children learning to dance

Dances from Many Cultures

This collection of dances explores European, African-American, Brazilian, Native American, and Appalachian cultures and can be used with lesson plans and idea files from the Dance Toolkit.

Punchinella

In this simple singing and mimicry game, children join hands and circle around a child in the center of the circle. The child in the center does a movement that the other children copy. Instructor Jennifer Rose Escobar of Berea explains the French and English origins of the game, then sings and dances “Punchinella” with a group of primary students.

Suggested Uses:

  • Watch the video for ideas on how to teach this traditional dance to your students.
  • Show the video to students to help them learn the dance or understand the cultural significance of the dance.
  • Show or use as an introduction to mimicry.
  • Show to compare dances of diverse cultures.
  • Show this segment with other circle dances from the toolkit (“Ciranda,” “Seven Jumps,” and “Little Johnny Brown”) and ask students to compare the dances.
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Seven Jumps

A circle dance of Danish origin, “Seven Jumps” is an excellent dance for teaching rhythm, motor control, and simple body part identification. The dance takes students through a building sequence of seven body movements. In the video segment, instructor Jennifer Rose Escobar of Berea explains how she learned the game, then dances it with a group of primary students.

Suggested Uses:

  • Watch the video for ideas on how to teach this traditional dance to your students.
  • Show the video to students to help them learn the dance or understand the cultural significance of the dance.
  • Show this segment with other circle dances from the toolkit (“Punchinella,” “Ciranda,” and “Little Johnny Brown”) and ask students to compare the dances.
  • Show to compare dances of diverse cultures.
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Ciranda

In this singing game enjoyed by Brazilian children for generations, dancers move in a circle, then call one child into the center to recite a verse. Instructor Jennifer Rose Escobar sings and directs the dance with a group of intermediate students.

Suggested Uses:

    Watch the video for ideas on how to teach this traditional dance to your students.
    Show the video to students to help them learn the dance or understand the cultural significance of the dance.
    Show this segment with other circle dances from the toolkit (“Punchinella,” “Seven Jumps,” and “Little Johnny Brown”) and ask students to compare the dances.
    Have students write poetry to recite in the circle.
    Sing the song in Portuguese, and have students from other cultures in your class share folk dances from their cultures.
    Show to compare dances from diverse cultures.
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Little Johnny Brown

This circle dance/game has been passed down through generations of African Americans living on the islands off the coasts of South Carolina and Georgia. The movements include folding “blankets,” choosing partners, loping like a buzzard, and creating movements that partners mimic. The video segment opens with instructor Paula Larke explaining the symbolism of the dance and some of its movements. Then she teaches “Little Johnny Brown” to a group of teenagers and young adults. The segment ends with Dancing Threads host Anndrena Belcher explaining how the dance was passed down.

Suggested Uses:

    Watch the video for ideas on how to teach this traditional dance.
    Show the video to students to help them learn the dance or its cultural significance.
    Show or teach the dance to enrich the classroom study of African-American culture and, by extension, to encourage in-depth study of a particular culture: that of the Georgia Sea Islands. (“Go Rabbit” from Program 13 of the KET series Old Music for New Ears is an example of music from the same area.)
    Show to compare dance styles of diverse cultures.
    Show with other circle dances from the toolkit (“Punchinella,” “Ciranda,” and “Seven Jumps”) and have students compare the dances.
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Zuni Harvest Dance

The Zuni, Pueblo Indians who live in the northwest part of New Mexico, traditionally mark the harvest with a lively and colorful celebration. In the video segment, instructor Arden Kucate gives background on the Zuni culture and the harvest celebration, explains the significance of Zuni boys being presented with gourd shakers, and teaches a group of middle school students two dances from the Zuni harvest celebration.

Suggested Uses:

    Watch the video for ideas on how to teach this traditional dance.
    Show the video to students to help them learn the dance or its cultural significance.
    Show or teach the dance to enrich the classroom study of Native American culture. (The video segment “Powwow,” found on the DanceSense Enhanced collection in the toolkit, is another example of Native American dance.)
    Show to compare dance styles of diverse cultures.
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Goin’ to Boston

“Goin’ to Boston” is a traditional folk dance enjoyed at “play parties” in Appalachia. In the video segment, instructor Anndrena Belcher teaches a group of middle school students the song and dance moves. She explains what a “play party game” is and teaches such commonly used folk dance movements as promenade, sashay, reel, and casting the lines.

Suggested Uses:

    Watch the video for ideas on how to teach this traditional dance.
    Show the video to students to help them learn the dance or its cultural significance.
    Show or teach the dance to enrich the classroom study of Appalachian culture. (The video segment “Jean Ritchie on Play Party Games,” found on the DanceSense Enhanced collection in the toolkit, offers additional cultural information.)
    Show to compare dance styles of diverse cultures.
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Upon a Summer’s Day

This six-person, three-couple longways set dance is similar to those danced in England in the early 1600s. The dance was still being danced in the Kentucky mountains in the early 1900s. Instructor Jennifer Rose Escobar of Berea teaches the dance’s three figures and chorus to a group of middle school students, including movements such as “forward-up-a-double,” a “set,” a “turn single,” “siding,” and “arming.” She also explains the role dance played in social interaction and courting during the Renaissance.

Suggested Uses:

    Watch the video for ideas on how to teach this traditional dance.
    Show the video to students to help them learn the dance or its cultural significance.
    Show or teach the dance to enrich the classroom study of the Renaissance period.
    Show to compare dance styles of diverse cultures and time periods.
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