K-12EducatorsThe Arts

Exploring Force in Dance – Lesson Plan

Students explore the basic dance element of force through movement activities and discussion.

  • Length: 1-2 class periods
  • Grades: P-5

Concepts/Objectives:

  • Students will understand the basic dance element of force.
  • Students will compare/contrast the use of force as it distinguishes the expressive qualities of a given dance (such as the Arabian and Chinese dances in The Nutcracker).
  • Students will explore the use of force in several of its many expressions.

Resource Used:
Arabian and Chinese Dances from The Nutcracker

Vocabulary & Materials

Vocabulary
force, improvise, locomotor, non-locomotor, movement sequence

Materials
TV/VCR/Computer Screen that can stream video, open space

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Instructional Strategies & Activities

At a level and depth appropriate for your grade, discuss movement and force:

  • its definition and use in dance
  • the use of force to create variety and interest
  • the use of force to create feelings in dance
  • the use of force to create very different impressions, even with the same steps (or words or gestures) or group of steps (movement sequence)

Show the excerpt from The Nutcracker and have students as a class compare and contrast the use of force in the Arabian and Chinese dances. Discuss the following questions:

  • How is the element of force used in the Arabian Dance? How do movements contribute to the mood and feeling of the dance?
  • How is the element of force used in the Chinese Dance? How do movements contribute to the mood and feeling of the dance?
  • How does the element of force create interest and variety within the context of the whole Nutcracker ballet?
  • What kinds of dancers would you choose to do the Arabian Dance and the Chinese Dance?

After the class discussion, engage in the following activities.

Activity 1: Four Areas
Divide the floor into four areas of approximately equal size, with clear dividing lines. Tell the students to think of each area as having its own characteristic:

  • #1 is filled with water through which the dancers have to move.
  • #2 is visited by sudden, very strong gusts of wind.
  • In #3, a powerful force pulls everything to the floor; gravity is 10 times as great as normal.
  • #4 is full of crawling, buzzing, flying insects.

Have students move in each area and go from one area to another. Transitions should be clear, whether they happen with a quick or gradual entry into the new area. Some students may watch while others move, but each student should have the opportunity to explore the spaces.

Variation: Different images may be substituted for the ones given here, as appropriate to the grade level. The idea is to provide areas where movement would be quite varied in response to the conditions.
Observations: Notice whether some students are more comfortable with one quality block than another. Encourage students to investigate their least comfortable block.

Activity 2: Varying Simple Movement Phrase
Introduce and have students practice some of the following locomotor and non-locomotor movements: bend, slide, hop, twist. Tell students to make up simple movement sequences incorporating these movements. Examples might be “bend, hop, hop” or “twist, slide, bend.” Tell students to incorporate other movements if they wish.

Demonstrate and discuss ways in which movements can be different—light or heavy, stiff or fluid, smooth or choppy, fast or slow, and so on.

Have students try their own movements using these different force qualities and discuss how the force quality affects the movement sequence. For example, the student might first perform his or her movement phrase in a very stiff way and then perform the same movement phrase as if his or her body were made of jelly. Talk about how the way the movement is done affects the way it looks and feels.

Optional activity: Have students talk about which force qualities best fit a particular movement sequence. Why do they fit better? Notice the effect the various force qualities have on the movement. This can be a fun and fascinating exercise. Nothing so informs a dance idea as the intelligent dancer who can color that movement with just the right energy nuance necessary to convey the meaning or the idea most clearly. It’s like using the perfect spice in just the right amount when cooking!

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Performance Assessment

Performance Event: Force—the quality of movement—creates interest, variety, and feelings. The basic dance element of force is an important contributor to the meaning of a dance.

Directions:

  1. Learn about force by discussing these concepts and comparing the Arabian and Chinese dances in The Nutcracker.
  2. Then explore different qualities of movements by participating in class movement activities.

Performance Scoring Guide

4 3 2 1 0
The student demonstrates in-depth understanding of the application of different forces in the creation of a dance sequence. The student identifies the different qualities of force in the Arabian and Chinese dances, using insightful examples and supporting ideas. The student demonstrates in-depth understanding of the use of force in dance to create variety and feeling. The student is consistently effective in using movement to demonstrate understanding of the element of force. The student demonstrates broad understanding of the application of different forces in the creation of a dance sequence. The student identifies the different qualities of force in the Arabian and Chinese dances, using examples and supporting details. The student demonstrates broad understanding of the use of force in dance to create variety and feeling. The student is effective in using movement to demonstrate understanding of the element of force. The student demonstrates basic understanding of the application of different forces in the creation of a dance sequence. The student identifies the different qualities of force in the Arabian and Chinese dances, using some examples and supporting details. The student demonstrates basic understanding of the use of force in dance to create variety and feeling. The student is correct in some situations in using movement to demonstrate understanding of the element of force. The student demonstrates limited or incorrect understanding of the application of different forces in the creation of a dance sequence.

The student is not effective in identifying the different qualities of force in the Arabian and Chinese dances. The student demonstrates limited understanding of the use of force in dance to create variety and feeling.

The student is ineffective in using movement to demonstrate understanding of the element of force.

The student does not participate in the activities.

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Support - Connections - Resources - Author

  • Morganroth, Joyce. Dance Improvisation. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1987.

Author:
Chuck Bronson

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