A Practically Perfect Dance Class Inspired By Mary Poppins

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If you’ve seen the new Mary Poppins Returns movie, you know just how amazing it is! We were so inspired by all things Mary Poppins that we may have already seen the movie twice. OK, and we have an outing planned this week with all of our performing company dancers to see it yet again (hello, checking off an item from our #confettiFUN19in2019 list)! We can’t get enough!


Introducing Mary Poppins

A great place to start with your dancers in this themed class is to ask them if they’ve seen Mary Poppins, even if it’s the original version. If so, what was their favorite part? Ask them what they notice about Mary? Does she stand up tall with her chin held high? What position are her feet in when she takes flight? Are they pointed or flexed? These are all characteristics they can utilize and adapt to their dancing. They just need to be reminded of that! A simple analogy or visual/physical example as a role model makes a huge difference in their approach.

The Music

This is the easiest part…Hello, soundtracks! You’ll see in our activities below that we’ve chosen two of our favorites from the new movie, but there are so many amazing ones to choose from! We don’t even need to create a playlist for you, just download the entire amazing soundtrack and press play!

NOWHERE TO GO, but UP!

In the same circle, they can all chassé around the circle lifting their balloon high for 8 counts, then repeat to the other direction.  Then again with sauté arabesque. If you prefer, they can do all of this spread out around the room or across the floor, and all of this can also be done holding an umbrella or a kite on a stick.  The point is to make them feel like Mary Poppins, so with each step they do, it’s important to remind them to stand up tall and lift their chins and that “Everything is possible, even the impossible!”

If you want to go all out for this first activity (and we suggest you do!), brightly colored helium balloons will add a super fun touch! The last scene of the movie with the balloons was just beautiful, so that was our inspiration for this! Make a giant circle with your dancers and have them stand in first position. Remind them again that this is how Mary Poppins stands! Holding their balloons in one hand and placing their other hand on their hip, instruct them to show you a plié, then push off the floor in a soaring sauté, lifting their balloon high in the air. Make sure they are stretching their legs and feet when they jump and always land back in first position with another nice plié.  

It would add even more fun if you (the teacher) could physically lift them each time they do a sauté in first position so they really feel like they are flying! Or better yet, use a mini-trampoline for them to jump on and off.  Just remember, safety first and make sure to hold on to them tightly!

TRIP A LITTLE LIGHT FANTASTIC!

This dance class activity was inspired by “Trip a Little Light Fantastic” which was the big dance number with Lin Manuel-Miranda (Jack) alongside a group of lamplighters called Leeries. In the song, Jack encourages the children to dance away their fears! It was definitely one of the most exciting parts of the film. The staging, choreography, visuals, direction changes…it was just incredible! Our activity for your little ones is more of a follow-along, so specific choreography isn’t necessary. This is a great exercise to work on staying focused, direction changing and reaction time. You will need one flashlight for this one. And the bigger it can be, the better! If you’re able to, we suggest turning the lights out in your studio for this one so the flashlight is most effective.

Have your dancers stand in somewhat of a clump or cluster in the center of the room. Explain to them that they will be playing follow the leader and will have to pay close attention to imitate or repeat everything you are doing and follow the light in any direction it goes. You can pre-plan what you want to do, or you can just make it up as you go along. The steps aren’t necessarily what’s important with this activity.  It’s more about keeping them focused on what you are doing and getting them to follow along.

Start with something simple like pointing the flashlight straight to the mirror and have them march straight ahead. Once they stop, give them a step to do. From there, quickly change your light direction to a different spot in the room and see how quickly they can go that direction. You can give them a specific traveling step if you want or just let them get there and then give them a step to demonstrate. This can continue in multiple directions for as long as you want.

You can also have them imitate the movement of the light. For example, if you stand in one spot but rotate the light in a circle, they will need to spin in a circle. If you move the light quick from side to side or back and forth, they would shake their hips, do quick head isolations or twist from side to side. Take the light to the ceiling and they will reach up. Point light down and they will touch the ground. For more one on one movements, you can stand in front of a dancer and point the light to the ground in front of them, much like a spotlight on a stage and they have to step on the light before you move it. This can continue and get faster and faster until they get silly. They will have so much FUN!

If you have access to small flashlights so each dancer can use one, that would open up even more fun possibilities. Really, this whole concept has so many possibilities! Lights can really be magical and mesmerizing, especially for the little ones, so try to come up with different ways to use light in your classes every now and then!


We hope that these fun activities inspire you to make dance fun with a Mary Poppins-themed dance class! Even if your dancers haven’t yet seen the movie, they will be sure to love the music and the fun elements inspired by this amazing movie!

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