Music Moves

Perspectives & Insights from a Local Music Therapist

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Hard to believe February is almost over! This is a week of many transitions for the places I serve, shifting from our Winter Weather focus forward into Spring, though in North Dakota we take our time with this transition – I believe we’re supposed to be getting a blizzard this weekend? Who knows when Spring will *actually* arrive!

This past week I got asked to lead a dance unit at the North Dakota School for the Deaf.  I had come up with one for the School for Blind about a year ago and found it interesting how much overlap I was able to find while remembering to supplement the different sensory needs in the unique ways each of them called for.  For example…

The Cupid Shuffle is my all-time favorite dance to teach to kids.  The moves are timed perfectly to the music (there’s no odd phrasing like there is in the Electric Slide, though let me tell you that’s my new favorite sign in ASL) and the song even has places where it tells you what to do, like in the Cha Cha Slide, which is an equally fun song, but much more random (and longer than I remember, I created a chart for NDSD to use as a visual aide, we’re at 9 pages and counting…!)  So here’s how it goes, for those of you who don’t know it (and my apologies to those of you who do and are sick of it, I just can’t help myself, I’ll always have a soft spot for these lyrics!):

“To the right, to the right, to the right, to the right

To the left, to the left, to the left, to the left

Now kick, now kick, now kick, now kick

Now walk it by yourself…”

*Now, the all important question…what can you do with this? *

For Students who are Visually Impaired

This is an excellent song for working on Cardinal Directions.  Talk through the positioning of the song first: you start facing one direction, complete the movement instructions, ending with “walk it by yourself,” which means you start walking in place, then rotate 90 degrees to your left.  Pause at each turn to ask your students what direction they’re facing now – North, South, East, West? These are things that students who are visually impaired are taught to recognize early on.  For those students that aren’t as familiar with those terms though, you can have them dance within a textured mat on the floor and use orientation terms like “squaring off” with the edge of the mat to help them conceptualize a full 90 degree turn (which I encourage any of you readers to try blindfolded, it’s harder than you think!)

For Students who are Hearing Impaired

My students at NDSD also benefited from me breaking the song down before hitting “play,” but for different reasons, they couldn’t hear the song’s lyrics, so they needed to know what beat they fell on.  So, each student just stood and felt the speakers while the song played and I signed in time to the lyrics, so they learned that the last word of each instructional phrase (“right, left, kick, and walk”) and fell on the 1 and 3 of each measure.  Then, combined with watching my movements without me signing, we were able to keep in time to the music and the movement.  This was also an opportunity to talk about dance being one of the social aspects of music, and how they could connect with their peers who knew these songs – it was a valuable experience for my students to recognize they could totally participate in dances that were standard and didn’t have to worry about not hearing the lyrics, once they knew and understood the patterns.

Dual Sensory Students

I talked about students who are Deaf-Blind during my interview with Janice Lindstrom of the Music Therapy Show, which can be found here.  I have a small number of  students on my caseload at the moment who qualify for both Hearing AND Vision related services.  None of them is totally Blind and Deaf, as Helen Keller was, but each of them has the need for even more tactile response than my totally Blind or profoundly Deaf students.  For those students, I allow them to stand closer to me to hear what they can or see what they can from a tighter distance, and I allow them to physically hold portable speakers or tactile maps of our movements to follow along.  Moving within a smaller room or space can also make activities like dancing more enjoyable for a student who is Dual-Sensory impaired.  The more potential for things to touch and (safely) bump into, the better!

This week at School for the Deaf, I also got to share with our students that we got our first Loopy Stanley response in the mail this week!  As February ends, so does our deadline for outside participation, so we hope to see more from folks soon!  In the next week, Music Moves will have it’s first EVER guest post on the site while I prepare Loopy Stanley for his public debute, so I hope you’ll keep it here for what I already know is gonna be an AWESOME post from an AMAZING Music Therapist!

Until then, get your groove on this weekend! I’ll be enjoying a laid-back dinner with family before shakin’ & shimmying at at a friend (and fellow Bellydancer)’s Birthday party – who knows, maybe the Cupid Shuffle will get played there too!

Be Musical, Be Well.


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