Ballet teacher Siri Drontle sings with her class of four and five-year olds in a warm-up she uses each time they’re together. To the tune of a childhood nursery rhyme, they sing, “This is the way we breathe in and out, breathe in and out, breathe in and out!” With little chests and tummies breathing together, the students don’t need to know they are doing a well-researched form of BrainDance, is a full body and brain warm-up that emphasizes the natural mind-body connection that also triggers alertness and focus.
Drontle learned the BrainDance method from Mary Coats at St. Paul Ballet and then studied at the Creative Center for Dance in Seattle, where Brain Compatible Dance Education (BCDE) was founded. Drontle explains she tries to use all eight developmental stages in every warm-up, though with older and adult students, she may concentrate on the first four. The steps, in order, are: breath; core; spine; upper and lower body; each side; and then cross-lateral movements. The last element is vestibular, a focus on finding your balance. Each of these developmental stages are needed from birth for an infant to progress to walking. As a warm-up to movement, they spark prepare both the brain and the body for movement.
Besides the benefits to the student, Drontle says that what she sees in warm-up helps her teach to each individual. “I might see that gaps, for example, if someone is noticeably stronger on one side or another. If they don’t like the tactile part, I can cue into that to change something for them.” Drontle noticed with her own pre-schooler how the warm-ups can increase focus and make a difference in how the class goes from the very beginning. “I’ve seen a class where they were using these warm-ups every week which nicely focused a large class. Then they missed a week.” The result? “Chaos!”
Drontle has been teaching using the BrainDance method since 2018 and incorporates elements of the warm-ups before both classes and performances.