Caribbean Dance Focus Course Profile

Course Profile
This course emphasizes the development of students’ artistry, improvisational and compositional skills, and technical proficiency in global dance genres. Students will apply dance elements, techniques, and tools in a variety of ways, including performance situations; describe and model responsible practices related to the dance environment; and reflect on how the study of dance affects personal and artistic development. This course will focus on the dance practices of the Caribbean.

Course Overview

In this course students will experience the fundamentals of cultural dance forms from The Caribbean. The Caribbean consists of 26 countries and territories, which have a rich history of dance rooted in African and European court dance creating a unique identity. The following are traditional Caribbean dance forms: Abakua - Afro-Cuban, Beguine - Guadeloupe, Martinique, Bellair - Trinidad, Bongo - Trinidad, Brukin's - Jamaica, Caribbean Quadrilles - Jamaica, Dinki Mini - Jamaica, Gere - Jamaica, Gumbay - Jamaica Goombay - Bahamas, Ibo - Haiti, Jonkonnu - Jamaica, Kumina - Jamaica, Oreisha - Cuba, Tambu - Afro-Curacao. The Caribbean culture is also known for its popular or contemporary forms of dance including Calypso, Soca, Chutney, Reggae, Dance hall, Cha-Cha, Mambo, Rumba, Salsa and Meringue. These traditional and contemporary Caribbean dance forms will be taught in this course with a focus on the theoretical aspects of historical and cultural significance, as well as practical aspects of dance alignment, coordination, conditioning, and musicality. This course provides students the opportunity to experience, understand, and appreciate cultural diversity through the art form of dance.


Scope & Sequence

Unit Descriptions

UNIT 1: Introduction to Style A  (20 hours)

Students will demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the history, technique, and cultural and social significance of the dance form.

UNIT 2: Kinesiology and Body Awareness  (10 hours)

Students will demonstrate knowledge and understanding of alternative physical practices that enhance and supplement dance training and physical well-being (Yoga and Pilates) with an emphasis on correct terminology and the physiology of movement as they relate to the dance genre.

UNIT 3: Introduction to Style B (20 hours)

Students will demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the history, technique, and cultural and social significance of the dance form.

UNIT 4: Introduction to Style C (20 hours)

Students will demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the history, technique, and cultural and social significance of the dance form.

UNIT 5: Composition and Choreography (20 hours)

Students will use the creative process to explore the elements of dance and compositional forms to compose individual and ensemble dance creations applying and building on the students' knowledge from Units 1, 3, and 4.

Culminating Activity

Fusion Dance (20 hours)

Students will build a final dance composition by fusing the techniques of Caribbean styles A, B, and C. They will apply composition, collaborative and performance skills; as well as, employ the tools of stagecraft. Students will work to combine the techniques of A, B and C seamlessly and they will research each form in order to create an authentic movement. Through this culminating activity, students will demonstrate an understanding of how Caribbean dance forms share commonalities and how the cultures of each country are so integral to the evolution of each dance form.



Carty, H. S. Folk Dances of Jamaica: An Insight. Hightstown, NJ: Princeton Book Company, 1988. ISBN 1852730072 

Emery, L. F. Black Dance: From 1619 to Today. Hightstown, NJ: Princeton Book Company, 1998. ISBN 9780916622619 

Hill, Donald R. Caribbean Folklore: A handbook. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, Inc., 2007. ISBN 978-0-313-33605-8

Mintz, S. W., Price, S. Caribbean Contours (Johns Hopkins Studies in Atlantic History and Culture). Baltimore, MD: The John Hopkins University Press, 1985. ISBN 9780801832727 

O'Connor, B. Katherine Dunham: Pioneer of Black Dance (Trailblazer Biographies). Brookfield, CT: Carolrhoda Books; First Edition edition, 2000. ISBN 9781575053530 

Sloat, Susanna. Caribbean Dance from Abakua to Zouk: How Movement Shapes Identity. Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida, 2002.  ISBN 9780813025490

Thorpe, E. Black Dance. New York, NY: Putnam Pub Group Library, 1987. ISBN 039608835X 


Maps of the Caribbean:

Dance Clips:


Dance Companies in GTA:

