History of Dance: Part III

By |2018-08-16T07:13:40-07:00June 1st, 2015|

Teaching The History Of Dance Series

Teaching history and theory of dance within our dance classes is so important.  However, with the multitude of things we need to complete, how do we fit it in and how do we determine what is most important to teach?  In this three part series dubbed History Of Dance, I will be sharing full lesson plans with interactive assessments for the history of Ballet, Jazz, and Modern that can be used immediately.  These plans take roughly a week to complete so the students get an opportunity to learn about the history without taking too much time from the practicum of the studio environment.  We have explored how to support traditional history class through the study of Ballet and Jazz, this month we will take a brief look at the history of Modern.

Part III: History of Modern

Lesson Plan


9-12 (but can be simplified for younger students)


A Brief History of Modern

Anchor Standard 11:

Relate artistic ideas and works with societal, cultural, and historical context to deepen understanding

Established Goals:

a. Analyze and discuss dances from selected genres or styles and/or historical time periods, and formulate reasons for the similarities and differences between them in relation to the ideas and perspectives of the peoples from which the dances originate.

Enduring Understanding: Dance literacy includes deep knowledge and perspectives about societal, cultural, historical, and community contexts.

Essential Question: How does knowing about societal, cultural historical and community experiences expand dance literacy?

Objectives: Students will

  • Complete a 4-Read of a brief history of Modern
  • View multiple pieces from the history of Modern
  • Research a specific choreographer of the Modern genre
  • Identify a specific piece composed by the selected choreographer
  • Recreate a Modern piece
  • Teach a section of the piece to the class
  • Present information on the selected choreographer
  • Demonstrate the connections between and influences of Modern choreographers

Learning Activities

  1. Complete a 4-Read strategy on the following article by Ballet Austin’s Michelle Thompson and Frank Shott compiled and edited by PeiSan Brown, Community Education Director, Ballet Austin History of Modern Dance .  This is a very brief article on the history of Modern, if time allows you can add additional articles for a more comprehensive look at Modern.
  2. Separate students into groups of 2-3 and have them complete the following tasks:
    1. Select one choreographer discussed in the article.
    2. Complete a more comprehensive search of the history and background of the choreographer.
    3. Identify the various pieces composed by the selected choreographer.
    4. Select one piece to study.
    5. Compose an instagram post for the choreographer paying special attention to the connections between the generations.
    6. Include personal background, dance background, and dance accomplishments of the choreographer.
    7. Learn 1-2 minutes of the selected choreography, and choose 4 counts of 8 to be taught to the class.
  3.  Have students present by first discussing the background of the choreographer, both their personal life and dance life.  Next, perform the section of movement.  Finally, teach 4 counts of 8 to the class.
  4. As students are watching, they should be completing two tasks:
    1. Utilizing ARTISTIC critique to evaluate the recreations.  Since it is not a full recreation, nor an original piece, focus on A-R-T of the critique.
    2. Second, have them write down further questions for research on an index card.  At the culmination of the presentation, have the presenters collect the cards and respond to them.  Have them return the cards with answers, after you have evaluated the question and answer.

History of Dance, Education ClosetHistory of Modern Rubric, History of Dance, Education ClosetResources

4-Read Strategy
History of Modern
Instagram Performance Task
Modern Rubric
History of Dance Part I: Ballet
History of Dance Part II: Jazz

This is the final of a three-part series on introducing history lessons of western genres into your studio classes.  This can be extended or reduced based on time constraints.

Piquès & Pirouettès

Next Week: Unpacking the Standards
National Core Arts Standard 11: Relate artistic ideas and works with societal, cultural, and historical context to deepen understanding.
Next week we will unpack the 11th and final national core arts standard.

About the Author:

Typhani Harris
Typhani Harris is a dance educator and mentor teacher who has been on the boards of both the California Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance (CAHPERD) and California Dance Education Association (CDEA). Recently, she has made a cross-country move and is now teaching in Brooklyn, New York. Having begun as a high school English teacher, it has been her mission to bring theory and research into the traditional dance class, and in 2009 she won the Music Center’s Bravo award for excellence in Arts Education. Typhani presents annually at local and national conferences and enjoys helping teachers find their Common Core voices within the dance studio.

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