Talking about Production Elements in Primary Dance.

In dance, production elements refer to a range of components that contribute to the artistic success of a dance work. They ensure that the intended meaning, emotion, character and mood, and/or narrative is conveyed to the audience.

In Primary school classrooms we often identify what production elements are in dance, but sometimes the deeper discussions that uncover their effect on dance can be overlooked.  Identifying and revealing the important role of production elements as a part of meaning making in dance can be illuminating for curious children.

This article describes what production elements are and how they can affect the mood and meaning of movement in a dance work. There are also ideas for how you can include them in your class discussions and as a part of the choreographic process.

Next week’s article will continue to examine the production elements in dance and how we can investigate them in the Primary classroom.

production elements in primary school dance

What are the key production elements in Dance?

There are many production aspects that may be important to the performance. These could include such things as technical strength, selection of cast, rehearsal direction and the choreography itself.

However, the key production elements, that are most important for younger children to understand, are those that influence how we make and interpret dance works. They include:

lighting design,
projection and multimedia,
music and sound,
stage design,
performance space,
costuming, makeup and hairstyling.


Lighting design

Choreographers and Lighting designers collaborate throughout the development of dance works.  In many pieces the lighting may act as another dancer, drawing the audiences focus and allowing them to experience the work from a different perspective.

Two, a duet for dance and light, by choreographer Russell Maliphant and lighting designer Michael Hulls, is an example of the interplay between the dancer and the light.

lighting as a production element

In contemporary dance the lighting is often illustrative not purely decorative. It can enhance but also change how the audience interprets the movements.  As can the colour palette used, sometimes suggesting a different era, environment, or mood.

Shelter is a piece about homelessness in America. With this particular version, Jawole wanted to throw the spotlight on the crisis of hurricane Katrina in the New Orleans community. I wanted to stay within the watery world but wanted to enhance the idea of the cold and stark environment of the post-Katrina destruction. The piece is lit by the low side light to carve the dancers from the surround, while the framing space remains black.           Susan Hamburger, Lighting designer

Projection and Multimedia

Particularly in contemporary dance, multimedia elements such as video projections or interactive technologies may be incorporated to explore new choreographic possibilities.  These technologies will impact the experience for the dancer as they interact with the technology, but also how they build connections with the audience.

Loie Fuller was a choreographer and dancer who experimented with electricity as a part of dance works as early as the late 1880s.  Not only did Fuller create her own lighting, but she also filed patents for her choreographic inventions.

dance production elements

Continued investigation into the relationship between the body, technology, and creating meaning through dance have resulted in a range of innovative practice.  These include motion capture, digital dancing avatars and movement sensing systems that are placed on the dancer or in the floor surface of the performance space.

Editing and special effects are also a part of the technological elements that are interesting for students to observe.  Show your class Dancing on the Ceiling from The Royal Wedding (1951).  Then show how Fred Astaire actually danced on the ceiling!

Music and Sound

Music effects our brain, it will illicit memory, mood, and emotions.  Research suggests that music increasing activity in the brain associated with emotion.  Therefore, music is an important element of how an audience will experience dance works and how choreographers make work.

Bill T Jones developed Ghostcatching (1999) using both video and animated film and motion capture.  In addition, it illustrates the effective use of a sound and music.  In this example the audience is drawn into another world.

Some activities to try in your classroom

Try showing Ghostcatching with a different soundtrack before you play the original. Have a class discussion about the difference it made to the mood and emotional reaction they had as the audience.

Music or the absence of it is also an important element for choreographers as a part of how they convey meaning to audiences. Therefore, it is highly influential which music you choose for your Primary students as a choreographic stimulus.

Try to take time to discuss music and sound as a part of the choreographic process in your classroom.  Experimenting with different music will encourage students to be curious about other choreographers’ choices.

production elements in dance

Final thoughts

Each production element contributes to the overall aesthetic and emotional impact of the dance work. This makes the dance not only more engaging but results in a stronger connection with the audience.

In the second part of this article about production elements next week, we’ll discuss the use of stage design, performance space, costumes, makeup and hairstyling and props.  There are many resources available as a part of the Dance Teaching Ideas Premium Membership to assist you with bringing dance into your Primary classroom.

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Basa, Murali (2023), Lighting Design Schemes and Colours in Dance Performances: The Magical Illusion, Shodh Kosh: Journal of Visual and Performing Arts, January – June 2023 4(1), 356 – 362.

Roche, J and Burridge, S (2022), Choreography: the Basics, New York: Routledge.


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