Ballet Creole 
Artistic Director: Patrick Parson
375 Dovercourt Rd, Toronto, Ontario M6J 3E5
(416) 960-0350
COBA (Collective of Black Artists)
Artistic Director: Bakari, Charmaine Headley

2444 Bloor Street West, 2nd Floor, Toronto, Canada, M6S 1R2
TEL: (416) 658-3111

Dance Caribe Performing Company
Artistic Director: Martin Scott-Pascall
90 Robbinstone Drive, Toronto, ON, Canada

(416) 292-8706


Instructional Strategies

Fish Bones
Gallery Walk 
Peer Teaching
Direct Instruction 
Written Reflections 
Peer Evaluation

Glossary of Terms Specific to Course

Calypso - A type of music that originated in the West Indies, notably in Trinidad, and is characterized by improvised lyrics on topical or broadly humorous subjects.

Cha-Cha - A rhythmic ballroom dance that originated in Latin America.

Chutney - a type of music popular in the Caribbean Asian community, much influenced by calypso.

Dancehall - a style of dance-oriented reggae, originating in the late 1980s.

Mambo - a modern Latin American dance, resembling the rumba, derived from the ritual dance of voodoo.

Meringue - a type of lively, joyful music and dance that comes from the Dominican Republic.

Reggae - popular music of Jamaican origin having elements of Calypso and rhythm and blues, usually with an accent placed on the offbeat.

Rumba - a dance of Cuban origin, combining complex footwork with a pronounced movement of the hips.

Salsa - refers to a fusion of informal dance styles having roots in the Caribbean (especially in Cuba and Puerto Rico), Latin and North America. There is a strong African influence in the music as well as the dance. Salsa is usually a partner dance, although there are recognized solo steps and some forms are danced in groups of couples, with frequent exchanges of partner. Improvisation and social dancing are important elements of Salsa but it appears as a performance dance too.

Soca - or soul calypso is a form of dance music which originated in the Islands of Trinidad and Tobago from calypso music. It originally combined the melodic lilting sound of calypso with insistent percussion (which is often electronic in recent music) and local chutney music.

Refer to Ministry document glossary for all other terminology.

Examples of Activities

Lesson #1: A Caribbean Medley! (from units 1, 3, or 4)

Students will be introduced to traditional and contemporary forms of Caribbean dance.

Overview of BLMs

BLM #1 The Evolution of Caribbean Dance worksheet
BLM #2 Dance Composition-Choreographic Process
BLM #3 Evaluation Rubric

Assessment and Evaluation Strategies

Questioning, observation, diagnostic activities (e.g. fish bones, venn diagrams, yarn activity), self evaluation, discussion
Unit 1, 3 or 4 Sample Lesson - A Caribbean Medley

Critical Learning

Guiding Questions

Caribbean culture largely influences dance and music and the fusion of these cultures is responsible for the evolution of dance forms.
How do the Caribbean countries/cultures differ and how are they similar?
What are the traditional dance forms and the Caribbean and how did they originate?
What are similarities between the popular Caribbean dance forms (movement, music, origin/evolution, dancers, partners, purpose) and
what political/social events were influential in the birth of these dance form?
What other dance forms were influential in the growth of these particular Caribbean dance forms?

Curriculum Expectations

Learning Goals

Creating, Presenting, and Performing

A2. Choreography and Composition: combine the elements of dance in a variety of ways in composing individual and ensemble dance creations;
A2.2 create a dance composition inspired by a source

Reflecting, Responding, and Analysing

B2. Dance and Society: demonstrate an understanding of how societies present and past use or have used dance, and of how creating and viewing dance can benefit individuals, groups, and communities; 
B2.3 identify and describe different types of dance represented in a particular culture and their purposes


C2. Contexts and Influences: demonstrate an understanding of the social, cultural, and historical origins and development of dance forms, including their influence on each other and on society;
C2.3 identify and describe similarities and differences in some global dance forms and illustrate them through performance

Learning Goals
(Unpacked Expectations)

At the end of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • describe the culture of each country including geographical region, climate, agriculture, languages spoken, festivals/celebrations, music, historical and current dance forms.
  • describe the differences and similarities between the Caribbean countries.
  • identify and describe the popular Caribbean dance forms.
  • draw comparisons between different Caribbean dance forms.
  • create and present a Caribbean dance.

