Audience Etiquette

An important part of bringing dance into your classroom is creating an atmosphere where the children are respectful of their classmates’ artistic creations. In a perfect world, children would not need to be taught this, however in a classroom situation many students will never have been to a live performance of any kind of performance art and the appropriate behaviour protocols may be equally as foreign to them. 

Why is Audience Etiquette Important?

Television series that involve dance competitions promote raucous cheering, whistling and yelling out encouragement that is more at home in a sports arena than a theatre.  On television, entertainment is the major goal and having audiences engaged and excited keeps the ratings up.  As with many other areas of education, context is important.  Respectful attention to dance, music and theatre performances become a part of teaching children about being an attentive and polite audience member and about what to expect as a maker and performer of dance.

Learning about how to conduct yourself in a theatre or at a performance also emphasises the importance of being respectful to the creative work of others.  In a broader sense, it also teaches about how we value the arts.  Putting value on the arts will in turn show the students that you think that dance is an important part of their education and that it is worthy of their attention.

As watching each other perform and showing dance work is an essential part of responding, you also need students to be confident to create and show their work in the classroom.  Having a supportive classroom community can encourage more artistic risk taking when making and performing work.  This can result in promoting team building and reflection that supports a productive classroom environment.

Being willing to take a risk can encourage students to be more open to feedback from the teacher and other students.  They are more likely to ask and answer questions and in general take more control of their own learning.  These behaviours lead to greater resilience and the development of leadership qualities.

Dance Activities for Audience Etiquette

  • Have a classroom discussion about the similarities and differences between watching a dance performance and watching a sporting competition.
  •  Ask students to consider how much more interesting a sport is to watch when you know the rules of the game.  What things would you need to know about a dance work to ‘know the rules of the game’? Consider the theme or story behind the dance, who the dancers and the choreographer are and what other dance works they may have done, what style of dance it is and any similarities to dance the students may have done in class.
  • When watching peers’ dance in the classroom always include a pre-performance discussion.  It can helpful to have a list of elements that the students need to observe throughout the performance and support this with written questions that they then use as a starting point for post-activity discussions.  This is also relevant for watching professional performances in the theatre.
  • Try a role play activity where students take the roles of Usher, Audience member, and Performers.  Each person in the role play is given a scenario and the scene is then improvised.  The discussion that takes place after can lead to the students deciding on what is appropriate behaviour as an audience member.  These then become the classroom rules for respectful audience behaviour that can be displayed in the classroom.

Reinforcing these audience behaviours in the classroom ensures that performing dance is a low-risk activity for the young dancers and fosters a classroom that is an inclusive and nurturing arts space.