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Creating an ABA-Form Dance – Lesson Plan

Students create an ABA-form dance using sharp and smooth movements.

  • Length: 1-2 class periods
  • Grades: 6-8


Concepts/Objectives:

The student will be able to:

  • Distinguish how it feels to perform a sharp vs. a smooth movement.
  • Perform movement that looks distinctly smooth or sharp.
  • Improvise and choreograph a dance that has sharp and smooth movements.
  • Define and perform a dance in ABA form.


Resource Used:

Arabian and Chinese Dances from The Nutcracker
Found On: Dance Performances

Vocabulary, Materials, and Handouts

Vocabulary
ABA form, force or energy, improvisation, sharp/smooth

Materials
TV/VCR or DVD player, CD or tape player, selections of music that might elicit smooth and sharp movements

Handouts:
Create a Machine Dance

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Instructional Strategies and Activities

Introduce the Concept
Ask students:

  • What kind of movement can you think of that would be very sharp? Examples: hitting a drum, kicking in martial arts, throwing a ball, etc.
  • What would be an example of very smooth movement? Examples: a bird riding on an air current, smoke floating in the air, clouds floating, ice skating or roller skating.

Idea
One suggestion might be to use Enya’s music for smooth and Holst’s The Planets for sharp. There are endless possibilities, though, so find music out of your own collection that makes you want to move sharply or smoothly.

Explore the Concept
I. RESPOND TO WORDS
Directions to students: Let’s see what it feels like to move sharply and smoothly. I will give you a word, and you decide whether it has sharp or smooth energy. Move anywhere in the room with the energy of that word. Be careful not to touch anyone else in the space.
Examples:

  • sharp: bounce, burst, dab, dart, explode, fling, flick, jab, jerk, jitter, march, poke
  • smooth: float, gush, meander, ooze, soar, sway, glide, melt, whirl

Mix the words as you give them to the students. Many words could be performed either sharply or smoothly, like twist, stretch, bend, etc. Have the students try those types of words both ways.

Encourage the students to try each of the words you give them in a variety of ways. Ask questions like these:

  • Can you bounce on something other than your feet?
  • Can you flick with a body part other than your hands? Try your foot, head, etc.
  • Can you gush as if you were a waterfall? How about a small stream?
  • Can you glide high and low?

Remind students to focus in the direction they are jabbing—jab high, low, right, left, behind, in front, etc. Ooze slowly and then quickly.

These kinds of questions force the students to fully explore the movement possibilities of each word. You are “crossing over” to different elements and sub-elements of dance to come up with the questions.

II. MIRRORING
Directions to students: Work in pairs and mirror your partner’s movements. Begin with slow, smooth movements. Change leaders and begin again with slow, smooth movements, then progress to sharp movements. Which are easier to follow: smooth movements or sharp movements? [answer: smooth movements]

Create a Dance: Machines
(groups of 5-7 people)
Tell students that they are going to create a machine dance in ABA form. Begin with the B part of the dance: the “machine” itself. Use the following steps to create the dance:

  1. One person finds a repetitive sharp or smooth movement to do with a particular body part(s).
  2. The next person adds on to the first person’s movement with a contrasting movement and a different use of body parts and/or levels.
  3. Each person adds on as above, until all are part of the machine.
  4. Now go back and decide how you will create Part A, which is the getting into the machine. Find a method of moving into the machine that is similar to your machine movement. Everyone should find his or her own unique way of solving this dilemma. You might all start frozen on stage in a shape, then, one by one, move into the machine, or you might start off stage. Try to use a locomotor movement to get into the machine that is in the same character as your movement in the machine.
  5. Part A is repeated at the end, but in this case is done in retrograde. The machine is operating in Part B, then Part A is done in retrograde to break from the machine and return to the places in which you began the dance.
  6. Be sure your dance has contrasts in your use of the body, space, time, and force in addition to making your sharp movements sharp and your smooth movements smooth.

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Performance Assessment

Performance Event: We are going to create and perform a “Machine Dance” and then watch two dance examples.
Directions:

  1. In groups of 5-7, create a “Machine Dance” using the “Create a Machine Dance” handout.
  2. Watch each group’s performance. Observe and ask: Did the performers clearly show the difference between the smooth and sharp movements? Was there contrast in the dance? Varying use of space and use of body (individual vs. group movement, use of body parts), timing, and force? Were you able to see the ABA structure of the dance?
  3. Watch the video excerpt “Arabian and Chinese Dances from The Nutcracker.”
  4. Discuss: Which dance has primarily smooth energy and which sharp? Did the two dances give you different feelings?

Note to Teachers: Introduce the video by telling the students that the two dances they will see are good examples of smooth and sharp movement. Discuss their reactions to the two dances. The Arabian Dance (smooth energy) is very soothing, fluid, and almost mesmerizing. The Chinese Dance (sharp energy) is energetic, more staccato, and somewhat angular. Note how the music is very different for each as well. The Arabian music is slower and very fluid, while the Chinese is lively, with a lot of quick accents. The dances and music convey very different moods.

Performance Scoring Guide

4 3 2 1 0
Students’ movements in the machine dance are clearly sharp or smooth. Students demonstrate excellent contrast in the use of body, space, time, and force in the machine dance. Students are able to identify whether the dances by their peers lack contrast and in what area. Students are able to clearly identify that one of the dances from The Nutcracker was predominantly smooth and the other sharp and that these differences gave very different feelings to the dances. Most of the movements by the students in the machine dance are clearly sharp or smooth. Students demonstrate good contrast in the use of body, space, time, and force in the machine dance. Students are able to identify most of the areas in which the dances by their peers lack contrast. Students are able to identify that one of the dances from The Nutcracker was predominantly smooth and the other sharp and that these differences gave very different feelings to the dances. Some of the movements by the students in the machine dance are clearly sharp or smooth. Students demonstrate some contrast in the use of body, space, time, and force in the machine dance. Students are able to identify some of the areas in which the dances by their peers lack contrast. Students have limited success differentiating between the smooth and sharp movements in the video and discussing how the two types of movement made them feel. A few of the movements by the students in the machine dance are clearly sharp or smooth. Students demonstrate very little contrast in the use of body, space, time, and force in the machine dance. Students are able to identify little of what the dances by their peers lacked in terms of contrast. Students have minimal success differentiating between the smooth and sharp movements in the video and discussing how the two types of movement made them feel. Student does not participate.

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Support - Connections - Resources - Author

  • Gilbert, Ann Green. Creative Dance for All Ages. Reston, VA: AAHPERD, 1992.

Author:
Marianne McAdam

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