Dance Between the Lines: Interdisciplinary Connections in Dance Curricula
By Eliza Rothstein, Rubicon International
New York’s Office of Arts & Special Projects (OASP) recently released a revised 2015 version of its dance curricula. Aligned to Common Core State Standards, the curricula pay homage to the Nietzsche adage:
“Dancing in all its forms cannot be excluded from the curriculum of all noble education.”
Students (and adults) often feel far from noble on the dance floor—paralyzed for fear they will look foolish. Perhaps they put too much stock in one of Nietzsche’s predecessors who said, “A good education consists in knowing how to sing and dance well.” Plato held his students to a high bar. We should, too, but we need not conceive of dance as an end itself or skill to master. Rather, we can use dance as a tool to explore other disciplines and develop robust curricula.
The OASP dance curricula does just that. Using an Unit Overview report in Atlas, we highlight just a few of the opportunities for rich interdisciplinary connections.
Elementary Math: Make Connections with a Collaborative Activity
It’s difficult for students to pull concrete meaning out math’s abstract concepts. Dance gives teachers an avenue to answer the age-old query: “Why are we learning this?” When we bring the study of shapes off the paper and onto the stage, students physically connect to the discipline.
The K-2 dance curricula has a unit called “Shapes.” With a glance at the essential questions, assessments, and vocabulary mathematical connections are apparent. Consider an interdisciplinary math-dance activity in which students use their bodies to consider the following:
- What is the difference between 2-D shapes (students lying down) and 3-D shapes (students standing up)?
- How do we create the same shape in a different scale (e.g. 3-person triangle vs. 6-person triangle)?
- What kinds of shapes can we make with three students? Four? Five?
If your students are ready, push them to consider the following: Should all dances be accessible for all? Is it “fair” to use another culture’s dance practice to create your own? For an additional link to this dance unit’s Content section, include costumes and music videos in a discussion about cultural appropriation in the media.
Middle School English: Share your Standards
A quick Standards Analysis of the OASP curricula returns unusual results. The “Performing Movement Phrases” unit in Middle School Dance targets Common Core ELA standards. Shared standards between disciplines give students deeper exposure to the topics at hand and provide teachers a path to finding interdisciplinary connections.
These shared standards might prompt an ELA teacher to find additional links to the dance curricula, like the similarities between choreographing a dance and writing a story, or overlapping vocabulary terms like character, plot, climax, theme, symbol, setting, and allegory. Maybe students dance their stories, or vice versa. Maybe they take a paragraph or chapter from a novel and choreography a piece to represent it. The opportunities abound.
High School World Languages: Culturally-Responsive Connections
“A Conversation in Dance” makes interdisciplinary connections at the high school level, encouraging Spanish and dance teachers collaborate, differentiate, and support their learners together. This link to Spanish works well for many schools, but the world language connection that is right for your student body may differ.
To maximize interdisciplinary impact, brainstorm with your students in mind. How can we reflect our students’ backgrounds, experiences, and cultures in the curriculum? Which connections will drive home the essential questions for our students?
Incorporate dance and movement into an American Sign Language course. Work with the visual arts team to explore a language that uses characters. Consider not only what will resonate with your students, but also, about what they can bring to the page and dance floor.
With limited hours (and seemingly unlimited responsibilities), it is difficult for teaching teams to prioritize interdisciplinary instruction. However, with support from easy-to-use reports, making interdisciplinary connections in Atlas can be a quick, creative process. Less time spent digging through lesson plans in search of common terms, and more time engaging in collaborative conversations with colleagues will result in a bank of enriched units that are fun to plan, fun to teach, and most importantly, fun to learn.