workshops and Orff movement training all over the country. I’m so lucky that I got to study with her and now get to call her a friend! Clearly, Jennifer is fabulous! You know, if you do Orff training you’ll get to meet and learn from equally amazing people. Not sure about Orff Level training but want to get a glimpse? Click on this link to see a list of Orff workshops in your area. Meet some folks, hear their stories, and then make your decision. I know you won’t regret it!
Jennifer shared with us that she has neckties in her room–old pre-tied neckties–which she uses all the time to help teach folk dances. These neckties help cut down on so much of the stress that’s possible when you starting thinking of the logistics of teaching folk dance. Kids can be finicky about choosing a partner, remembering their place, etc. The neckties help to take away a lot of that stress. Here are some ways that I find that the neckties help destress my classroom and help my students succeed.
Neckties – The Benefits
Partners – When you ask kids to partner off for folk dance it can either be easy and simple or it can be a total hassle. Depending on the class and their temperament, my kids will be really relaxed about choosing a partner or they can be finicky and picky. If those finicky kids get their way, choosing a partner will take so much more time than it should and someone will end up with hurt feelings. The neckties make choosing a partner much more simple. I start by having half the class come and put on a necktie. This takes only a moment since most of my neckties are pretty boring and dull. Then once half of the students have with a tie around their neck I tell the other students to pair off with someone who has a tie. “Your duet has to have one kid with a tie and one kid without a tie.” This is a little step but it makes choosing partners a little easier and definitely speeds up the process. For an extension you could have two/three ties stand together or two/three/four non-ties stand together. Mix it up and let the tie help simplify.
Know your place – I love using neckties to help define the dance. Think of a square dance setup. You need one student to be the “man” and one be the “woman” if you’re following traditional folk dance places and setups. Using ties will let you take out those gendered words and change your language. You can just say “ties on the left of the duet” or “ties move and the other partner stay put.” I try and vary this so that the tie kids don’t get ALL the fun. Putting the ties on ONE of the partners helps so much because then you can have them alternate jobs and no one in the pair ever gets confused about their part.
Getting Your Ties – Clean out the Closets!!
So, where to get all these ties? Lord knows that I didn’t pay for any of them! I asked friends, put a request for ties out on Facebook, and sent a school-wide email to my colleagues at school. I had lots of quick responses from folks in my church choir and from teachers at school who said they would happily clean our their tie collection or raid their husband’s closet to get rid of some of the old and unused ties. You could probably also find bags of ties at garage sales or thrift stores. Why not send a note home to ask parents and also include a little blurb about folk dance and how these ties will be incorporated into learning. It’s sure to peak the interest of more than one parent out there!
If you find neckties for cheap or free but your’e worried about the “thrift store smell” you could always put them in the dryer at home with a dryer sheet and set the dryer on “high” for a little bit. The heat and the dryer sheet should cook out some of the bad smell. Just a thought.
Once you have the ties you probably want to keep them in a “permanently tied” position. I’m used to tying ties but didn’t want to have kids coming up day after day saying that the knot had come undone. I don’t mind tying ties, but that would just get annoying. So for these classroom ties I would put the tie over my head, tie it, make sure it was a length that would fit over MY head, and then take it off to pull the knot as tightly as I could. This way it would stay at that length and the knot would be so tight you couldn’t really adjust it up or down. I figured that I wasn’t going for a picturesque knot for this but wanted something functional. The ties at that length hang loose on kids but who would really want a tie that kids could pull tight and choke one another? Since I used my own head as the judge (tied at that length, I could get it off) I figured that if the tie tied at that length could fit over my head it undoubtedly could fit over a kid’s head.
My ties hang on a fun little coat tree that I have but you could use 3m hooks, a pegboard, a coat rack, or just keep them in a bag or box. Ties don’t take up too much space which makes them easy to store and easy to pull out at a moment’s notice.
If you liked the folk dance movement visuals above you’ll love some of the new extra materials that are included with the songs in my new set of “Favorite Folk Songs” from the Great American Frontier. Doing the research for these folk song teacher sets has helped me out so much as I now have wonderful dances for “Old Dan Tucker” and “Old Joe Clark,” resources and pictures for “John Henry,” and great extra materials for “Home on the Range.” I learned tons of information about cowboy songs, railroads and canals, and more! Check out the songs that are included and see if this is something that could help you out! Use them as posters AND as PowerPoint presentations for when you teach the song. Get them as individual songs or grab the set to have the resources for all 10 songs! Click here to see the bundle and scroll down to see all the songs included in the set