Planning for Creativity – integrating dance

integrating dance in the classroom

Using dance as an integral part of the primary/elementary curriculum has met with some resistance from teachers over the years.  Fear around teaching the art form correctly can stop generalist teachers from even ‘dipping their toes in the water’.

However, current research into neurodiversity and longer term studies into its implementation have led to some teachers rethinking their position and overcoming these fears.  More than even in these COVID times, children need to feel connected to each other and to their world.

New ways of communicating through the sensory, the social, and the emotional are increasingly important for this ‘connection making’.  Embodying knowledge through dance is a way we can combine all of these things in the classroom.

There are many benefits to integrating dance into your curriculum. This year could be the time to start discovering ways to energize and connect your classroom with dance.

What’s wrong with dance?

Yes, you may well ask the question: what IS wrong with dance?  Why are teachers reluctant to use it?  To start with, integrated dance curriculum often has bad press in that it’s Perceived as something elite.  Ballerinas with buns and tutu watched by rich people dressed in fancy, formal clothes.

Teachers may see dance only as performance, only as an artifact, rather than a creative process.  And whilst dance is definitely fun it is not just entertainment.

Dance is an important part of most civilizations and cultures throughout the world.  It is used as a way of communicating, celebrating, passing on and preserving traditions, and cultural and spiritual knowledge.

integrating dance in the curriculum

In addition, many teachers feel challenged by a perceived lack of their own tacit knowledge, passed down as a part of their family or more formal arts education.  Teachers often struggle with the HOW and WHAT to teach when they approach integrating dance into their curriculum.  They may not have had examples in their Primary education, and, in many cases, teachers have a cultural knowledge of dance that they may not have recognized or acknowledged.

Our definition (arts integration) aligns with that of the John F. Kennedy Center ‘Arts Integration is an approach to teaching in which students construct and demonstrate understanding through an art form’. Arts Integration can be a difficult concept to understand and for teachers who have possibly avoided teaching any arts subjects in the past, it is a whole new pedagogical approach to teaching.                                                                          (Buck & Snook, 2020)

Integrating dance in your classroom

Dance in each teacher’s classroom will look very different.   Each teacher will have varied existing dance, arts, and movement skills.

What existing skills can you draw from when integrating dance in the curriculum?

  • Knowledge of movement from a sport or martial art, that could include physiological knowledge, warm up techniques, balance, and agility activities.
  • Skills from other movement activity like Yoga or Pilates.
  • Creative process knowledge from other art forms that would include visual art, drama, media or music.
  • Sensory and play based skills from Early Years teacher training or experience.
  • Cultural knowledge from community dance involvement.
  • Specific dance technique from a range of different dance genres.
  • Analytical skills from literacy and text based knowledge.

integrating dance in the classroom

Starting out with dance

Watching others teach or creating lesson ideas together with other teachers is a great way to start.  Here are some simple movement ideas that you may like to try in your classroom from the TEDx series.

Dr Barbara Snook, researcher, educator, and author has released a wonderful new book, Using the arts across the Curriculum: Integrated Lesson Plans’. Barbara’s knowledge is grounded in teaching, covering teaching students from Year 1 to a post-graduate tertiary level.  In this book she draws on current research and practice in easy to follow lesson ideas for the beginner teacher.

Dance Teaching Ideas Online Live Event

I’m excited to be interviewing Dr Barbara Snook, as a part of a Dance Teaching Ideas live online event on Wednesday 23rd February at 8:00pm EST (Australia).

We will be talking about how you may begin to introduce dance as a part of your Primary/ Elementary curriculum.

This includes ideas for parents teaching at home.

In addition, there will be ideas and conversation of interest to experienced teachers and dance specialists.

If you have specific questions for Barbara please let us know on the Facebook page.

Start integrating dance today

Whatever your starting point, it is always good to start with something you already know. Fear of the unknown can be the stopping point for many teachers.

If you have access to mentoring or professional development opportunities, you can build on these.  Dance Teaching Ideas has many opportunities for you to engage with experts in dance education through articles, live online events, free lesson plans, and ready-made dance resources and masterclasses.

The aim of the DTI community is to support teachers in creating and implementing their own lesson and unit plans for integrated dance.



Ralph Buck & Barbara Snook (2020) Reality bites: implementing arts integration, Research in Dance Education, 21:1, 98-115, DOI: 10.1080/14647893.2020.1727873

John F Kennedy Centre for Performing Arts. 2008. “The Kennedy Centre’s Definition for Arts Integration.” The Kennedy Center. Changing education through the arts, 1–8. Washington, DC: US Department of Education.

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