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Arts Toolkit

Arts Toolkit: Dance Idea File

Grades:

3-8

Idea File:

Dance of the Wild Things

Students explore scary sounds, stories, and dances, then create a dance based on a “scary” book.

Resource:

The Graveyard

Suggested Uses:

  • Dance: creating a dance based on a children’s book (artistic dance)
  • Music: noticing how certain sounds can sound “scary”

Teaching Concepts:

  • The imagination can change fear into fun.
  • Dance is a way to tell a story through movement.

Lesson Idea

Open: Share stories or experiences where an object or event that appeared to be frightening was later found to be familiar and harmless. (Example: a garden hose mistaken for a snake.) Introduce the notion that a dance can tell a story.

View: “The Graveyard” from the Dance Performances video/DVD

Discuss: What makes “The Graveyard” scary? Encourage students to be specific and look beyond the obvious (the title). Start with the movements, but then ask students to listen carefully to the music. The musicians improvise scary sounds by playing their instruments in unusual ways. For example, a scraping sound is created on the violin by drawing the bow roughly across the strings. The organ might evoke a funeral; the xylophone might evoke the sound of dry bones striking together in a skeleton dance. Once your class has identified the piece’s scary elements, discuss how scary beings such as ghosts are often a product of our imaginations and that scary things can be fun when you know that you are not in danger.

Read: Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. In what ways is this story similar to “The Graveyard”?

Create: In small groups, have students select a scene from Where the Wild Things Are and create a dance based on that scene. Encourage students to explore movements that evoke the sense or feeling of the scene, rather than dramatize it. Give students the option of selecting music for their dance or reading the scene as they perform their dance.

Author: Secret Commonwealth guide

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