Years 9 – 10 Level 5 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

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Kerri Fitzgerald Education Plus, University of Canterbury & Patrice O'Brien National Facilitator, Secondary Dance


Years 9 – 10

Level 5

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.


Ministry of Education Dance Wall Charts

Melodrama Text e.g. “The Vampire”

Books on vampire mythology

C.D of scarey background music e.g.

  • A Night on Bald Mountain” Mussorgsky

  • Soundtrack from “Lord of the Rings”

  • Soundtrack from “Harry Potter”

  • Mars” from “The Planets” by Holst

Costumes e.g. black capes and lighting if desired.

Videos or DVD’s of classical ballets e.g. Giselle, Coppelia, Sleeping Beauty.

Reviews of Dracula RNZB.

Achievement Objectives

Developing Practical Knowledge in Dance: Level 5

Students will explore and use selected vocabularies, practices, and technologies in dance.

Developing Ideas in Dance: Level 5

Students will explore and use choreographic structures to give form to dance ideas.

Communicating and Interpreting in Dance: Level 5

Students will present, interpret, and respond to dance as communication.

Understanding Dance in Context: Level 5

Students will compare and contrast dances from a variety of past and present cultures.

Specific Learning Outcomes

The student will:

  • Identify, explore and use the vocabulary of ballet mime gestures and melodramatic gestures. (PK)

  • Students, in groups of 4 – 5, will explore and use choreographic devices and a narrative structure to give form to a dance (of 2-4 minutes) about vampires. (DI)

  • Students will present the vampire dance in groups (4-5 students). (CI)

  • Students will view and interpret the work of other groups providing verbal feedback. (CI)

  • Understand the use of gesture and the ways movement can be used to communicate stories in classical ballet. (CI)

  • Students will identify and describe Classical Ballet(s) of the nineteenth century e.g. Giselle. (UC)

Suggested Learning Sequence

(What the students will do to achieve the learning outcomes)
The numbers refer to steps in the process rather than periods in the timetable.
  1. Listen to one or two pieces of scary music e.g. Interview With a Vampire or Lord of the Rings soundtrack (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!

  1. Brainstorm & research the ideas and mythology surrounding vampires. Share prior knowledge and results from research.

  1. Teacher leads an exploration of the language of melodramatic gestures and the gestures of classical ballet. The class might view a section from a classical ballet that uses a lot of gesture e.g. Giselle, Sleeping Beauty

  1. In pairs students select some of these gestures and make phrases. Arrange into an order that can be recalled.

  1. Teacher guides students to abstract the movements of these phrases to explore and develop the movement qualities e.g.

    1. Make much larger

    2. Change the timing

    3. Change the levels

    4. Change body bases

    5. Use different body parts

  1. 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.

  1. Notate or remember these dance phrases for insertion into the dance work later.

  1. Teacher leads exploration of stock characters from melodrama e.g. little girl, young boy, hero, heroine, old woman, vampire! View and analyse the posture and movements of characters in classical ballet e.g. Doctor Coppelius in Coppelia.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. Learn a ‘compulsory’ sequence (from teacher or capable student).

    1. Counts 1 – 8 Walk forward x 4, crouch, stand up feet apart,

    2. Counts 9 –16 Lunge right, lunge left,

    3. Counts 17 –24 Drop to the floor, roll, standup,
    4. Counts 25 – 32 Slow walk in a circle

NB. You might add additional material at a level of difficulty to extend more capable students.

Each group can modify the sequence to suit the context of where it will be inserted.

The counts are dancers’ counts not music counts. Students need to find their own timing.

Modifications could include:

    • Adding arm movements,

    • Changing the order,

    • Using canon,

    • Changing the timing

    • Adding new material e.g. a leap etc

NB. This sequence does not necessarily need to advance the storyline but may interpret the atmosphere or character.

Add this sequence to the dance at least twice. It can be adapted for a variety of characters.

  1. As a class develop and agree to the assessment criteria for both the choreography and the performance of this work e.g.

For choreography:

  • clarity of storyline,

  • use of space,

  • use of still groups shapes,

  • transitions between still group shapes,

  • uses of compulsory section.

For performance,

  • focus of dancers,

  • expressiveness of posture and movement to show character,

  • clarity and execution of dance,

  • recall of dance, etc.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

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