My favourite dance books

Whether you’re a beginning teacher or an experienced teacher it always helps to have reference books on hand to give you ideas for dance activities. These books are ones that have been the most useful for me in the classroom, not only with getting ideas for activities but for setting up a dance program. Although not new books, they are ones that have remained highly practical in providing back up for over worked dance teachers!


Dance Education Tips from the Trenches by Cheryl M. Willis

This book really covers all bases! Aimed at primary schools, it dissects dance teaching practice and how to set up dance in a school. It can be used in conjunction with an already established dance curriculum or assist you in developing your own.
With advice that ranges from behaviour management in the dance classroom to setting up your classroom for safe dance activities, it is aimed at the beginner generalist teacher wanting to try dance in their classroom. The ‘tips’ are highly practical and achievable and, at times, quite detailed. Each section has anecdotes from the classroom that are really useful when starting out.

For the more experienced teacher there is a comprehensive list of Performance Rules in the Appendix (that some of my more senior students could be reminded of at times). It is helpful to have all these things, that we may know already, gathered together in one place! As an experienced teacher I particularly liked the inclusion of ‘Obstacles’ in each section as a reminder of what can go wrong and ways to avoid them.

Chapter 10, entitled “Dance Education for Parents and Faculty”, puts the importance of a supportive education community into the spotlight and is helpful in identifying what is needed from a school community to make a dance program achieve the optimal outcomes for students. If you are thinking of introducing dance to your school this chapter is a must read.
I have been using this book for many years and often go back to it, not just for dance ideas, but when facing certain teaching dilemmas that are specific to the dance classroom. I highly recommend having it on hand in your staffroom.

Dance About Anything by Marty Sprague, Helene Scheff and Susan McGreevy-Nichols

Easy to read and navigate your way through, this book looks at creating units of dance based on a theme. There are a range of themes suggested that are suitable for K – 12 students. Each chapter leads your through the creation of a task, from choosing and researching a topic all the way to performing the dances.
The authors, all experienced teachers, have designed an unfolding of the process of creating a dance unit of work and then showing completed projects that include photographs. It is this practically applied approach that is evident throughout the book. Each activity shows that it has been used in a real classroom not just designed in a teacher’s head. All activities are well supported by resources that include a CD ROM of handouts that are designed to scaffold the creative process.

The activities, with the supporting resources, are easily adaptable to curriculum requirements. Part 4 includes some detailed ideas for assessment that could be used, although I would begin my planning with the design of the assessment outcomes rather than at the end.