Why is it so Hard to
Keep the Circle the Same Size?

The Dancers Circle

Choreography for recital season has begun, and teachers all over the world are beginning to plan the specific steps, formations, costumes and music. I’d like to share this tidbit from Ruth Brinkerhoff‘s curriculum books concerning an often-used, sometimes-butchered element of choreography: the Dancer’s Circle. As the students get older, it does get better, but our young ones often struggle with keeping a consistent circle shape as they dance. Is there a trick to it?

Why Is It So Hard to Keep the Circle the Same Size?

When we dance around a circle, we like to follow the dancer just ahead of us. This works very well if we are going in a straight line. But if we do this on the circle, the circle will continually get smaller and smaller as the dancers move around it. Look at Figure #1. It shows six dancers (the x’s) ready to gallop around the circle.

Figure 1
Figure #2 shows them each following the dancer in front of them. Note that they have all cut little slices off the circle. The circle has become smaller. This is the point where teachers are baffled because the circle started so lovely, and has now become overcrowded and is impeding the movements of the dancers! Look at Figure #3 to see where the circle is now!

Figure 2Figure 3

If they continue to do this, the circle gets smaller still, as in Figure #4.

Figure 4
Dancers have to be smart enough to keep this from happening. They learn to go a little to the outside, or to the right side, of the dancer just ahead of them on the circle. Look at Figure #5 to see how this works.

Figure 5

I have used dry erase markers to draw this on the mirror for my students. A short, 2-3 minute explanation of what you would like them to try will change everything! Many times, they just don’t know how to do what you are asking.

Try it! It really does make the circle stay nice and big when you travel a little to the right of the person in front of you. Dancers will take this knowledge with them into the years to come and their future teachers will thank you for it!

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Why is it so Hard to
Keep the Circle the Same Size?

3 Responses

  1. I always tell my 6 to 8-year-old dancers that there is a big hole in the center and they have to dance on the rim to not fall in . 🙂

    Karin January 28, 2016 at 7:46 PM #
    • Good one Karen, young children really love imagery. Young children are my favorite to teach been doing it now for sixty years now. I have started writing a book ‘Journey of a Dance Teacher’ do look up my web page

      Gaye Hemsley January 29, 2016 at 3:56 PM #
    • I always tell my students that the floor is a big pizza. Stay on the crust, don’t step in the sauce. This works.

      Barbi April 18, 2017 at 6:10 AM #