Instructional Components


In the previous lessons, students individually conducted research and formed "Expert Groups" on popular forms of Caribbean dance: Calypso, Soca, Chutney, Reggae, Dance hall, Cha-Cha, Mambo, Rumba, Salsa, and Meringue. They presented findings with music and video clips to class (see BLM #1).
Review proper dance etiquette, safe practices and inclusiveness


Chart paper and markers
Map of Caribbean and Caribbean countries that are cut out, refer to: or
Folders of information relating to each Caribbean country (need to research and gather as required). Refer to:
Computer, projector and screen 

BLM #1 The Evolution of Caribbean Dance worksheet
BLM #2 The Choreographic Process
BLM #3 Caribbean Dance Evaluation Rubric


Approximately 15 minutes

Minds On

Pause and Ponder

Individual > Gallery Walk

Before class begins, spread out the 26 pictures of the Caribbean countries around the space. Invite students to enter the class and look at the pictures and informally try to identify the names of the countries.  After 5 minutes ask students to choose any picture- some students may have to partner up and ask students to form a circle.

Whole Class > Circle

Go around the circle and ask students to try to identify each picture. Assist students when they don't know the country. Have a student write the countries on the board/chartpaper.
Assessment for Learning

Diagnostic of identifying Caribbean countries from pictures
Questioning - activating schema
Yarn Activity (group check)
Observation of choreographic process

Assessment as Learning

Peer evaluation
Observations of choreographic process 
Goal setting 
Tracking own progress

Differentiation (DI)

Students may wish to use a Fish bone diagram

Allow students to use other spaces for the choreographic process (quieter and more space) 

Quick Tip

Depending on dance experience, a review of elements of dance, compositional tools and forms and what a movement phrase in dance is may be necessary.

Link and Layer

Students can compare and contrast the different Caribbean dances with other dance forms (i.e. African, Western, European).
Students can add dances together to form a Caribbean fusion dance.

Hyperlinks in the Lesson

Approximately 35 minutes


Pairs > Choosing and Researching a Caribbean Country

Instruct students to choose a partner and pick one Caribbean country from the 26. Once each pair has chosen, distribute the folders of information relating to each Caribbean country (see Materials and Quick Tips). Give students time to read over their assigned material and instruct them to make notes or highlight the key information.
Ask students to create a Fish bone diagram on chart paper including the following categories: 

  • geographical region
  • climate
  • agriculture
  • languages
  • history
  • ethnicities,
  • festivals/celebrations
  • music
  • popular dance form(s)

Invite students to post their completed Fish bone diagrams on the wall around the classroom. Ask students to do a quick walk about the room and then instruct each group to present the information about their chosen country.

Whole Class > Circle Yarn Activity

To review the information presented, invite students to sit in a circle and share one fact about their country.  Explain to students that they will take the end of the yarn, say their fact, hold onto a piece of yarn and then throw the ball to someone else in the circle. Tell students that they will repeat this process until everyone has said one fact. The end result will be a web of yarn created in the centre of the circle.

Pairs > Choreographing a Caribbean Dance

Instruct students to go back to their pair and explain that they will be choreographing a piece in the style of their Caribbean dance form. Ask students to choose a song that they wish to use for their dance piece. Review BLM #2 about the choreographic process.  (See also The Creative Process as outlined in The Arts 2010 document)  Instruct pairs to create a movement phrase inspired by the background information from their presentation.  Handout BLM #3 Caribbean Dance Evaluation Rubric and explain the criteria.

Small Group >Feedback/Refine/Revise

Ask students to join with another pair and instruct them to share their phrases and get feedback. Instruct pairs to use the feedback refine and revise and polish their dance piece.

Approximately 15 minutes


Whole Class > Sharing/Evaluation of Dance Pieces

Invite students to share their dance pieces.  Evaluate the dance pieces using BLM #3 Caribbean Dance Evaluation RubricInstruct students to reflect upon the performance and ask them to identify the similar movement qualities.

Individual > Journal

Ask students to write a journal about the movement qualities in Caribbean dance forms and the elements of dance that are specifically highlighted for homework.