What is good music for teaching dance in Primary school?

Whether its classical music or something trending on Tik Tok, music is constantly being absorbed by young children.  Music tells them about emotions, moods, and contexts in subliminal and conscious ways.  The music used for Primary dance is as varied as there are different genres of music, but there are a few things to remember when choosing music for your classroom.

music for dance in primary school

These three questions are worth thinking about before you even start searching through your music.

1. How old are your dance students?

Different age groups have different tastes in music.  Even children of the same age may not be listening to the same type or range of music.  Your students exist in complex cultural and social structures so don’t underestimate what the children may be listening to at home.


Children learning instrumental music may have exposure to a wider range of music and so their taste in music could be very broad.  Similarly, if they are learning dance outside of school.  Different genres of dance use very different music.  You are not going to be hearing the same music if you are learning Hip Hop or Indian Classical Dance.

However, it is worthwhile considering the themes that lyrics explore.  Smaller children will happily sing along to highly inappropriate lyrics without knowing what they mean.  The general rule is if you wouldn’t talk about it in class then they probably shouldn’t be using it for dance.

Also think about the emotions that the music may stimulate.  Many younger students may be sensitive to loud sounds, or even heavily orchestrated or bass driven music.  It helps to have alternate music tracks on hand if you see a child having an adverse reaction.

2. What is the focus of the dance learning?

Different lesson contexts have very different music needs.  You need to consider the dance genre you will be exploring.  If it’s dance in a cultural context, ensure that the music is appropriate and respectful to the culture.  You may need to research this or to invite an appropriate guest musician from your community to enhance the children’s understanding of the deep connection shared by music and dance in many cultures.

If you are telling a story through your choreography, does the music align with the mood and themes.  You may need to edit several pieces of music together to really capture the atmosphere.  Atmospheric soundtracks from movies are wonderful for building emotions when choreographing and performing dance.

The lesson aims could also involve teaching about a Dance Element.  If you are focusing on the dance element of Time, the rhythms or the accents of the music may be important for highlighting these features.  However, if you were focusing on a dance about Contrast you may need contrasting music.

dance for Primary Schools

3. Will your dance music use lyrics or no lyrics?

Whether the music has lyrics or not will depend upon your answer to the last two questions.

If children are choreographing it may be beneficial not to avoid lyrics.  The words or themes expressed may be too mature or limit the emotions the children are trying to represent with their movements.

In the Early Years, dance play and singing along to the music often go hand in hand.  The vocal part of the music can act to remind children of the words.  It may also be a part of their sensory experience as they feel the vibrations through their body.

Older children when dancing to lyrics can often be seen mouthing the words during performance.  Unless this is the lip sync effect you are looking for it may detract from the performance.

Music for dance can be different things

dance in elementary schoolsWhen searching for music for dance you are not limited to what you hear on Spotify.  Your personal taste in music is not necessarily creatively or culturally appropriate for your class.

Your music can include sound effects, percussion, drumming, or soundscapes.  A wide range of tracks are available and will challenge and delight children.

Music from different cultures will also introduce your class to a range of rhythms, instruments, and sounds.  These may lead to a broader investigation about dance and dancers’ roles in diverse cultural contexts.

Using a variety of locally produced music is useful in beginning discussions about musicians, dancers, choreographers, and how they are a part of our community.

Music for dance

Music as an aesthetic stimulus is important for dance in Primary schools.  It helps children evoke emotions and memories when performing or choreographing their own dances. If you would like to find out more about why music affects our emotions the research done by Arjmand, Hohagen, Paton and Rickard is informative.

Dance Teaching Ideas Premium and Master Membership resources contain music suggestions and links to track that are appropriate for dance activities.