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. The focus of this course is the creative process of dance composition.

Course Overview

In this course, students will build on their knowledge of dance composition by physically exploring a multitude of compositional forms. They will engage in critical analysis and use the creative process through various activities that focus on the dance elements and compositional forms. Students will study current trends in choreography/composition and the work of influential dancers/choreographers. Students will be given the opportunity to express abstract ideas through dance and will use their critical analysis skills to identify and understand how to use compositional forms to communicate an abstract idea. They will practice weaving compositional elements into increasingly complex dance phrases using a variety of narrative sources as inspiration for storytelling through Dance. As a final evaluation, students will choose an abstract or narrative work of art to build their final compositions. The final compositions will be infused with the compositional forms that they have learned and experimented with throughout the course. Students will also submit their composition journals, (diary, scrapbook, web site, blog, video log, documentary) documenting their learning experience. 

Scope & Sequence

Unit Descriptions

Unit #1 Developing the Foundation: Revisiting the Elements of Dance  (20 Hours)

In this introductory unit, students will revisit and manipulate the elements of dance as a foundation for developing more complex dance phrases and compositions. Students will engage in the critical analysis and creative processes through various activities that focus on the elements of dance and compositional tools (repetition, retrograde, slow motion). The unit will also focus on influential dancers/choreographers and current trends in composition (e.g.: Ginette Laurin-physicality in movement, Allen Kaeja- contact improvisation, Peggy Baker- text as source). Students will begin to document their personal compositional journey through a diary, journal, scrapbook, web site, blog or video log which will be evaluated at the end of each unit.

Unit #2 Exploring Compositional Tools and Forms (40 Hours)

Students will continue to build on their knowledge of dance composition by physically exploring a multitude of compositional tools including: staging, tempo, canon, size, and compositional forms such as; theme and variation, binary, ternary and rondo through creating many short dance compositions. Students will use current trends in choreography as described in Unit #1 and dance vocabulary that is familiar to them (e.g.: African dance, Modern/Contemporary, Hip Hop, Jazz etc.) to create more complex dance compositions that incorporate the different compositional forms that they have explored, practiced and refined. Students will demonstrate critical analysis skills as they observe and analyse the effect of the different compositional forms on their dances. These observations will be recorded in their composition journals/blogs/scrapbooks, etc. As a summative activity, students will choose two compositional tools or forms (e.g.: theme/variation and size or instrumentation and tempo) to shape a dance composition in their preferred dance technique (e.g.: jazz, tap, modern, etc.). Students will all use the same piece of music to emphasize compositional differences related to form and technique. 

Unit #3 Shaping Dances: Abstract Compositions Inspired by Social Issues (20 Hours) 

In this unit, students will express abstract ideas through dance (i.e.: make an artistic statement related to a variety of social issues such as drug abuse, pollution, unemployment, etc.) while continuing to build on their compositional skills.  Through teacher guided activities, students will experiment with more compositional tools (e.g.: call and response, counterpoint, quality and transformation) while continuing to work with the forms experienced in the first two units. Students will use their skills in critical analysis to identify and understand how to use compositional forms to communicate an abstract idea. As a summative activity, students will work in groups to research a social issue (e.g.: poverty, discrimination, homelessness, war, global warming, AIDS, etc.) using literature, the Internet, and interviews to further understand the local and global context for their movement. Students will choose three compositional forms or tools (e.g.: binary, counterpoint, quality, call and response) to express their ideas. Students will continue to reflect on their process in their composition journals/blogs/scrapbooks, etc. 

Unit #4 Shaping Dances: Compositions Inspired by Narrative Sources (20 Hours)

In this unit students will continue to practice weaving compositional tools and forms (canon, ABA, inversion, levels, sonata, suite and fugue) into increasingly complex dance phrases using a variety of narrative sources (poetry, song lyrics, story boards, picture books, newspapers, magazines and novels) as inspiration for the exploration of storytelling through dance. As a summative evaluation students will be expected to analyse the dance works of others as well as their own compositions in their journals/blogs/scrapbooks, etc.  

Culminating Activity

Culminating Activity (10 Hours)

For the culminating task, students will be asked to choose an abstract or narrative work of art, other than Dance or Music (e.g. painting, sculpture, poetry etc.) as a source to inspire their final compositions. Students will infuse their dances with the compositional tools and forms that they have learned and experimented with throughout the course. Students will also submit their composition journals (diary, journal, scrapbook, web site, blog, video log, documentary) as a gallery walk for final evaluation.


