Dalcroze-based sessions are designed to be:
- Age appropriate
- Bespoke - created by the leader who uses his/her own improvisation skills to respond to the needs of individual groups
- Challenging - increasing in difficulty as skills are learned and remembered
- Memorable and fun - creating a great sense of enjoyment and love of music and movement.
Format of sessions
Sessions take place in a room which is big enough to provide space for movement and preferably with a piano. They can be held privately in community halls, homes and arts centres, and also as a part of the weekly programme in Children’s Centres, nurseries and playgroups. The length of sessions and the make up of the group (number of children / parents and their ages) will vary according to circumstance, but ideally the children are of a similar age and groups are not too big. Regularity, routine and repetition of tasks helps to make the children feel safe and the adults affirmed.
Use of Music
Riches can be found in music for children in every culture and style. Melodies and rhythmic elements originally taken from simple folk tunes and songs for children lie at the heart of musical output in all cultures.
Singing represents a natural and immediate way to make music, offering a flexible and wide range of expressive sounds and a huge range of songs from a variety of sources. Some songs are aimed at the children’s vocal participation and consideration of simplicity of intervals and vocal range is made. Others can be sung by parents to their children, providing a richer variety of range, style and content, while the children participate through actions and movements.
The leader uses improvised music as well as a wide variety of songs and nursery rhymes from a culturally rich background, played on a variety of instruments. Recorded music, if chosen appropriately, also has a place.
The musical elements used and worked on are basic and simple - regular beat/pulse, changes in tempo,simple rhythmic patterns, melodies within an appropriate range and including the child’s first commonly used intervals and patterns, different modes, textures, dynamics, as well as silence/rests. Simple percussion instruments and props such as scarves, beanbags, balls and hoops are used, encouraging participation, as well as developing aural, visual, tactile and physical awareness. The children can learn to play the instruments by experimenting, exploring and copying, creating different tempi, dynamics and timbres.
Use of movement and body language
Sessions always involve whole body movement, not only in order to engage the child, but to help the music to be internalized and owned. Pulse and rhythm in any form are basically a physical experience. Most young children know this intuitively and will not hesitate to make full use of the opportunity to move. With babies, the range of movements is initially limited, but develops rapidly over the first three years of life. Music can motivate the child to explore and experiment with elements such as co-ordination, expression and spatial awareness. The movement in turn brings the music to life and highlights musical concepts. The combined experience is simultaneously physical, aural, visual and emotional and therefore appealing to the young child.
All activity has the extension and enhancing of listening skills at its core. Listening forms the basis of language development and both music and movement contribute towards verbal communication skills.
Session leaders establish a playful atmosphere within safe boundaries, providing a sense of security. The presence of the adult is not only practically essential, but in sessions where parents are also present, provides an opportunity for the parent and child to add new ways of communicating and interacting. The adult can be given a positive tool to re-visit a world of imagination and creativity in order to relate to the child. This supports the attachment process positively. It explores many meaningful ways to relate, often including gestures, facial expressions, eye contact and touch. Music, emotionally rich and powerful, remains the basis and framework of most activities.
Sessions often provide the child’s first social contact outside the immediate circle of family and friends. It offers an opportunity for relationships to be formed and a sense of community to be built. The bespoke and responsive nature of this activity means that integrating children with special needs is common-place.