Dancers Dance in the Empty Space





Description of lesson:  Students learn how to recognize and use empty space for movement exploration:  creating still body shapes, moving in the empty space, and interacting with each other.  Students will then discuss the experience and answer the three essential questions posed by the teacher.

Goals of the lesson:                        

Students will:

1.      Learn the skills and abilities to use the empty space.

2.      Know the vocabulary used to describe the element of space:  self-space, general space, levels, directions, and size.

3.      Evaluate their experience with music and dance in written form answering these essential questions:

a.       How do we use space to move?

b.      How do we describe it?

c.       How do we recognize and respect other people’s space?


Materials needed: Open, empty room or gym, or as I did have the students push all of their desks against the wall and create a large open space in the classroom.  A sound system, percussion instrument and CDs appropriate for setting the mood of the movement activities.  I used a CD entitled Contrast & Continuum, Volume II Music For Creative Dance by Eric Chappelle.


Assessment Criteria:                      

Students will:

1.      Move, interact, and freeze without touching anyone or anything.

2.      Physically demonstrate the correct dance vocabulary for space.  (self-space, general space, levels in space, directions, size, empty (negative) space.)

3.      Use appropriate vocabulary in discussions and writings about the dance activities.

Assessment Strategies:            

1.  Student participation/performance during activities.

2.      Teacher observation.

3.      Peer review.

4.      Dance vocabulary included in regular spelling and vocabulary lists, use of proper terminology in written assessment piece.


Have students:

1.  Draw pictures based on their dance ideas and vocabulary.

2.      Repeat the movement activities and focus on other elements of dance, such as energy or time.

3.      Create a dance in groups of 3,4, or 5 dancers.

4.      Add costumes and sets to their dance and perform it for the school or parents.

Integration:     Music, Dance, and Language Arts.   


       I teach the eighth grade language arts, reading and social studies section of The Art Science Middle School (ASMS) program in our school, a school within a school concept.  As the Arts are integrated into the student’s curriculum throughout their sixth through eighth grade experience, these students are accustomed to being taught using the different modalities of dance, music, visual art, theater etc.  The students have been working together in the same classroom groups for three years, and I feel this helped to make this lesson successful.  With students in this age group, it may have been more difficult for the students outside a program such as this, to feel less self-conscience in front of their peers, as they may not be accustomed to performing in front of each other.

            I began the lesson by introducing the vocabulary which I was going to be using throughout the session; self-space, general space, levels in space, directions, size, empty space.  I then led the group through the movement activities without music, using a drumbeat as an indicator for change.  There was a bit of resistance in the beginning, they requested that I turn out the lights and close the curtains so students on the outside of our room could not see in.  Once the mood was set, we began listening to the music.  While listening to the first piece, I asked them to close their eyes and move in their self-space.  The piece was entitled Whales; the sounds were alternating sections of music with no beat and music in ¾ time.  As the students were moving to the selection I encouraged them to think about the music; What does it remind you of? Listen to the sounds, where might you be?  My voice was the only voice heard in the classroom. 

            The next piece was entitled Bee Beat, it was continuous up-tempo music in 4/4 time.  The students were asked to use general space, self-space, levels in space and I called out various directions for them to move using the drum as a signal.  They loved the fast paced music and there was a bit of noise as they adjusted to not touching each other while moving around the room.  We continued using this same format and incorporation size and empty space into the next 6 pieces of music.

            Upon completion of the movement activity, we had a large group discussion of the experience.  The general consensus was the kids loved it.  I then asked them to write their own their thoughts of the three essential questions.  The majority of the students wrote thoughtful pieces and they tended to understand the concepts that I was trying to teach. 

            I felt this lesson was very successful, not only did the students have fun, learn new terminology, and experience music in their bodies, but they were able to cross the barriers of peer pressure and self-conscientious.  The changes that I would make to this lesson in the future are:

  1.  A larger space for student movement is needed.  Although we pushed the student desks against the wall, with thirty students the space was limited thus making it very difficult to really explore general space and empty space.
  2. Next time I would choose more musical pieces with an up tempo preferably 4/4

      versus ¾ time.  The students were much more engaged with the up beat music. 



















































Making an effort to increase student learning by integrating  music will help children gain meaningful context to their lives.