These quick and easy folk dances can be used as transitions in the classroom or part of gym or music class. They are also a great addition to a social studies curriculum if the students are learning about Russia or Mexico. This is the time of the year to incorporate movement and get the wiggles out! The first dance, Sasha!, while not from Russia itself, has Russian words and a uniquely Eastern European melody. The other two dances come from Mexico and are perfect to celebrate holidays (La Raspa-Cinco De Mayo) or Spanish Heritage Month (La Raspa and Los Machetes). All of the dances described are modifications of the originals, so if you see a video that is a little bit different, please know that they are adapted for teaching in our current germ-conscious situation.
Students can begin this dance by standing near their desks. Teach the students how to pronounce the word Sasha and then the words for “one, two, three” which are “raz, dva, tri.” If you are worried about pronunciation, you can just go with the English version of the words.
Here is the order of steps:
Part 1: Scolding:
Shaking index fingers in the air, the dancers shout SA-sha twice, and then shout “raz, dva, tri”.
Part 2: Clapping
1) Clap your right hand in the air 3 times
2) Repeat with left hand.
3) Repeat with both hands
4) Repeat but pat both hands on your knees
5) Repeat the entire sequence once more.
Part 3: Turning
Put one of your hands up and walk around in a circle for 8 beats and then change directions and hold up the other hand and walk for 8 beats. (Normally this is done with a partner but has been modified)
Part 4: Walking
Walk around the room (solo), randomly. Greet people as you pass them. The walking music lasts 32 beats. As soon as you hear the music change, start the dance all over again. Repeat this sequence until the music ends.
The music for this is from the CD New England Dance Masters: Sashay the Donut which can be found on iTunes.
This dance is perfect for gym and/or music class as it can take up about 15-20 minutes of your lesson.
This is one of the easiest dances you can learn because there are only two parts to this dance. While normally danced with a partner, this lends itself easily to be danced solo as well. La Raspa originated in Veracruz, Mexico. The town has strong Spanish influences which are why traditional Spanish costumes are usually worn for this dance. These costumes would include white pants and shirts with a red sash for men and white lace dresses for women. This dance is designed to promote movement as well as to encourage children to carry on the traditional dances of Mexico.
Cross your hands in front of you. Hop on L and present R heel forward, leap onto R in place, present L heel forward. Do this for the first three beats of the music. Clap your hands twice after you have alternated heels three times. Repeat this four times, alternating your feet each time that you leap forward.
Hold out one of your hands and walk in a circle in place for 16 beats while waving in one direction. Change directions and hands and walk in the opposite direction doing the same exact thing. Go back to Part 1 at the end of the sequence.
Alternate parts 1 and 2 until the end of the song. This is perfect for a quick transition in class or anytime that you feel the students need a burst of energy.
This next dance is also from Mexico, specifically the Jalisco region, and tells the story of cutting down sugarcane during the harvest season. Real machetes have actually been used when dancing this dance.
This is also a fairly simple dance that can be taught quickly. Please have your students use something that clicks together like pencils or markers. You can also give them rhythm sticks. If you are worried about discipline issues with having sticks or don’t have instruments, simply have students clap their hands instead and that will also suffice.
Begin by clicking together sticks for 16 beats. You can either stay in one spot or move to the right or left. The video I provided shows the model moving right and then left, whereas I have just kept my students stationary to avoid bumping into furniture. You will do this for 2 counts of 16 beats or 32 beats total.
- Click sticks, lift right leg and click sticks under leg
- Click sticks, lift left leg and clip sticks under leg
- Click sticks, click sticks behind your back
- Click sticks three times
Each sequence of moves is 8 counts and repeats 4 times. Thus, the entire section is 32 counts.
Put your hand up, wave, and walk in a circle in a direction of your choosing for 16 counts. Switch directions and walk in the opposite direction while waving your hand for 16 counts.
Repeat the entire sequence until the song ends. This is a great dance/gym/music lesson as well as a way to introduce yet another Latin dance into your students’ lives.
The song I use when I teach is Los Machetes from the CD Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán: 12 Grandes Exitos, Vol. 2 available on iTunes.
Any of these dances can also be used to supplement any kind of folk dance or dance events that you may do as a school and can be practiced in a socially distanced manner. They are easy to teach and will get the students and staff moving in no time. I hope this helps you enliven your days!
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