History of Dance: Part II

3 Min Read  •  Dance

The History of Dance

Teaching history of dance, 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, I will be sharing full lesson plans with interactive assessments for the history of dance like 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 of dance without taking too much time from the practicum of the studio environment.  Last month we explored how to support traditional history of dance class through the study of Ballet, this month we will take a look at Jazz.

Part II: History of Dance Jazz

Lesson Plan

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

Title: A Brief History of Jazz

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 Jazz
  • View multiple pieces from the history of Jazz
  • Research a specific choreographer of the Jazz genre
  • Identify a specific piece composed by the selected choreographer
  • Recreate a Jazz piece
  • Teach a section of the piece to the class

Learning Activities

  1. Complete a 4-Read strategy on the following article by Jacqueline Nalett, (adapted from Jump Into Jazz, Fifth Edition, 2005, by Minda Goodman Kraines and Esther Pryor, published by McGraw Hill) History of Jazz Dance  This is a very brief article on the history of Jazz, if time allows you can add additional articles for a more comprehensive look at Jazz.
  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. Build a presentation utilizing a medium of your choice (poster, powerpoint, prezi, etc.)
    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.
  5. Use the following questions as discussion or final assessment:
    1. Can jazz be considered “from America”?  Why or why not?
    2. When America turned away it’s African American dancers, who embraced them?
    3. What role did dance play in the Great Depression?
    4. What series of events moved jazz from social to a codified professional dance form?
    5. What is the historic trajectory of jazz dance?
    6. How did jazz dance impact consumerism?
    7. Defend the metaphor: the history of jazz dance is a roller coaster of entertainment.

Unit Rubric

Jazz Rubric, History of Dance, Education Closet


Jazz Article
4-Read Strategy
History of Jazz
Jazz Rubric
History of Dance Part I: Ballet

This is the second 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.

Next Week: Unpacking the Standards
National Core Arts Standard 10: Synthesize and relate knowledge and personal experiences to make art

Next week we will continue unpacking the national core arts standards with the 10th of 11 articles highlighting the new national arts standards.  Each of these articles provide lesson seeds, assignments, and assessments for the the new core arts standards.