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K-12EducatorsThe Arts

Creating a Contemporary Ritual Dance – Lesson Plan

Students view and discuss the dance “Little Johnny Brown” and then create a dance signifying a contemporary “ritual.”

  • Length: 1-2 class periods
  • Grades: 9-12

Concepts/Objectives:

  • Students will understand the role of dance in expressing the basic questions of human life.
  • Students will identify modern rituals.
  • Students will identify/utilize the elements of dance to create a ritual dance.

Resource Used:
Little Johnny Brown
Found On: Dancing Threads

Vocabulary and Materials

Vocabulary:
abstract dance, ritual dance, social dance, story dance, theatrical dance

Materials:
TV/VCR or DVD player, record/CD player, open space, football props (balls, pom-poms, bench, water bucket, etc.)

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Instructional Strategies and Activities

Discussion

Discuss dance’s ritual function and how rituals mark significant events in human life. Discuss the cultural significances of ritual and come up with some examples of contemporary rituals. Here are some questions that can guide your discussion:

  • What is a ritual?
  • What are some examples of ritual dance?
  • How does ritual dance differ from social dance and theatrical dance?
  • What do these kinds of dance have in common?
  • What kinds of things does ritual dance make you think of? How does it make you feel?
  • What purposes does ritual dance fulfill? How does it differ from abstract dance?

Show the “Little Johnny Brown” excerpt and discuss it as a courtship dance. Some discussion starters:

  • In what ways is “Little Johnny Brown” a ritual dance?
  • What would be a contemporary example of a courtship dance?

After discussion, have students create a ritual dance.

Creating a Ritual Dance

Among the events in contemporary society, sporting contests arguably represent the most often-repeated ritual in many people’s lives. Have students create a “ritual dance” based on the events of the “Great Football Game” or some other sporting event of their choice.

The dance could be broken down into the following events/scenes. (You don’t have to restrict yourself to this list, though.) Have a different student choreograph each section.

I. Pre-game activities

  • tailgating
  • players’ preparations (getting dressed, taping ankles, meditating, etc.)
  • the run onto the field
  • the pre-game prayer or pep talk
  • warm-up

II. The game

  • tailgating
  • players’ preparations (getting dressed, taping ankles, meditating, etc.)
  • the run onto the field
  • the pre-game prayer or pep talk
  • warm-up

III. Halftime

  • cheerleaders’ cheer
  • coach’s pep talk

IV. The second half

  • kickoff
  • repeat movement from first half
  • repeat penalty, touchdown
  • victory celebration or consolation after loss

Tell the students to be sure to use appopriate dance elements for each sequence. Ask them to use different forms in the creation of each episode (canon, theme with variations, rondo, etc.) and to pick appropriate music for each section.

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Open Response Assessment

Prompt: Rituals have played an important role in cultures throughout history. We continue to have rituals in society today. A dance can be a ritual, reflecting and helping note important events in human life.

Directions:

  1. Identify three modern rituals/events that could be good subjects for creating a ritual dance.
  2. Discuss the role of rituals and ritual dance.
  3. Create and describe a ritual dance around one of the events you identified.

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Open Response Scoring Guide

4 3 2 1 0
Student identifies three modern rituals and effectively explains why they might be good subjects for the creation of a dance. Student demonstrates extensive understanding of how dance reflects society and culture. Student creates a ritual dance based on one of the events. Student demonstrates consistent and effective knowledge of dance elements and critical thinking skills and communicates clearly and effectively, using insightful supporting examples and relevant details. Student identifies three modern rituals and explains why they might be good subjects for the creation of a dance. Student demonstrates broad understanding of how dance reflects society and culture. Student creates a ritual dance based on one of the events. Student demonstrates effective knowledge of dance elements and critical thinking skills and communicates clearly and effectively, using supporting examples and sufficient details. Student identifies one or two modern rituals and, on a basic level, explains why they might be good subjects for the creation of a dance. Student demonstrates basic understanding of how dance reflects society and culture. Student creates a ritual dance based on one of the events. Student demonstrates some knowledge of dance elements and some critical thinking skills and communicates adequately, using a few supporting examples and relevant details. Student identifies one or two modern rituals but is ineffective in explaining why they might be good subjects for the creation of a dance. Student demonstrates minimal understanding of how dance reflects society and culture. Student attempts to create a ritual dance based on one of the events, but application of knowledge of dance elements and use of critical thinking skills is underdeveloped or inappropriate. Student uses few or no examples or relevant details. No answer or irrelevant answer.

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Support • Connections • Resources

  • Hightower, Jamake. Dance: Ritual of Experience. Princeton Book Co.

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