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Easy Tips To Teach the Elements of Dance

Tips and Ideas for Teaching The Elements of Dance

Do you need to teach the elements of dance but don’t know where to start? The elements of dance are the “building blocks” of dance and form the foundation of many dance education curriculums, such as the Ontario Dance Curriculum.

The Elements of Dance are:

Body – zones of the body, shapes, base

Action – locomotor & non-locomotor movements

Space – levels, directions, pathways, size of movement

Time – tempo, rhythm, freezes, acceleration/deceleration

Energy – quality, force, effort

Relationship – partner, groupings, interconnected shapes, following/leading, use of props/objects

Teach the elements of dance by breaking them down

  • Start with an overview of what each element of dance means, and then go into it in more detail.
teach the elements of dance
I use this Elements of Dance Doodle Note to provide a colourful reference for students notebooks.
  • Use Examples: Teaching dance without watching examples of dance is like teaching music without listening to examples of music. Make sure you are providing lots of opportunity to appreciate the art of others. If you have no idea where to find quality examples, here are a few Youtube channels that will get you started:
    The Royal Opera House Youtube Channel
  • Which dance elements to teach first? Body, action, and space should always be taught first as they are concrete concepts and easier for students to grasp. Time, energy, & relationship get increasingly abstract and more difficult to explain, especially for younger students.
  • When assigning dance work to students, focus on only one element at a time for assessment.

Teach the elements of dance from different angles

A good rule of thumb for teaching the arts is making sure that every element you teach includes both examples of the element from high quality sources, as well as opportunities for students to create using that element themselves.

Typically, the examples always come first. Once students has seen enough examples of a particular dance element to feel comfortable with it, then they have the opportunity to use it in their own dance creation.

These dance creations do not need to be long! Often, teachers get caught up in assigning large dance projects, but the truth is that when students are learning the elements of dance it is usually better to have several short assignments (dance phrases rather than full-length performances) to shorten the feedback loop as well as reduce performance anxiety.

Teaching students who don’t want to dance

Not all students are comfortable dancing themselves or in front of others. Click here for a separate blog post on how to approach dance lesson plans for reluctant dancers.

Elements of Dance Lesson Plans

Don’t have time to come up with your own elements of dance lesson plan? These done-for-you dance units include everything you need to teach the elements of dance like a rockstar – complete instructions and lesson guides, video links and worksheet printables.