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Creating Dance for Social Change: Empowering Students to Make a Difference

advocacy engagement production design Jan 29, 2024

Dance, as an art form, has the incredible power to transcend the stage and become a catalyst for social change. It all starts with a conversation with your students. For me, I was having a tough time with one particular class. In that class there were a lot of leaders…think captain of the dance team, cheer squad, SGA president, and more! It was difficult to get things done because no one would listen to each other. I also realized there were internal things happening with friend groups in this class as well as general high school student issues. It was tough! I had just come back from the National Dance Education Organization (NDEO) National Conference and decided to try one of the amazing lessons we learned. “Creating Movement from Social Issues”. 

It’s important to note, that we can’t solve everything as teachers, but we as dance educators can harness this potential to empower students in making a positive impact in their environments. By encouraging students to delve into social issues and express their voices through movement, we aim to transform their way of thinking through major issues. 

Excited to share what I learned by exploring social issues in my classroom and also offering a lesson plan freebie and modifications for your grade level.

Grade Level Modifications 

Lesson Plan: Unveiling Social Issues through Dance

Objective: To empower students to explore and express social issues through dance.

  1. Elementary Level: "Emotions in Motion"
  • Activity: Begin by discussing simple emotions and their expressions. Teach basic movements that represent happiness, sadness, anger, and empathy.
  • Social Issue Connection: Explore simple social issues like friendship, kindness, and sharing. Discuss how small acts can make a big difference.
  1. Middle School Level: "Stories in Movement"
  • Activity: Guide students in creating sequences that narrate a story. Encourage them to choose themes related to inclusivity, diversity, or environmental awareness.
  • Social Issue Connection: Discuss more complex issues like bullying, cultural diversity, or climate change. Encourage students to incorporate these themes into their movement.
  1. High School Level: "Choreographing Change"
  • Activity: Facilitate a brainstorming session for students to choose a specific social issue. Guide them in choreographing a group piece that conveys a powerful message.
  • Social Issue Connection: Address significant global or local issues such as human rights, gender equality, or mental health. Discuss the potential impact of art in advocating for change. 

Turning Lessons into Show Themes, Events, and Concert Pieces:

  • Show Theme: Collaborate with other departments to create a show theme that aligns with the chosen social issue. Include visual arts, music, and drama for a multidisciplinary approach.
  • Event: Host a community event showcasing the students' work. Invite local activists or experts to speak, creating a platform for open dialogue and engagement.
  • Concert Pieces: Incorporate the dance pieces into the dance concert. Use this opportunity to raise awareness and inspire the audience to take action.

Tips and Strategies for Dance Educators:

  • Foster Open Dialogue: Create a safe space for students to discuss social issues openly. Encourage them to share their perspectives and experiences.
  • Research and Collaboration: Stay informed about current social issues. Collaborate with other educators to integrate related topics into various subjects.
  • Community Involvement: Connect with local organizations and communities. Involve students in service projects related to the chosen social issue.
  • Feedback and Reflection: Provide constructive feedback on the dance pieces. 
  • Facilitate reflection sessions where students can discuss the impact of their work.

Empower your students to become advocates for change through the transformative power of dance. By addressing social issues, you're not only shaping skilled dancers but also nurturing compassionate and socially aware individuals. You are also potentially opening up communication to make small changes in your classroom community that will hopefully inspire change in the future. Baby steps y’all! 

I was proud to explore social issues in my dance program as it helped me to better understand the needs of my students, to analyze some of the issues surrounding their relationships, and to incorporate their true movement. 

Can’t wait to hear your transformations and aha moments!

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