For an old-time community dance, we invite ages 6 and older to try the Talls and Smalls approach. This means that every young person needs at least one teenage or adult partner. Together we will build an intergenerational community through music and movement. While the “talls” provide structure and stability, the “smalls” bring their energy and enthusiasm. It can be a winning combination, if everyone supports the following guidelines:
1. Think gender-free. For this type of dance, we want to free everyone from any fixed notion of gender roles. We assist you in this effort by giving you a new role to think about: tall or small.
2. Give the dance leader your full attention. We will facilitate using brief explanations, visual demonstrations, and positive feedback. The best way to help others is by modeling good listening skills and following directions. Others will see the pattern and imitate your behavior.
3. Support your own weight. This is not the time to lift children off the floor and swing them around like a merry-go-round, as much fun as that can be. We want everyone to feel safe. Further, we want to empower people by giving them control and making them responsible for their own movements.
4. Learn at your own pace. Use your thinking cap or just go with the flow. This is a non-competitive, cooperative activity. Everyone’s participation is as important as everyone else’s. The most important thing is to participate fully and allow your skills time to develop.
5. Work together toward a common goal. The goal is to develop a shared sense of time, space, and spirit. We strive to become one with the music and with each other. Achieving this goal is the ultimate reward.
With attention to safety, trust, and mutual respect, the Talls and Smalls approach can provide a sense of security and belonging. Young people develop physical and emotional confidence while caretakers can relax and have fun with the younger generation. Our goal is for everyone to feel empowered and to go home with stronger bonds, feelings of closeness, and newly opened lines of communication.
-Susan English and Bill Alkire
You can read our full article Talls and Smalls as it appeared in the Orff Echo (Summer, 2005).