Anderson, Jack. Ballet and Modern Dance: A Concise History. 2nd Ed. Hightstown, NJ: Princeton Book Company, 1992.  ISBN 0-87127-172-9 
Andreson Sofras, Pamela. Dance Composition Basics: Capturing the Choreographer's Craft. Windsor, ON: Human Kinetics, 2006. ISBN 0-7360-5532-0 
Au, Susan. Ballet and Modern Dance. 2nd Ed. New York, NY: Thames and Hudson, 2002.  ISBN 0-500-20352-0 
Beatty, Patricia. Form Without Formula: A Concise Guide to the Choreographic Process. Toronto, ON: Underwhich Ed., 1985.  ISBN 0886580374
Bennett, Barrie and Carol Rolheiser. Beyond Monet: The Artful Science of Instructional Integration. Toronto, ON: Bookation Inc., 2006. ISBN 0-9695388-3-9 
Blom, L. & Chaplin L. (1982). The Intimate Act of Choreography. Pittsburg, PA: University of Pittsburg Press.
Kaeja, Allen; Karen Kaeja, and Carol Oriold. Express Dance: Educators' Resource for Teaching Dance. Toronto, ON: Dance Collection Danse- Press/es., 1999. ISBN 0-929003-36-5
Kaufmann, Karen A. Inclusive Creative Movement and Dance. Windsor, ON: Human Kinetics, 2006. ISBN 0-7360-4863-4

Lavender, Larry. Dancers Talking Dance. Critical Evaluation in the Choreography Class. Windsor, ON: Human Kinetics, 1996. ISBN 0-87322-667-4

McGreevy-Nichols, Susan, Helene Scheff, and Marty Sprague. Building Dances: A Guide to Putting
Movements Together
. 2nd ed. Windsor, ON: Human Kinetics, 2005. ISBN 0-7360-5089-2

McGreevy-Nichols, Susan, Helene Scheff, and Marty Sprague. Building More Dances: Blue Prints for 
Putting Movement Together
. Windsor, ON: Human Kinetics, 2001. ISBN 0-88011-973-x
Minton, S. (1997). Choreography: A Basic Approach Using Improvisation. Windsor, ON: Human Kinetics.
Arts Alive- Dance:
Lois Greenfield Photography:
Cawthray, Chris. Move: Music for Creative Movement and Modern Dance.  2001. ISBN 0307 3171 1454
Cirque Du Soleil. Nouvelle Experience. 1990. ASIN 000FFN070
Jutras, Benoit. Cirque Du Soleil. Journey of Man. 2000. ASIN B00004T0Q8
Multicultural Folk Dance Treasure Chest, Vol 1 & 2- DVD and CD available from Human Kinetics at

Instructional Strategies

Video Viewing and Analysis
Read Aloud
Journal Reflections
Show & Tell
Rubric Building
Guided Visualization
Story Boards
Guided Exploration

Glossary of Terms Specific to Course

Abstract Movement Compositions - are movement phrases that are inspired by an intangible source.  The focus of the composition is the mood and physicality of the movement. The viewer will be able to create their own interpretations from the movement. 
Beginning, Middle and End - occurs in all movement compositions.  The beginning must attract the viewer and build interest, the middle must take them on a journey, and the end must reveal the significance of what has happened.  (Source: Beatty) 
Call and Response - is where one soloist or group performs with the second soloist or group entering in response. (Source: Blom, Chaplin, Martin, Minton)
Compositional Forms - are ways in which a choreographer can choose to organize movement.  These forms are: Binary (AB), Ternary (ABA), Rondo (ABACADA), and Theme and Variation
Compositional Tools - are methods in which a choreographer can choose to manipulate the choreography to create various effects, moods and themes (retrograde, inversion etc).
Contemporary Movement - is a term that in Canada is often used interchangeably with Modern dance. (Source: Arts Alive) 
Free Movement - is spontaneous and expressive movement where the body is free of dance technique vocabulary.
Modern Dance - usually refers to 20th century concert dance that developed in the United States and Europe.  Rebelling against classical ballet, modern dance consists of angular, contracted, and twisted movements that use swing and rebound in the body. (Arts Alive)
Mood - refers to the emotional state that accompanies each series of movements. (Source: Beatty)
Narrative Form - are movement phrases that tell stories; literal or metaphorical.
Repetition - is a movement, idea or motif that is repeated.
Retrograde - to perform a movement phrase/motif/sequence backwards
Rondo - is a movement composition form where there is a recurring chorus or refrain. There is a definite feeling of return in this form. Rondo is often found in poetry and music (e.g.: ABACADA, etc.). (Source: Beatty)
Source - a stimulus that inspires movement; e.g.: visual art, sculpture, poetry, sounds, nature, etc.  
Theme - is the unifying subject or idea of dance compositions.
Theme and Variation - is a movement composition form where an initial phrase of movement is altered in a number of ways; e.g.: repeating some movements, slowing down/speeding up movements, inverting the levels, performing the movements with a lighter/heavier quality, altering the use of space, etc. (Source: Blom, Martin, Minton)
Refer to curriculum document glossary for all other terms.  

Examples of Activities

Alphabet Dance (from Unit 1) 
Rondo (from Unit 2)
Theme and Variation (from Unit 2)
Call and Response: Abstract Compositions (from Unit 3)
Narrative Compositions (from Unit 4)
Overview of BLMs:  

Assessment and Evaluation Strategies

Anecdotal Notes
Self Evaluation
Peer Evaluation
Teacher Evaluations
Student/Teacher Conference
Personal Journal Entries (scrapbooks, blogs, video logs, etc.)