Exploring Cultural Dance

Critical Learning

Guiding Questions

Students will use both the creative and critical analysis process to explore, assess and reflect on different cultural dance forms. 

Why is dance important to specific communities?
Is this similar or different to why dance is important to you?
How are dances from the past and present similar?

Curriculum Expectations

Learning Goals

A1. Creating and Presenting: apply the creative process to the composition of movement sequences and short dance pieces, using the elements of dance to communicate feelings and ideas;

A2. Reflecting, Responding, and Analysing: apply the critical analysis process to communicate their feelings, ideas, and understandings in response to a variety of dance pieces and experiences;

A3. Exploring Forms and Cultural Contexts: demonstrate an understanding of a variety of dance forms, traditions, and styles from the past and present, and their sociocultural and historical contexts.
Learning Goals
(Unpacked Expectations)

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

  • identify where dance exists in their everyday lives
  • identify the elements of dance that contribute to the purpose of cultural dance
  • create a short dance phrase in the style of their chosen cultural dance form

Instructional Components


Knowledge of the elements of dance; experience with narrative form, dance phrases and use of the critical analysis process.

Cross-curricular Connection:  Teaching this lesson in collaboration with the Medieval Times social studies unit would be beneficial.  Understanding of Medieval hierarchy and roles would enhance students understanding and application for this lesson. 


Locomotor movements
Non-locomotor movements


AV equipment (projector for YouTube Video)

If not available, use different cultural dance pictures

Different types of cultural music 

Hula Hoop (optional-if students are exploring the First Nations Hoop dance)


BLM #1 Checklist


Approximately 30 minutes

Minds On

Pause and Ponder

Whole Class > Brainstorming

Encourage students to brainstorm what they think the purpose of dance is. Ask students to consider where they have seen or experienced dance in their own lives. Prompt: Does your family dance at special occasions (weddings, parties etc)? Have you seen dance on T.V.? What kind of dance? Does anyone take dance classes outside of school? Has anyone seen a particular cultural dance? What type of dance was it? Where did you see it?

Whole Class > Create Focus for Lesson

Tell students they will be watching videos of three different cultural dance forms.  Ask students to consider any similarities and differences when watching the videos.  They should also be looking for what idea/feeling is being communicated by the dancers.

Whole Class > Viewing Dance

Play three different examples of cultural dance (refer to hyperlink if required).
Stop after each video to have students reflect on what they have seen. Prompt:
What elements of dance did you observe?
What do you think was the message being communicated in this type of dance?
What type of music were the dancers dancing to?
What we the costumes like?
How is this type of dance the same of different from what you've seen before?

Students should consider which cultural dance form they feel they can best connect to, or find most engaging.

Assessment for Learning (AfL)

Circulate and side coach students, as necessary.

Students should be assessed on their ability to identify the elements of dance in cultural dance forms.

Students should be assessed using anecdotal notation regarding their ability to interpret meaning from cultural dance forms.

Differentiation (DI)

Students who have personal experience with cultural dance forms should be encouraged to share their experience with the class.  This could come in the form of presentation or pictures.

Quick Tip

Students who require further assistance to enhance their understanding of cultural dance could do a guided investigation using Internet or text resources. 

Link and Layer

Students should use prior experience communicating meaning/ideas using creative movement for this lesson.  They should also use their critical-analytical skills from previous reflections.

Hyperlinks in the Lesson

First Nations Hoop Dance:

Traditional Chinese Dance:

Medieval Nobles Dance:


Approximately 60 minutes


Small Group > Exploring Cultural Dance

Group students based on which dance form they are most interested in. If many students choose the same dance form, the large group may be broken into smaller groups. Ask students to discuss how their chosen dance style used the elements of dance. 

Key questions for Discussion:

Did the dancers use mostly locomotor movements or non-locomotor movements? what kinds of shapes did their bodies make? Did they use one level more than the others? what type of energy did the movements have? What tempo was the music they were dancing to? How did the tempo affect the movements? Was it a solo or group performance? What was the dancers' relationship to each other? To the audience?

If necessary, students may wish to re-watch the dance clip.

Based on what they have seen and analyzed, ask students to create a short (8-16 count) movement phrase inspired by their chosen style. Explain to students that they are not trying to copy the movements that they have seen in the video, but rather create an original choreography in the style of the dance they have viewed. Share the criteria with the students and post the criteria for reference in the room so they can refer to it while they are working. (See BLM #1)

Provide students with a variety of cultural music while they are working.  Encourage students to bring in their own music from home or a local library.  Remind students that the tempo in music (as observed in the three cultural dance videos) can initiate different types of movement.  Remind them that their music selection should be specifically linked to the message of the cultural dance form. 

Approximately 35-40 minutes


Small Group >Sharing

Students will present their dance pieces to the class.

Individual > Reflection

After all of the students have presented, ask students to reflect independently to the following questions. The may respond orally or in writing.
What message did you feel your dance piece communicated?
How is this dance form similar/different to dance forms you have participated in?
Why do you think dance is important to the culture you investigated?
Is that similar to why dance is important to you?