Cultural Dance

"The world is a big and increasingly diverse place, It is just never going to be possible to learn every language of every land. But ,the arts teach us ways of seeing the beauty inherent in one another's worlds. By observing the subtle ways a dance can convey emotion. or a piece of music can suggest an image, or the stroke of a brush can imply the force of a movement we can begin to understand the myriad ways in which the world is constructed."  Amy Chin, artistic director of the Chinese Folk Dance Company 2001.

This dance form represents the values, beliefs, traditions and the different ways people live as expressed through their dance movements, rhythms and formations.  Frequently referred to as folk or ethnic dances, these dances occur in many variations. Through these dances students learn about what is important to the people in a specific culture such as their history, language, rituals, occupations, heritage and how they pass the dances down from one generation to the next.

One characteristic of cultural dance is that there tends to exist multiple versions. There is no single correct version of the dance. The dancers can restructure the steps each time they perform, making small modifications to accommodate the dancer's abilities and the environment. Just as dances are not static, neither are cultures. Culture is recreated daily through variations between individuals, across time, in different places  in response to a myriad of circumstances. This is considered cultural variations.

Quotes from McCarthy-Brown, N. (2009) The need for culturally relevant dance education. Journal of Dance Education (9)4.

"If students are placed in a position to share their cultural and movement, they feel a sense of empowerment and value" (p.122).
"Culturally relevant material is essential to providing opportunities for students to see themselves in the content material" (p.122).
"It is not enough to speak about diversity; we must model the behaviors we want our students to embody. We must show students how to create inclusive spaces" (p125).

People developed dances that represented what was important to them, information about their culture they wanted passed down to the next generation.

Themes for cultural dances: Historical events, Expression of identity, Expression of nationalism, Dances of unity and community, Courtship, Children's games, Friendship, Weddings, Occupations, Growth and Harvest of Crops, Astronomical dances about the solstice, moon and sun, Hunting, Animals, Battles, Death, Cures, Trances, Ceremonial clown dances, Social events, Births, Celebration of achievement, Recreation, Greeting and Welcome, and Humor.

Cultural dances are influenced by the Climate, Geography, Music, Purpose, and Clothing worn in the dance.

Formations:  Circle, Double Circle, Semi-circle, Spiral, Longways, Square, Single line of dancers.

 Knowing your students cultural backgrounds.
Ask yourself these questions as you get to know your students.
What is the ethnic demographics of the students in your school?
Do you have culturally and linguistically diverse students in your classes?
What languages other than English do your students speak?
Are you familiar with the cultural customs, celebrations, traditions and family backgrounds of your students?

Culture is a blueprint for a way of living. This includes, occupations, housing, religions, clothing and body adornments, ethics, music, food, values, political systems, art, language, dance education, gender roles and entertainment.

Benefits for Students


Lesson Preparation Tips


Lesson Implementation Tips