8. Dancing with props

Equipment: music

It is well established that dancing is one of the top activities to promote well being. Dancing around the living room with your family is almost always guaranteed to raise the spirits, the difficulty being inertia, in other words you don’t really feel like it before you start. But believe me it is well worth the effort every couple of weeks. Dancing in all its forms relives stress, is good exercise and is an A1 bonding experience for all the family.

Dancing with props is the first of several dance-based suggestions for high quality family time. In our family we tend to use out and out dance music for these sessions- band like the Go! Team, Holy F***, ideotape, Tod Terje, Killerwatts, Free Fall collective also punky bands like the Pogues, the Levellers, are favourites- showing my age here, but classical music, disco, soul, R n B, indeed any form of music with a good beat works equally well. In fact ballet music can be a great tonic to a hard days work, and encourages a different, more expressive form of dance. Recently celtic folk and ska such as Gypsy Hill, Man Ran, Heston Cobbler Club, the Drystones and more.

The plan is simple: put on one of your favourite albums, or use random shuffle to get you in the mood. Spotify is excellent resource if you know a few belters then spotify can do the rest. Everyone just joggles around to their hearts content. This may only involve a steady shuffle around the room for less enthusiastic members of the family. After a time choose a prop. This can be any object that is light, sturdy and big enough to see easily. We have an small stool actaully made of polystyrene in the shape of a crown that serves us well, but other good selections include swimming woggles, cushions and hats.

Dancing with props is basically a performance game. All members of the family dance and watch and possibly clap, whilst one migrates to the centre and dances with the prop. This can involve standing on it, wearing it, swinging it about and even jumping over it. Once the central dancer has had enough – only needs to be a minute- they hand the prop to someone else. We attempt to do about 15 minutes of this activity which has the double benefit of exercise. An alternative version involves laying out a series of about four props beforehand and then the central dancer returns the prop to the pile and tags another dancer once they are ready to stop performing.

One problem with this game we have encountered is reluctant teenager syndrome. I don’t think its a diagnosable condition but maybe we can start a trend. A simple version of this to use a beanie or soft toy and play piggy in the middle whist dancing. Swap the piggy frequently.