Nia Teachers: Rafiki as a Partner Dance

3 Dancers

Bob Holroyd’s  Rafiki is the 2nd song in the new routine U. 

If you’re learning it or teaching it, you know that choreography begins in a Closed Stance with Rock Around the Clock and Duck Walk. Partnering can begin here. This is a stationary beginning and potentially a safe way to invite students to get comfortable with moving in relationship with another body. Instead of having to monitor their entire body, they can start by noticing how their core and upper body moves as a partner.

If they tend to bump arms, this may suggest that they create 2 clocks or one roomy clock for the next section of choreography.

Choreography the second section the base move is a Slow Clock to 2, Sink and Pivot Table Wipe to 4, Cha-Cha-Cha, SC to 10, SPTW to 8, CCC.

If you imagine standing on a clock face, you can see the numbers on the clock where your feet are going to go.

This choreography can easily become a partner dance. For this, imagine 2 students dancing on their own clocks. When they face each other (still on their respective clocks), their movements never conflict – they don’t have to cross through the same space to get to any of the numbers and ample room is possible to avoid close calls.

The 2 separate clocks can begin to overlap and eventually become one clock.

I brought this to my Friday 9 am class this morning. Not only was it fun dancing with a partner but the familiar move became something new and gave our nervous systems a nudge – your 2 and my 2. My partner and I danced in relatively close proximity – we know each other and we’re both comfortable with the knowledge of where our bodies are in space. Proximity for students can be as variable as their comfort levels allow. For strangers or for students dancing with a partner for the first time the imaginary clocks can be huge so that they can feel safe moving in relation to another body in space.

For students who are comfortable, the clock can become smaller and smaller.

For advanced movers, this partner dance can be done with eyes closed.

(Halfway through, we were joined by a third partner. She didn’t actually enter our space, she kept her clock outside of ours, at our 3/9. This choreography could certainly be done as an inclusive group by creating a large circle with everyone on their respective clocks. Another variation may be to create a partner circle in which each clock has 2 dancers rather than an individual. Visually this may appear as an outer circle and an inner circle. With that in mind, partner changes can be cued. For still more structure, the ‘inner circle’ can change partners by moving clockwise while the ‘outer circle’ moves counter clockwise. How complex would you like to make this? Do your students switch partners simultaneously or do the circles switch at different times? I’d like to suggest if you want to play with the more complex changes, you take the time to teach the process rather than bringing it in as a surprise. Advanced students may or may not pick it up more quickly.)


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