Kerri Fitzgerald Education Plus, University of Canterbury & Patrice O'Brien National Facilitator, Secondary Dance
Years 9 – 10
Duration 3 – 4 weeks (9 – 12 sessions) This is a fun dance unit for years 9 and 10 using vampire mythology as a context for narrative dance. Students explore gesture in melodrama and classical ballet and use their findings to tell a story in movement. Students choreograph and present a dance based on a vampire story that they devise. To do this unit students need to have prior knowledge of the dance elements and will learn some choreographic devices in the unit.
(What the students will do to achieve the learning outcomes)
The numbers refer to steps in the process rather than periods in the timetable.
Listen to one or two pieces of scary music e.g. Interview With a Vampire or Lord of the Ringssoundtrack (to be used as background atmosphere.) Ask students to close eyes and let the music create a picture in their minds. Insist on complete silence!
Brainstorm & research the ideas and mythology surrounding vampires. Share prior knowledge and results from research.
Teacher leads an exploration of the language of melodramatic gestures and the gestures of classical ballet. Teach gestures such as “Come here”, “Sit down”, “ Listen “, “ Dance with me?”, “ I love you”, “Marry me, I beg you”, “No No, don’t go over there.” The class might view a section from a classical ballet that uses a lot of gesture e.g. Giselle, Sleeping Beauty.
In pairs students select some of these gestures and make phrases. Arrange into an order that can be recalled. e.g. “Gather round … listen to me … way over there it is very dangerous … don’t go over there … be quiet … if you go there, you will die! “ View a silent movie and add gestures from the movieto the repertoire!
Teacher guides students to abstract the movements of these phrases to explore and develop the movement qualities e.g.
In pairs continue to explore and develop the dance phrases applying choreographic devices e.g. repetition, inversion, accumulation. Add the use of scary music from step 1 to background the dance and provide atmosphere.
Notate or remember these dance phrases for insertion into the dance work later.
Teacher leads exploration of stock characters from melodrama e.g. little girl, young boy, hero, heroine, old woman, vampire! Ask students to walk like a hero, to move like a heroine, to skip and twirl like a young child, to walk as an old person, to creep like an evil villain. Explore a dramatic entry as one of these characters and add a story line e.g. show the discovery of something important, react to it using a dramatic gesture then listen with hand to ear to someone coming, before exiting rapidly. View and analyse the posture and movements of characters in classical ballet e.g. Doctor Coppelius in Coppelia.
Teacher leads an exploration of the possibilities for dance movement for each of these characters e.g. still shapes and locomotor movement. Practise selected dance ideas using scary background music.
Form small groups of about 4 – 6. These will be the working groups for the remainder of the unit. Teach and learn dance phrases choreographed in the pairs above.
Each group creates an outline of a story, identifying key moments & writes up a synopsis or prepares a storyboard. The teacher can give a structure or example e.g. Mother puts children to bed, warns them to keep windows closed, leaves room. Children bounce out of bed do short happy dance and open window. Fall asleep. Vampire(s) enters, dances and approaches children. Hero/heroine/mother intervenes. Saves (or is unable to) save children. The emphasis is on a simple story line.
Present key moments as a series of still group shapes (tableaux) to clarify important moments in the story. Share with the rest of the class and invite feedback on the clarity of storyline and the journey of the characters.
Refine the narrative structure for the story in response to the feedback. Select dance phrases to insert in appropriate places in the dance to link the still group shapes. Choreograph new material where needed. Continue to use the same music track in the background only to provide atmosphere and to shape the story rather than lead the movement.
Learn a ‘compulsory’ sequence (from teacher or capable student).
Students rehearse dance works with teacher feedback/feed-forward time allocated according to need. Students might choose to rehearse under a selected student director or all have assigned “leadership” roles within the group. Allow each group time in the performance space for final rehearsals.
Use costume, props, set and other technologies to enhance the dance if available. Black capes are especially useful!!! If using technologies or costumes allow time for rehearsals with these.
Present, observe, interpret & evaluate (See below.) Video final performances for use as exemplars for other class groups.
Assessing the Learning
Teacher records success criteria on whiteboard throughout the unit.
In step 5 and in step 6 each pair presents to class for peer feedback on use of dance elements.
In steps 8 and 9 students observe and evaluate ways of moving in character and provide peer feedback on effectiveness and clarity of posture and movements.
In step 11, the teacher gives feedback on written synopsis or storyboard.
Peer feedback on the clarity, use of levels, facings, focus used in the still groups shapes/tableaux in step 12.
Teacher checks technique and recall in the compulsory sequence in step 14.
In step 15 teacher monitors through observation and one to one interaction.
In step 18 teacher and peer evaluation of dance effectiveness (both as a performance and as composition)
Teacher and class evaluation of the learning in the Vampire Unit.