The Elements of Dance in the Primary Classroom – Time

the elements of dance

Time is one of the Elements of Dance.  It is an essential part of choreographing and performing dance.  It helps us to stay together when we dance in unison, identify the beat and the rhythm of how we move and provide stimulus for choreography.

It effects how we dance and can influence the meaning, mood, or emotional context of a dance.  Rhythm and the beat of the music is one of the first things that babies respond to, shifting weight with the body, bouncing up and down or even nodding in time to music.

Time can be divided into many parts and could include rhythmic beat, tempo (fast or slow, acceleration and deceleration), duration (length of the moment, section, or dance), and accent.

Dance ideas based on heart beats

We all have an inner drum and culturally dance is often accompanied by a drum.  In these dance ideas, based on the heartbeat of humans and animals, children listen for rhythms and tempos.  You could use drums or percussion instruments as a part of the Warm up.

Whale Dance

Any animal is good for this activity, but I have used whales as they then incorporate the whale sounds in their dances.  This activity can be simplified for Early Years -Year 3 learners or become more complex for Year 4,5 &6.

This heartbeat resource has the heart rates of 10 animals.  As an alternative Warm up, you could put the heartbeats on a scale from slowest to fastest and have the children devise a movement for the rhythm of each heartbeat.

the elements of dance

Warm up

Sitting with your eyes closed, listen to the sounds of the room for a minute.  Do you hear any rhythms?  The sound of a fan or the hum of the air conditioner or your own heartbeat.

Try to keep that rhythm going in your mind.  Now drum it on the floor with your hand.  Is it fast or slow?

elements of dance

Using only your arms do a movement that keeps that rhythm going. With out stopping the movement or changing the tempo, open your eyes and see the different tempos that other people have experienced.

Were they all the same?  How were they different?

Now repeat the activity using music.  Listen for all the different rhythms then choose one and move your arms in a different way to the music.

Top Tip: it is good to find music that has instruments that are using different rhythms rather than just a single drum beat.

Now open your eyes.  Are more people moving in different rhythms then with the first example?  Why do you think that could be?

1. Try to find a different rhythm in the music.

2. All together as a class move in

3. Half time -slowing to half the pace

4. Double time – doubling the speed

5. What does this result in?  How did it look different?


Dance to your Heartbeat

Introduce the variations in heart beats depending on the activity of the person or animal.

What makes your heart speed up and slow down?

Does your heart beat slower when you are feeling calm and relaxed?

1. Excited?

2. Angry?

3. Nervous?

4. When you’re running?

5. Lying down?

Create a movement for each of these that shows the speed of your heartbeat. You can use different body parts and non-locomotor or locomotor movements.

Now watch what happens to whale’s heartbeats when they are doing different activities.

Here are some videos that could be useful.

About  whale’s heart beat

Recording whale heartbeats


Creating the Whale Dance

Listen to the music made from the Whale’s songs and see if you can use the movements you created about your heartbeat to show when the whale’s heartbeat is above water and when it is below.

How will you have to change the tempo of your heartbeat movements to represent the tempo of the whale’s heartbeat?

Will you have to change how you do the movement in any other way rather than just going faster or slower?

Join your movements together using movements that are like the whales under the water and above.

Here is some music for whale heartbeat movement

the whale dance

Reflecting on using time in dance

These dance activities require the children to listen to their own bodies, to pause and pay attention.  They discover similarities and differences between themselves and other mammals.

The Whale Dance activities also show the use of pulsing rhythms and how acceleration and deceleration can change the meaning of movements. But perhaps more importantly it gives children a glimpse into the intricacies of pulsing rhythms and tempo and their impact on movement.

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