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Dance as a metaphor for relationships

Written by Justine Mason, CORE Education, May 2011

The metaphor of dance can be a great way to strengthen our thinking about the ways we participate in relationships with infants and toddlers.

What are some of the words you use when you describe the ways you interact with infants and toddlers to promote responsive reciprocal relationships? It might be helpful to list them.

Video: Rogers and Astaire

Take three minutes to watch the following video of Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire dancing:

Make a list of all the elements of the dance that you consider made it so successful?

Take a look at some of the words participants at recent ECE Online seminars used to describe the successful elements of the dance (below).


Take some time to reflect on:

  • the 'list of words' you use to describe the ways you interact with infants and toddlers
  • the 'list of words' that you consider made the dance so successful. 

Are there any connections between the words you have listed that made the dance so successful and the words you use to describe the ways you interact with infants and toddlers?

Poem: Dance as a metaphor for relationships - Lindburgh

The following poem by Ann Morrow Lindburgh (available as a download) was shared with me in 2010.

It illustrates so beautifully the metaphor of dance as a way to describe relationships.

A good relationship has a pattern like a dance and is built on some of the same rules.

The partners do not need to hold on tightly, because they move confidently in the same pattern, intricate but gay and swift and free, like a country dance of Mozart's. To touch heavily would be to arrest the pattern and freeze the movement, to check the endlessly changing beauty of its unfolding.

There is no place here for the possessive clutch, the clinging arm, the heavy hand; only the barest touch in passing. Now arm in arm, now face to face, now back to back - it does not matter which. Because they know they are partners moving to the same rhythm, creating a pattern together, and being invisibly nourished by it. The joy of such a pattern is not only the joy of creation or the joy of participation; it is also the joy of living in the moment.

Lightness of touch and living in the moment are intertwined. One cannot dance well unless one is completely in time with the music, not leaning back to the last step or pressing forward to the next one, but poised directly on the present step as it comes. Perfect poise on the beat is what gives good dancing its sense of ease, of timelessness, of the eternal.

By Anne Morrow Lindbergh


ECE Online - Infants and toddlers 'resource' survey

Kia ora. We want to ensure that the resources we are making available on ECE Online - Infants and toddlers are useful and relevant for teacher practice.

After you have viewed the resource, you could tell us what you think:


  • Wendy Blackmun

    Hi Justine, I really enjoyed this when you showed it to us on our PD night. I had to revisit it. It shows how in sync we need to be with infants and toddlers, how vital the development of relationships are. By using the term dance it makes you think in a different light and almost makes it easier to remind yourself of how it should be.

    Thanks for the inspiration.